In the Protagoras, Socrates argues that what appears to be akrasia is, in fact, the result of a hedonic illusion: proximate pleasures appear greater than distant ones. On the face of it, his account is puzzling: why should proximate pleasures appear greater than distant ones? Certain interpreters argue that Socrates must be assuming the existence of non-rational desires that cause proximate pleasures to appear inflated. In this paper, I argue that positing non-rational desires fails to explain the hedonic error. However, (...) careful consideration of Socrates’ treatment of appearances reveals that he is not without resources to explain the illusion. I argue that in the Protagoras, appearances are imagistic mental representations that appear true but tend to be false. I suggest that proximate pleasures produce inflated hedonic predictions because we represent them more vividly than distant ones, yielding greater anticipatory pleasure which causes us to overestimate their magnitude. (shrink)
The Protagoras is the touchstone of Socrates’ moral intellectualist stance. The position in a nutshell stipulates that the proper reevaluation of a desire is enough to neutralize it. The implication of this position is that akrasia or weakness of will is not the result of desire (or fear for that matter) overpowering reason but is due to ignorance. -/- Socrates’ eliminativist position on weakness of will, however, flies in the face of the common-sense experience regarding akratic action and thus Aristotle (...) was at pains to render Socrates’ account of moral incontinence intelligible. The key improvement Aristotle makes to Socrates’s model is to underscore that the conditioning of the akratic’s body plays a critical role in determining the power of one’s appetites and, accordingly, the capacity of one to resist the temptations these appetites present for rational evaluation. As Aristotle puts it, “For the incontinent man is like the people who get drunk quickly and on little wine, i.e., on less than most people.” (1151a 3-4). Aristotle presents what I shall call a somatic paradigm (i.e. the drunkard analogy) in order to tackle the problem of akrasia and it is this somatic solution that marks a significant improvement over Socrates’s intellectualist or informational model or so the tradition tells us. -/- In this paper, I wish to push back on the above Aristotelian explanation. I argue that when one fully examines Socrates’ account of weakness of will that Aristotle’s solution is less effective than is traditionally thought. In fact, Socrates can bring Aristotle’s model into his own; just as Aristotle absorbs what is right about Socrates’s model, namely, that akratic action utilizes reason but to a limited degree, Socrates in Meno (77C-78A) develops his own somatic model of weakness of will that connects to the intellectualist paradigm of the Protagoras. To achieve this rapprochement between the two models, I zero in on the description provided by Socrates of those individuals who desire bad things knowing they are bad as “ill-starred” or “bad spirited” (κακοδαίμων ). The “bad-spirited” is the coward and, in contrast to Aristotle’s drunkard, becomes fearful quickly from little danger. This additional somatic component, when connected to Socrates’s position on akrasia in Protagoras adds a new twist to Socrates’s model in the following way: while no one wishes to be ill-starred such that more harm than good will befall one, one may become so as a result of the bad choices one knowingly makes. -/- -/-  “After him came Socrates, who spoke better and further about this subject, but even he was not successful. For he used to make the virtues into sciences, and this is impossible. For the sciences all involve reason, and reason is to be found in the intellectual part of the soul. So that all the virtues, according to him arise in the rational part of the soul. The result is that in making the virtues into sciences he is doing away with the nonrational part of the soul and is thereby doing away with passion and character…” (Aristotle, Magna Moralia 1.1. 1182 a15-26). (shrink)
I 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. (shrink)
The essay consists in the analysis of the problem of the evil in the man and in the analysis of the remedies which the man can find against the evil. Plato affirms the presence of an active principle of evil in the soul of every man, which coincides with some instincts of the appetitive soul; the opposite principle to the evil is the reason, which needs, though, a correct education in order to be able to fight efficiently against the evil (...) in us. The man can be seen as a battle field of these opposite forces. Plato describes the presence of the evil in us in some passages of Republic Book 9, where he compares the appetitive part of the soul with a monster. The destiny of every person in her earthly existence consists in the continuing control of the appetitive part of the soul, if the status of ethical education is to be reached and maintained. The man who remains in the realm of the opinion, that is, in the realm of the doxa is an individual who only disposes of unstable opinions and who as a consequence do not have authentic remedies against the appetitive part. On the contrary, the individual who can ascend to the realm of being through the hard education represented by arithmetic, geometry, stereometry, astronomy, harmony and, finally, dialectic is really able to contrast the force of the evil within the individual. Ethics is really possible only through the complete education which passes through these disciplines: the more the individuals is theoretically educated, the more the individual is ethically educated. The knowledge of ideas is the only authentic therapy against the evil in us. (shrink)
In this paper we argue that Socrates is a cognitivist about emotions, but then ask how the beliefs that constitute emotions can come into being, and why those beliefs seem more resistant to change through rational persuasion than other beliefs.
