Plato's Philebus, on Pleasure and Wisdom

The dialogue's central question concerns the relative value of pleasure and knowledge. Socrates begins by summarizing the two sides of the dialogue:

"Philebus was saying that enjoyment and pleasure and delight, and the class of feelings akin to them, are a good to every living being, whereas I contend, that not these, but wisdom and intelligence and memory, and their kindred, right opinion and true reasoning, are better and more desirable than pleasure for all who are able to partake of them, and that to all such who are or ever will be they are the most advantageous of all things"

What is at stake in ranking pleasure vs. knowledge as it pertains to the human good?  What if both are important?

According to William James, if a question makes no difference in our lives, the inquiry is basically pointless. For Socrates, this question makes a profoundly important difference in how we conduct ourselves philosophically and for life.  If pleasure contributes more to the human good, then those interested in human good should focus on pleasure and on the tools for bringing pleasure about.  But if knowledge makes the main contribution, then knowledge is what will preserve us toward the human good.

Aren't all good things pleasurable?  But are all truths pleasurable? are all pleasures good?

Let's read in advance and we will discuss together:

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  • Brian

    really great group of people

    1 · June 29, 2013

  • El-la

    After all--I'll never get there in time... [drats!]..see you [all] Wed... Enjoy.

    June 29, 2013

  • Ivan

    Will be late.

    June 29, 2013

  • Donna

    Opening a slot.

    June 29, 2013

  • Rick O.

    Maybe, though, Socrates is not dismissing pleasure? He starts by showing it is not the highest good. He then quickly shows that by the same reasoning, knowledge cannot be the highest good either. Is it, then, some third thing? - that's when the fun begins. But to fully understand this third thing, we must first get our hands around four other things . . .
    Perhaps to see the inner beauty of the dialogue is to understand that which the dialogue seeks to explain? . . . Perhaps

    1 · June 28, 2013

  • Mike B.

    This dialogue proved rough going for me. I found the argument very dense, and even though Plato has Socrates pause often to sum up the progress of the discussion, I felt frequently that I was unable to appreciate the import of individual points.
    For me, Plato came across as something of prude and wet blanket for his depreciation of intense pleasure. He also seems a little compulsive about categorizing and providing topologies. I would like to know how many others would vote for Plato's "good life."

    1 · June 28, 2013

    • Brian

      they do get a little Pythagorean. I'm fascinated with Socs pedagogy in this dialogue and in how his decisions are appropriate given the subject matter

      June 28, 2013

  • Brian

    "you must begin from the principles of nature- from the beginnings which nature put in us. Man's first attraction is toward the things in accordance with nature. But as soon as he has attained to understanding and has dicerned the order and harmony that should go in conduct. He then esteems this harmony far more highly than all the things for which he originally referred an affection"

    June 28, 2013

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