Monday, July 21, 2008

Psychology in the Non posse II

I suggested in the last post that Plutarch may have thought that the rational soul was tasked with both theoretical understanding of things that are necessary and eternal and also various things that could be otherwise, and that therefore the pleasure we take in learning historical facts and the like might still in his eyes be 'rational' pleasures. This was part of an attempt to understand Non posse 1092E.

The case is unfortunately not so clear-cut. On the other hand, Plutarch is evidently also concerned in this work to show that Epicureanism fails properly to acknowledge the natural sense in which humans take pleasure in fame and a good reputation. Much of the discussion from 1098E to 1100D, for example, is designed to show not only that there are examples of men who have taken proper pleasure in their noble achievements but also that there is a general desire for and enjoyment of such pleasures among humans. Indeed, Epicurus himself is criticised as inconsistent on this score: his own concern for a particular reputation is what drove him to disown and then slander his teachers and enjoyed the reverence paid to him by his followers (1100A–C). In the terms of Plato’s Republic, these would appear to be the pleasures of the spirited part of the soul, the thumoeides: see, for example, 581a9–b5. Furthermore, when Plutarch concludes this work he offers a summary of the various pleasures and goods which the Epicureans omit from a human life, he tells us that Epicurus blinds ‘the love of learning of the theoretical part of us and the love of honour of the action-guiding part of us’ (τοῦ θεωρητικοῦ τὸ φιλομαθὲς καὶ τοῦ πρακτικοῦ τὸ φιλότιμον) to their due pleasures (1107C). Here, it seems more likely that the ‘action-guiding’ part, the praktikon, is to be thought of as rather similar to Plato’s thumoeides and not another aspect of the rational part of the soul. Is that what's meant also at 1092E?

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