AuthorRussell, Daniel Charles
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe task of this dissertation is to answer the question, "Of all the parts of the best whole life, where, according to Plato, does pleasure fit in?" While Plato believes that pleasure is neither the good nor a good, he nonetheless believes that pleasure does have an important place in the good life. In the dissertation, I show what this "important place" is. For Plato, although pleasure is not a good it has value inasmuch as it both reflects an agent's commitment to virtue and reinforces it. I develop this evaluation of pleasure, and amplify it in two connected ways. First, I show how this evaluation of pleasure is related to Plato's conception of the human good, or "final end," which for Plato is to "become like God." I argue that "becoming like God" is for Plato an especially illuminating way of understanding the virtuous life, which both explains why pleasure cannot be a good and shows more clearly how pleasure is related to virtuous activity: a fundamental part of virtue is the proper harmonization of pleasure with reason. Hence pleasure is a part of the life of virtue, because pleasure is a part of virtuous activity itself. Second, I locate Plato's evaluation of pleasure within his moral psychology. Plato's ethical evaluation of pleasure seeks to make pleasure something transformed by virtue. However, in order for pleasure so to be transformed by virtue, it must be in harmony and agreement with virtue. But in Plato's moral psychology the capacities in virtue of which the soul experiences pleasure are not able to agree with virtue, but must be merely controlled or contained by it. Consequently, this tension in Plato's moral psychology places a severe limit on Plato's attempts to provide a more satisfying account of the place of pleasure in the good life.
Degree ProgramGraduate College