Celem artykułu jest przedstawienie i analiza kształtowania się pojęcia woli w starożytnej filozofii pogańskiej. W kontekście poglądów Sokratesa, Platona i Arystotelesa autor przedstawia wiele greckich intuicji dotyczących psychologii aktów moralnych i ludzkiego działania. Po pierwsze artykuł przedstawia doktrynę intelektualizmu etycznego, przypisywaną Sokratesowi, według której kognitywne elementy są głównym motywem naszych działań. Z tego powodu trudno znaleźć pojęcie wolnej woli w sokratejskiej antropologii. Po drugie artykuł prezentuje interpretację platońskiej antropologii, według której sferę thymos można nazwać proto-wolą. Ostatecznie autor ukazuje, jak trudno (...) jest znaleźć pojęcie woli w arystotelesowskiej etyce i antropologii, pomimo że Arystoteles bardzo szczegółowo wyjaśniał relacje między przekonaniami, pragnieniami i działaniem. Ani pro- airesis, ani boulesis nie mogą pełnić funkcji woli, szczególnie gdy wola ma być władzą, która pragnie, może wybierać ijest samodeterminującą się władzą. (shrink)
This essay provides an overview of Plato’s contribution to food ethics. Drawing on various Platonic dialogues, the discussion includes an analysis of the problem of gluttony and the correlate virtue of moderation, the diet of the Republic’s ideal city, and the harmonious order of the tripartite soul.
Weakness of will denotes a phenomenon that many would regard as forming part of everyday human experience. I hate to admit to it, but I do sometimes reprimand my children more harshly than I think I should, and similar situations occur daily. This could be an example of weakness of will or incontinence: I will to be constructive and provide a model of calm interaction, but fail to do so because my will is weak and I end up acting against (...) better knowledge. But what is it that happens in such situations? Philosophers, theologians, poets, and other writers have discussed this question as akrasia, as well as under other headings. Weakness of Will from Plato to the Present not only contributes to a growing body of scholarship on the history of akrasia, but is also the first book that attempts to cover the trajectory of this issue through all major periods of Western philosophy. The book invites a broad range of readers, focusing on canonical figures from Plato and Aristotle through Augustine and Aquinas to Descartes, Kant, and Nietzsche. (shrink)
Although it is a commonplace that the "Protagoras" and the "Republic" present diffent views of akrasia, the nature of the difference is not well understood. I argue that the logic of the famous argument in the "Protagoras" turns just on two crucial assumptions: that desiring is having evaluative beliefs (or that valuing is desiring), and that no one can have contradictory preferences at the same time; hedonism is not essential to the logic of the argument. And the logic of the (...) argument for the division of the soul in the "Republic" requires the rejection of just the second of these assumptions, but not the evaluative conception of desire. I also maintain that Plato was aware, at the time of composition, of these features of the argumentation of his dialogues. Finally, I argue that there is reason to think that, even at the time of the "Protagoras," Plato held the conception of the soul expressed in the "Republic," and not anything like that expressed in the famous argument of the "Protagoras." The Protagoras view, even without hedonism, is a poor expression of the thesis that virtue is knowledge. (shrink)
It is universally agreed that Plato inherited from Socrates, and consistently maintained to the end, the doctrine that no man does evil of set purpose—οδες κν μαρτνει—but because he mistakes evil for good. All moral evil, therefore, for Plato, involves ignorance. There are, however, two passages, one in the Sophist, the other in Laws ix, which on the face of them appear to recognize a type of moral evil in which ignorance is not involved, a type which is indeed contrasted (...) with that arising from ignorance. These passages have not, of course, been overlooked by scholars: they are regularly referred to in the best-known accounts of Platonic ethical theory; yet I do not think they have been sufficiently considered, nor is a clear answer forthcoming to the question whether or no in these later dialogues Plato really intends, as he seems to intend, a modification of his earlier ethical doctrine. My purpose is to show that he does not, and to account if possible for his apparent inconsistency. (shrink)