Socratic Dialogues - Synopses :)!

Philebus dialogue (Synopsis – highlights & unredacted quotes lifted from the Socratic dialogue by Plato, Benjamin Jowett translation)

Philebus thesis:

  • That enjoyment and pleasure and delight, and the class of feelings akin to them are a good to every living being.
  • That pleasure and delight and enjoyment and the like were the chief good.
  • That pleasure is the true end of all living beings, at which all ought to aim, and moreover that it is the chief good of all, and that the two names ‘good’ and ‘pleasant’ are correctly given to one thing and one nature…
  • That pleasure make up the good life…

Socrates thesis:

  • Wisdom and intelligence and memory and their kindred, right opinion and true reasoning, are better and more desirable than pleasure for all who are able to partake of them, and that to all such who are or ever will be they are the most advantageous of all things.
  • Mind, and knowledge and understanding and art, and the like, are superior to pleasure, and are the true objects of pursuit… (though not in the class of highest goods but akin to them) …
  • Neither pleasure nor wisdom is the good, but some third quality, which is different from them and better than either…
  • Denies Philebus thesis, and further says, that in nature as in name they are two and that wisdom partakes more than pleasure of the good…
  • Affirms that mind was far better and far more excellent, as an element of human life, then pleasure…

Which state and disposition of the soul which has the property of making all men happy?

  • Socrates maintains it is the state of wisdom…
  • Protarchus argues that it is the state of pleasure…
  • If there is a third state (unlike Socrates’ or Protarchus’s above), and if it turns out to be akin to pleasure than to wisdom, the life of pleasure may still advantage over the life of wisdom…

Goddess Aphrodite (the patron of pleasure) is one, but pleasure is manifold…

For do we not say that the intemperate has pleasure, and that the temperate has pleasure in his very temperance, — that the fool is pleased when he is full of foolish fancies and hopes, and that the wise man has pleasure in his wisdom? And how foolish would any one be who affirmed that all these opposite pleasures are severally alike!

  • Protarchus: pleasure only opposed in so far as they spring form opposite sources but they are not themselves opposite…pleasure is like pleasure… that all pleasant things are good…
  • Socrates’ refutation: colour is like colour in so far as colours are colours… figure is like figure though there’s an infinite diversity of them. Furthermore, pleasures are oftener bad than good… Protarchus’s position is similar to claiming that there is no difference between one science and another if “science is like science.”

Marvel of nature: that one should be many or many one…

  • The notion of unity and individuality…
  • Whether these unities have a real existence…
  • How each individual unity, being always the same, and incapable either of generation or of destruction, but retaining a permanent individuality, can be conceived either as dispersed and multiplied in the infinity of the world of generation, or as still entire and yet divided from itself…

The (proposition) one and many (has) become identified by thought…

Whatever things are said to be are composed of one and many, and have the finite and infinite implanted in them.

This unity we shall find in everything. Having found it, we may next proceed to look for two, if there be two, or, if not, then for three or some other number, subdividing each of these units, until at last the unity with which we began is seen not only to be one and many and infinite, but also a definite number.

The infinite must not be suffered to approach the many until the entire number of the species intermediate between unity and infinity has been discovered… he who begins with any individual unity, should proceed from that, not to infinity, but to a definite number, and now I say conversely, that he who has to begin with infinity should not jump to unity, but he should look about for some number representing a certain quantity, and thus out of all end in one.

Conception of plurality in unity…

Some Egyptian god or divine man, Theuth… founder of the art of grammar or letters…

Enquiring into the comparative eligibility of pleasure and wisdom:

  • How is it that all pleasures is one…and all wisdom is one?… That is, how they are one and also many (how they have one genus and many species) …
  • What number of species is to be assigned to either of them before they pass into infinity…? Whether there are not kinds of pleasure, and what is the number and nature of them, and the same of wisdom…

And no one can deny that all percipient beings desire and hunt after good, and are eager to catch and have the good about them, and care not for the attainment of anything which is not accompanied by good…

Separation of wisdom in the life of pleasure and vice versa… for it either of them is the chief good, it cannot be supposed to want anything, but if either is shown to want anything, then it cannot really be the chief good…

The life of “pulmo marinus”/oyster/pleasure:

  • Devoid of intelligence and memory hence ignorant of whether it is pleased or not and would not have the slightest recollection of the pleasure it felt at any given moment or the power to calculate on future pleasures. A life which is all sweetness…
  • Verdict: the life of pleasure without intelligence is ineligible.

The life of mind:

  • Having wisdom and mind and knowledge and memory of all things, but having no sense of pleasure or pain, and wholly unaffected by these and the like feelings.
  • Verdict: The life of mind too is not sufficient. All would choose the third (the mixed life) which is the union of the life of mind and the life of pleasure rather than either of the two.

