Cover image for Socrates, pleasure, and value
Socrates, pleasure, and value
Rudebusch, George, 1957-
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Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xiii, 169 pages ; 25 cm
Introduction -- Plato's aporetic style -- Ethical Protagoreanism -- Callicles' hedonism -- Callicles refuted -- Death is one of two things -- The intrinsic value of sense pleasure and pain -- The righteous are happy -- Does Socrates consistently hold the sufficiency thesis? -- How Socrates can make both pleasure and virtue the chief good.
Reading Level:
1370 Lexile.
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B318.E8 R83 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In the past quarter century, enormous philosophical attention has been paid to Plato's "Socratic" dialogues, as interpreters have sought to identify which dialogues are truly Socratic and interpret and defend the moral theories they find in those works. In spite of this intellectual energy, noconsensus has emerged on the question of whether Socrates was a hedonist--whether he believed pleasure to be the good. In this study, George Rudebusch addresses this question and the textual puzzle from which it has arisen. In the Protagoras, Plato has Socrates appeal to hedonism in order to assert his characteristic identification of virtue and knowledge. While in the Gorgias, Socrates attributes hedonism to his opponent and argues against it in defense of his own view that doing injustice is worse than suffering it.From the Apology and Crito, it is clear that Socrates believes virtue to be the supreme good. Taken together, scholars have found these texts to be incoherent and seek to account for them either in terms of the development of Plato's thinking or by denying that one or more of these texts was meantto reflect Socrates' own ethical theory. Rudebusch argues instead that these texts do indeed fit together into a coherent moral theory as he attempts to locate Socrates' position on hedonism. He distinguishes Socrates' own hedonism from that which Socrates attacks elsewhere. Rudebusch also maintains that Socrates identifies pleasantactivity with virtuous activity, describing Socrates' hedonism as one of activity, not sensation. This analysis allows for Socrates to find both virtue and pleasure to be the good, thus solving the textual puzzle and showing the power of Socratic argument in leading human beings toward the good. Tackling some of the most fundamental debates over Socratic ethics in Plato's earlier dialogues, Socrates, Pleasure, and Value will generate renewed discussion among specialists and provide excellent reading for courses in ancient philosophy as well as ethical theory.

Author Notes

George Rudebusch is at Northern Arizona University.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Socrates praises virtue as the highest human good in several Platonic dialogues and argues against Callicles' hedonism in the Gorgias. Yet Socrates himself argues from a hedonist perspective in the Protagoras. Is there a consistent position here? In this excellent book, Rudebusch (Northern Arizona Univ.) pursues this question to the heart of Socrates' ethics and concludes that Socrates is indeed a hedonist of an unusual kind. The highest good, in Socrates' view, consists not in sensory pleasure, but in what Rudebusch calls "modal pleasure"--that constituted by "unimpeded activity in accordance with the nature of one's condition"--the kind of pleasure skillful people enjoy while engaging in their skill. A tennis player might enjoy a match, for example, even while an injury causes her pain the entire time. Rudebusch shows how everything Socrates says about the good life can be understood in this way, and the view he attributes to Socrates is worth taking seriously on its own merits. Every page of this extraordinary book offers spare but subtle argument without embellishment or distraction--a model of philosophical writing. Certainly the best book on Socratic ethics. Strongly recommended for college and university libraries. N. D. Smith; Lewis and Clark College

Table of Contents

Two Plato's Aporetic Style
Three Ethical Protagoreanism
Four Callicles' Hedonism
Five Callicles Refuted
Six Death Is One of Two Things
Seven The Intrinsic Value of Sense Pleasure and Pain
Eight The Righteous Are Happy
Nine Does Socrates Conistently Hold the Sufficiency Thesis?
Ten How Socrates Can Make Both Pleasure and Virtue the Chief Good
BibliographyIndex of Passages
General Index