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November 24:  Georgia Mouroutsou (Western University)

3:30 to 5:00 pm in DSB/B107

“Plato’s Phaedo: Are the Philosophers’ Pleasures of Learning Pure?”

Abstract: My question in this paper is whether the philosophers’ pleasures of learning in the Phaedo are pure of pain. This is a question that, though to my knowledge it has not yet been asked about this dialogue, is very important for the development of Plato’s critical project on pleasure, for the pleasures of learning are characterized as pure in both the Republic and the Philebus. In agreement with the analysis of the pleasures of learning in the Philebus, I will argue that necessarily, in contrast to bodily pleasures, the philosopher’s pleasures of learning are neither preceded nor followed by opposite pains. I argue, on the contrary, that it is their nature to be free, necessarily, of such pains. That said, the philosophers’ intellectual endeavors are not characterized by immunity from all intellectual pain, but by the philosophers’ particular attitude toward intellectual pain.

For my purposes, I will focus on the initial example of bodily pleasure that Socrates introduces (60b3-c7) and Socrates’ intellectual activities related to learning in his autobiography (the first voyage, 96a6-99d2), and will also consider the misology passage (88c1-91c5). If the picture and the conclusions I draw are accurate, then Plato’s philosophical project on pleasure is unified in the following respect: although we are far before the Philebus’ analysis of pleasure, Plato already in the Phaedo thinks of the relation to pain as fundamental to the nature of (different kinds of) pleasure.

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