The element which makes this mixed life eligible and good, is more akin and more similar to mind than to pleasure.

Table of categories/Class of elements

  1. The finite element (limited);
    1. the class of the limited, definite quantity is at rest and has ceased to progress…
  1. the infinite element (unlimited);
  • comparatives such as the hotter and the colder, a more and a less…
    • a class which neither has, nor ever will have in itself, a beginning, middle, or end of its own…
  1. a generated compound (combination of the finite and infinite, an offspring of these effected by the measure which the limit introduces; which is not composed of any two particular ingredients, but of all the elements of infinity, bound down by the finite): the mixed life is comprehended here…  health, harmony… etc.…
  1. the cause of the mixture and generation/compound…

Health:

  • The right participation in the finite…

The goddess (Aphrodite) methinks, seeing the universal wantonness and wickedness of all things, and that there was in them no limit to pleasure and self-indulgence, devised the limit of law and order, whereby, as you say, Philebus, she torments, or as I maintain, delivers the soul…

Everything which comes into being, of necessity come into being through a cause.

The agent or cause always leads, and the patient or effect naturally follows it. The cause and effect are not the same but different…

All philosophers assert with one voice that mind is the king of heaven and earth—in reality they are magnifying themselves…

Is the universe left to the guidance of unreason and chance medley, or on the contrary, as our fathers have declared, ordered and governed by a marvelous intelligence and wisdom? Mind orders all things, is worthy of the aspect of the world, and of the sun, and of the moon, and of the stars and of the whole circle of heavens…

The notion that all is disorder…

Only a small fraction of the elements (fire, water, air, earth, etc.…) exists in us, and that a mean sort, and not in any way pure, or having any power worthy of its nature… for instance, there is a fire within us which is small, weak and mean. But the fire in the universe is wonderful in quantity and beauty, and in every power that fire has. The fire in the universe is not nourished and generated and ruled by the fire in us, but the fire in us is dependent on the universal fire…

If our body has a soul, whence came that soul, unless the body of the universe, which contains elements like those in our bodies, but in every way fairer, had also a soul?

There is in the universe a mighty infinite and an adequate limit, and a presiding cause of no mean power, which orders and arranges years and seasons and months, and may be justly called wisdom and mind…

Wisdom and mind cannot exist without a soul…

The testimony of those who said of old time that mind rules the universe…

Mind is the parent of that class of the four which we called the cause of all…

The origin of pleasure and pain: their natural seat is in the mixed class…

Source of pleasure:

  • the restoration of harmony and return to nature…

The unnatural separation and dissolution caused by heat is painful, and natural restoration and refrigeration is pleasant…

The natural process of resolution and return of the elements to their original state is pleasure…

Pain:

  • The unnatural freezing of the moisture in an animal…
  • The destroying of the natural union of the finite and infinite…

Pleasure:

  • The natural resolution and return of the elements to their original state…
  • The process of return of all things to their own nature…

In the soul there is an antecedent hope of pleasure which is sweet and refreshing, and an expectation of pain, fearful and anxious… these pleasures being unalloyed with pain and the pains with pleasure… mental pleasures and pains…etc.….

An investigation into whether the whole class of pleasure is to be desired, or whether this quality of entire desirableness is not rather to be attributed to another of the classes which have been mentioned…

Whether pleasure and pain, like heat and cold, and other things of the same kind, are not sometimes to be desired and sometimes not to be desired, as being not in themselves good, but only sometimes and in some instances admitting of the nature of good… (would false pleasures and pains be the offspring of false imagination that restoration or dissolution of harmony/natural state has been effected?) …

                               

If I remember rightly, when the lives were compared, no degree of pleasure, whether great or small, was thought to be necessary to him who chose the life of thought and wisdom…

The gods cannot be supposed to have either joy or sorrow…

Analysis of memory and perception…

Types of bodily affections:

  • Some affections of the body are extinguished before they reach the soul and leave her unaffected… soul is oblivious/unconscious to this kind of affection…
  • Other affections vibrate through both soul and body, and impart a shock to both and to each of them…

Forgetfulness as exit of memory…

To speak of a loss of that which is not yet in existence, and never has been, is a contradiction…

Consciousness:

  • The union or communion of soul and body in one feeling and motion…

Memory:

  • Preservation of consciousness…

Recollection/Reminiscence:

  • The power which the soul has of recovering, when by herself, some feeling which she experienced when in company with the body…

The generation and whole complexion of pleasure… and … the nature and true seat of desire…

Desire:

  • Emptiness of replenishment…

How can a man who is empty for the first time, attain either by perception or memory to any apprehension of replenishment, of which he has no present or past experience? The only remaining alternative is that the soul apprehends the replenishment by the help of memory…

There is no such thing as desire of the body… the endeavor of every animal is to the reverse of his bodily state…

Memory attracts us towards the objects of desire. The impulses and the desires and the moving principle in every living thing have their origin in the soul…

Man and other animals have at the same time both pleasure and pain… (when a man has the pleasure of memory and he is hoping to be filled, and yet he is empty, thirsty; or there will be the double experience of pain when he is empty and has no hope of being filled/replenished).

