Ancient Philosophy 38 (2):241-263 (2018)
AbstractI offer a reading of the two conceptions of the good found in Plato’s Protagoras: the popular conception—‘the many’s’ conception—and Socrates’ conception. I pay particular attention to the three kinds of goods Socrates introduces: (a) bodily pleasures like food, drink, and sex; (b) instrumental goods like wealth, health, or power; and (c) virtuous actions like courageously going to war. My reading revises existing views about these goods in two ways. First, I argue that the many are only ‘hedonists’ in a very attenuated sense. They do not value goods of kind (b) simply as means to pleasures of kind (a); rather, they have fundamentally different attitudes to (a) and (b). Second, the hedonism that Socrates’ defends includes a distinction between kinds of pleasures: (a) bodily pleasures and (c) the pleasures of virtuous actions. This distinction between kinds of pleasures—some that do and some that do not exert the ‘power of appearance’—allows Socrates to address one of the central beliefs in the popular conception of akrasia, namely that it involves a special kind of unruly desire: non-rational appetites for pleasures like food, drink, or sex. Socrates replaces the motivational push of non-rational appetites with the epistemic pull of the appearance of immediate pleasures like food, drink, and sex.
Archival historyFirst archival date: 2020-09-09
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