The Key Themes in Ancient Philosophy series provides concise books, written by major scholars and accessible to non-specialists, on important themes in ancient philosophy that remain of philosophical interest today. In this volume Professor Wolfsdorf undertakes the first exploration of ancient Greek philosophical conceptions of pleasure in relation to contemporary conceptions. He provides broad coverage of the ancient material, from pre-Platonic to Old Stoic treatments; and, in the contemporary period, from World War II to the present. Examination of the nature (...) of pleasure in ancient philosophy largely occurred within ethical contexts but in the contemporary period has, to a greater extent, been pursued within philosophy of mind and psychology. This divergence reflects the dominant philosophical preoccupations of the times. But Professor Wolfsdorf argues that the various treatments are complementary. Indeed, the Greeks' examinations of pleasure were incisive and their debates vigorous, and their results have enduring value for contemporary discussion. (shrink)
Interpretation -- Introduction -- Interpreting Plato -- The political culture of Plato's early dialogues -- Dialogue -- Character and history -- The mouthpiece principle -- Forms of evidence -- Desire -- Socrates and eros -- The subjectivist conception of desire -- Instrumental and terminal desire -- Rational and irrational desires -- Desire in the critique of Akrasia -- Interpreting Lysis -- The deficiency conception of desire -- Inauthentic friendship -- Platonic desire -- Antiphilosophical desires -- Knowledge -- Excellence as wisdom (...) -- The epistemic unity of excellence -- Dunamis and technê -- Goodness and form -- The epistemological priority of definitional knowledge -- Ordinary ethical knowledge -- Method -- The Socratic fallacy -- Socrates' pursuit of definitions -- Hupothesis -- Two postulates -- The geometrical illustration -- Geometrical analysis -- The method of reasoning from a postulate -- Elenchus and hupothesis -- Knowledge and aitia -- F-conditions -- Cognitive security -- Aporia -- Forms of aporia -- Dramatic aporia -- The example of Charmides -- Charmides as autobiography -- The politics of Sôphrosunê -- Critias' Philotimia -- Self-knowledge and the knowledge of knowledge -- Knowledge of knowledge and knowledge of the good -- Philosophy and the polis. (shrink)
On Goodness attempts to answer the question "What is goodness?" The method it employs to answer this question is linguistic. The central methodological claim of the book is that answering the question "What is goodness?" requires answering the question "What does the word 'goodness' mean?" Consequently, On Goodness is pervasively informed by and critically engaged with ideas and theories in contemporary linguistics.
"Socrates' Pursuit of Definitions" examines the manner in which Socrates pursues definitions in Plato's early definitional dialogues and advances the following claims. Socrates evaluates definitions (proposed by his interlocutors or himself) by considering their consistency with conditions of the identity of F (F-conditions) to which he is committed. In evaluating proposed definitions, Socrates seeks to determine their truth-value. Socrates evaluates the truth-value of a proposed definition by considering the consistency of the proposed definition with F-conditions that F he believes to (...) be true. (For instance, a proposed definition's inconsistency with one of these gives Socrates reason to believe that the definition is false.) Socrates' belief in the truth of a given F-condition to which he is committed may be based on self-evidence, its endoxic status, experience, or deduction from premises to which he is committed on the basis of any of the previous three. However, Socrates does not consider the epistemological grounds of his commitments to his F-conditions. This is part of a general avoidance of metaethical and ethical epistemological issues. Due to his avoidance of these, Socrates' pursuit of true definitions is theoretically naïve. However, Socrates recognizes a certain limitation to his manner of pursuing definitions. These results are applied to advancing the following further points. (1) Although Socrates has a distinctive manner or style of pursuing definitions, it is inappropriate to ascribe to him a method of doing so in the following sense. The concept of method implies a certain theoretical conception of procedure that Socrates lacks. Moreover, according to Socrates' own conceptual framework, only one who possessed the relevant τέχνη would have a method. (2) Furthermore, Socrates' manner of pursuing definitions is not elenctic just insofar as the word "elenchus" is interpreted to have adversarial connotations; that is inconsistent with Socrates' motives and interests. (3) Socrates' manner of pursuing definitions is consistent among the early definitional dialogues. More specifically, there is no "demise of the elenchus" in a set of transitional dialogues, as Vlastos describes it. First, Socrates' manner of pursuing definitions is not "elenctic" (in the sense described). And, second, the fact that Socrates himself proposes definitions in allegedly post-elenctic dialogues (that is, Lysis and Hippias Major) is consistent with his manner of pursuing definitions. (4) In the early definitional dialogues, Socrates does not have a theory of definition. In particular, he lacks a general theoretical ontology. Moreover, while his comments and implicit commitments entail beliefs about some conditions for a satisfactory definition (for example, that the definiens must be a uniquely identifying true verbal description), such conditions do not constitute a theory. (5) Although in other early dialogues and in other parts of the definitional dialogues Socrates may express concern over the psychological states and well-being of his interlocutors, in the process of pursuing definitions, Socrates' principal concern is the evaluation of definitions, not the psychologies or lives of his interlocutors. (6) Finally, Socrates is committed to the epistemological priority of definitional knowledge for pertinent non-definitional knowledge. This does present a methodological problem of the kind to which Geach first drew attention. Specifically, according to the manner in which Socrates pursues definitions, it is unclear how he can get from belief that p to knowledge that p. Although this problem is genuine, Socrates himself is not unaware of such limits of his approach. (shrink)