But how, Socrates, can there be false pleasures and pains? (Protarchus)…

Since opinion is about something (and there are true and false opinions), how can opinions be both true and false, and pleasure true only, although pleasure and opinion are both equally real? (Socrates)…

Opinion admits of truth and falsehood, and hence becomes not merely opinion, but opinion of a certain quality (e.g. badness, rightness which attaches to any of them, etc.) …

Pleasure often appears to accompany an opinion which is not true, but false… Pleasure is predicated on opinion…

Pleasure and pain are often consequent upon true and false opinion, while opinion and the endeavor to form an opinion always spring from memory and perception…

The phenomenon of perception:

  • The soul is like a book…
  • Memory and perception meet, and they and their attendant feelings seem to almost to write down words in the soul…
  • When the inscribing feeling writes truly, then true opinion and true propositions which are the expressions of opinion come into our souls – but when the scribe within us writes falsely, the result is false…
  • The painter in the soul draws images in the soul of the things which he has described…
  • Images answering to true opinions and words are true, and to false opinions and words are false…

Mental pleasures and pains are in some cases anticipations of the bodily ones; from which we may infer that anticipatory pleasures and pain…

All men, as we were saying just now, are always filled with hopes…

Hopes:

  • Propositions which exist in the minds of each of us…
  • The fancies of hope are also pictured in us…

The bad then commonly delight in false pleasures, and the good in true pleasures…

There are false pleasures in the souls of men which are ludicrous imitation of the true, and there are pains of a similar character…

No one would call pleasures and pains bad because they are false, but by reason of some other great corruption to which they are liable… (Protarchus)… Corrupt pleasures as opposed to false pleasures….

The soul desire opposite of bodily state… while the body is the source of pleasure or pain which was experienced…

Pleasures and pains come simultaneously; and there is a juxtaposition of the opposite sensations which correspond to them…

The pleasures appear to be greater and more vehement when placed side by side with the pains, and the pains when placed side by side with the pleasures… Just like the case of sight; nearness and distance of magnitudes obscure their true propositions…

Suppose you part off from pleasures and pains the element which makes them appear to be greater or less than they really are: you will acknowledge that this element is illusory, and you will never say that the corresponding excess or defect of pleasure is real or true…

Pains, aches, suffering and uneasiness of all sorts arise out of a corruption of nature caused by concretions, and dissolutions, and repletions, and evacuations, and also by growth and decay…

There no moment that the body does not experience change… if there were such an interval, there would be neither pleasure nor pain… the reason the wise tell us all things are ever flowing up and down…

We are almost wholly unconscious of what happens to us, e.g. of our growth…

Motions going up and down cause pleasures and pains (as motions in the soul, supported by the application of pain relievers) …

The great changes produce pleasures and pains, but that the moderate and lesser ones do neither…

There are three lives: (compare three types of people)

  1. One pleasant… gold
  2. One painful … silver
  3. Another neither… neither

The negation of pain will not be the same with pleasure… pleasure is not the negative of pain.

People think they have pleasure when they are free from pain… that pleasure is the cessation of pain… (pleasures as only avoidances of pain – some reputed masters in natural philosophy) …

If we wanted to ascertain the nature of any quality, such as hardness, we should be more likely to discover it by looking at the hardest things, rather than at the least hard?

Those that have a greater want, tend to experience a greater pleasure in the satisfaction of their want; such as sick people… If a person would wish to see the greatest pleasures he ought to go and look, not at health, but at disease…

There is more intense and excessive pleasure in wantonness than in temperance… (The temperate are restrained by the wise man’s aphorism of ‘Never too much,’ which is their rule, but excess of pleasure possessing the minds of fools and wantons becomes madness and makes them shout with delight…

Then the greatest pleasures and pains will clearly be found in some vicious state of soul and body, and not in a virtuous state…

The pleasures of unseemly disorder, which our severe friends utterly detest, such as the relief of itching and other ailments of scratching… (pleasures mingled with pains) …

There are some mixtures which are of the body, and only in the body, and others which are of the soul, and only in the soul; while there are other mixtures of pleasures with pains, common both to soul and body, which in their composite state are called sometimes pleasures and sometimes pains.

