Friday, April 19, 2013

Plato's Philebus, reviewed

An 'untimely (deliberately anachronistic) review'  by Ronald de Sousa in Topoi 32 (2013): 125-8.  (Link to the pdf here.)

A snippet:
The work is offered in the form of a dialogue—in that respect, at least, it is not ‘‘trendy’’—between Socrates and an interlocutor called Protarchus. The latter defends a position attributed to one Philebus, a curiously ghostly character who unaccountably ‘‘leaves the field’’ on the first page, intervening again only three or our times to reiterate a simple-minded praise of pleasure as the supreme good. That is not the only one of this work’s quirks of style. Its organization is somewhat confusing. Its central pages contain an analysis and classification of pleasures, in the course of which Socrates attempts to persuade his interlocutor that some pleasures are false, but little is done in the dialogue to relate this claim to the work’s announced topic. One is left to assume, I suppose, that falsity might detract from the claim of any conditions to be life’s chief good. In this review, I shall not attempt to deal with the somewhat messy structure of the whole; neither shall I attempt to canvas all the topics that come up only to be desultorily dropped. I shall concentrate instead on the arguments adduced for the claim that pleasures can be false.
There untimely reviews are an interesting idea.  You can read the editorial here.

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