At Republic 9, 583b1–587a2, Socrates argues that the pleasure of the philosophical life is the truest pleasure. I will call this the ‘true pleasure argument’. The true pleasure argument is divisible into two parts: 583b1–585a7 and 585a8–587a2. Each part contains a sub-argument, which I will call ‘the misperception argument’ and ‘the true filling argument’ respectively. In the misperception argument Socrates argues that it is characteristic of irrational men to misperceive as pleasant what in fact is a condition of neither having (...) pleasure nor being pained. In the true filling argument Socrates argues that in so far as pleasure entails somatic or psychic filling and there are more and less true fillings, there are more and less true pleasures. Philosophical filling is the truest filling and thus the truest pleasure. The misperception argument critically contributes to the true pleasure argument by clarifying what pleasure is not: merely an appearance or merely the absence of pain. The misperception argument thereby clears the ground for the constructive contribution of the true filling argument. (shrink)
The paper examines Socrates' avowals and disavowals of knowledge in the standardly accepted early Platonic dialogues. All of the pertinent passages are assembled and discussed. It is shown that, in particular, alleged avowals of knowledge have been variously misinterpreted. The evidence either does not concern ethical knowledge or its interpretation has been distorted by abstraction of the passage from context or through failure adequately to appreciate the rhetorical dimensions of the context or the author's dramaturgical interests. Still, six sincere Socratic (...) avowals or assumptions of ethical knowledge occur among the early dialogues. Moreover, it is maintained that in a number of these texts Socrates is committed to the epistemological priority of definitional knowledge of excellence for pertinent non-definitional knowledge (for example, that knowledge of the definition of justice is necessary for knowledge of instances of justice). Thus, there are inconsistencies among Socrates' avowals and disavowals of ethical knowledge. It is argued that the most important recent attempts to resolve Socrates' avowals and disavowals of knowledge (for example, Vlastos's) fail. A novel interpretation is then offered that depends upon a fundamental adjustment in the interpretation of Socrates' utterances in the texts. The practice of assembling all of Socrates' topic-relevant utterances, divorced from context, and attempting to distill from these consistent philosophical principles is rejected as naïve. In contrast, it is argued that Plato uses Socrates in various ways in various texts in order to achieve certain pedagogical objectives. Accordingly, Socrates' utterances do not all have the same hermeneutic status. On this depends the correct interpretation of Socrates' occasional avowals of ethical knowledge as well as the general epistemological, specifically ethical epistemological commitments that Plato intended to advance in the early dialogues. The paper concludes with an explanation of the function of Socrates' occasional avowals of ethical knowledge as well as an account of the ethical epistemological commitments that Plato intended to advance among the early dialogues. (shrink)
In this paper I advance an interpretation of Prodicus' conception of the correctness of names or terms. I advance this interpretation through examining a distinction between pleasures and pleasure terms that several ancient authors, most importantly the fifth-century Neoplatonist Hermias, attribute to Prodicus. Since Hermias lived many centuries after Prodicus, it is questionable whether Hermias' testimony is accurate. Consequently, I first present evidence to support the view that Hermias' testimony is accurate. Subsequently, I examine the grounds and context of Prodicus' (...) distinction. I reject the view that Prodicus was interested in drawing distinctions between near synonyms according to standard usage. Instead, I argue that Prodicus' linguistic distinctions follow substantive distinctions between natural kinds. (shrink)
Scholars ubiquitously refer to the method εξ υποθεσεως, introduced at Meno 86e1-87d8, as a method of hypothesis. In contrast, this paper argues that the method εξ υποθεσεως in Meno is not a hypothetical method. On the contrary, in the Meno passage, υποθεσις means “postulate”, that is, cognitively secure proposition. Furthermore, the method εξ υποθεσεως is derived from the method of geometrical analysis. More precisely, it is derived from the use of geometrical analysis to achieve reduction, that is, reduction of a (...) less tractable problem to a more tractable problem. As such, the method εξ υποθεσεως does not by itself serve to solve problems. (shrink)
AtRepublic9, 583b1–587a2, Socrates argues that the pleasure of the philosophical life is the truest pleasure. I will call this the ‘true pleasure argument’. The true pleasure argument is divisible into two parts: 583b1–585a7 and 585a8–587a2. Each part contains a sub-argument, which I will call ‘the misperception argument’ and ‘the true filling argument’ respectively. In the misperception argument Socrates argues that it is characteristic of irrational men to misperceive as pleasant what in fact is a condition of neither having pleasure nor (...) being pained. In the true filling argument Socrates argues that in so far as pleasure entails somatic or psychic filling and there are more and less true fillings, there are more and less true pleasures. Philosophical filling is the truest filling and thus the truest pleasure. The misperception argument critically contributes to the true pleasure argument by clarifying what pleasure is not: merely an appearance or merely the absence of pain. The misperception argument thereby clears the ground for the constructive contribution of the true filling argument. (shrink)
Early Greek Ethics is the first volume devoted to philosophical ethics in its "formative" period. It explores contributions from the Presocratics, figures of the early Pythagorean tradition, sophists, and anonymous texts, as well as topics influential to ethical philosophical thought such as Greek medicine, music, friendship, and justice.