The sweet has a bitter, as the common saying is…

The dissipated and good-for-nothing he is, the more vehemently he pursues them in every way’ of all pleasures he declares them to be the greatest; and reckons him who lives in the most constant enjoyment of them to be the happiest of mankind…

Mixed pleasures:

  • Arise out of the communion of external and internal sensations in the body…

Mental feelings such as anger: “which stirs even a wise man to violence, And is sweeter than honey and honeycomb.”

Envy:

  • A pain of the soul… an unrighteous pleasure and also an unrighteous pain…

Evil:

  • Ignorance, or it is the kind which is most at variance with the inscription at Delphi, that is “Know not thyself.” …

Ways in which ignorance of self may be shown:

  1. About money (the vain conceit of wealth), the ignorant may fancy himself richer than he is…
  2. About goods of the body (the vain conceit of beauty, physical qualities in general), he will fancy that he is taller or fairer than he is, or that he has some other advantage of person which he really has not…
  3. About goods of the mind (the vain conceit of wisdom), they imagine themselves to be much better men than they are…

Of all the virtues, is not wisdom the one which the mass of mankind is always claiming, and which most arouses in them a spirit of contention and lying conceit of wisdom…

  • One having the power and might, can defend themselves, when they are laughed at, strong and formidable…
  • The other the reverse, they are weak and unable to revenge themselves when they are laughed at… (envy of a childish sort, the ridiculous…)

Ignorance in the powerful is hateful and horrible, because hurtful to others both in reality and in fiction, but powerless ignorance may be reckoned, and in truth is, ridiculous – the vain conceit of beauty, of wisdom, and of wealth, are ridiculous if they are weak, and detestable when they are powerful…

There are combinations of pleasure and pain in lamentations, and in tragedy and comedy, not only on the stage, but on the greater stage of human life…

The mixed nature of fear and love and similar affections…

Mixed pleasure and unmixed pleasures…

With the maintainers of the opinion that all pleasures are a cessation of pain, I do not agree, but as I was saying, I use them as witnesses, that there are pleasures which seem only and are not, and there are others again which have great power and appear in many forms, yet are intermingled with pains, and are partly alleviations of agony and distress, both of the body and mind. 

True pleasures are those which are given by the beauty of colour and form, and most of those which arise from smells; those of sound, again, and in general those of which the want is painless to sense and pleasant and unalloyed with pain… (the pleasures of sounds, of smells, and of knowledge if no hunger of knowledge (knowledge which is natural perception and not reflection) and no pain caused by such hunger precede them)…

The pleasures which are in excess have no measure, but that those which are not in excess have measure; the great, the excessive, whether more or less frequent, we shall be right in referring to the class of the infinite, and of the more and less, which pours through body and soul alike; and the others we shall refer to the class which has measure…

Purity in whiteness is that which is most unadulterated and freest from any admixture of other colours; the purest white, and not the greatest or largest in quantity, is to be deemed truest and most beautiful… A little white is whiter and fairer and truer than a great deal that is mixed…

Hence, a small pleasure or a small amount of pleasure, if pure or unalloyed with pain, is always pleasanter and truer and fairer than a great pleasure or a great amount of pleasure of another kind…

That pleasure is always a generation, and has no true being…

Two types of natures:

  • The self-existent… majestic… absolute… ends…
  • The other ever in want of something… inferior… relatives (things that are for the sake of something else) … absolutes (ends in which relatives subserve) …

Two principles:

  • One is the generation of all things… all things instrumental, remedial, material, are given to us with a view to generation, and that each generation is relative to, or for the sake of, some being or essence, and that the whole generation is relative to the whole of essence… (such as pleasure which is for the sake of some essence, pleasure is not a good/an end in itself)…
  • The other Essence…

Is there not an absurdity in arguing that there is nothing good or noble in the body, or in anything else, but that good is in the soul only, and that the only good of the soul is pleasure; and that courage or temperance or understanding, or any other good of the soul, is not really a good? – and is there not yet a further absurdity in our being compelled to say that he who has a feeling of pain and not of pleasure is bad at the time when he is suffering pain, even though he be the best of men; and again, that he who has a feeling of pleasure, in so far as he is pleased at the time when he is pleased, in that degree excels in virtue?

Types of knowledge:

  • One productive/handicraft arts, one part is akin to knowledge (pure) and the other less (impure)…
  • Other educational,

Music, for instance, is full of this empiricism; for sounds are harmonized, not by measure, but by skillful conjecture; the music of the flute is always trying to guess the pitch of each vibrating note, and is therefore mixed up with much that is doubtful and has little which is certain… Same as the goods of medicine and husbandry and piloting and generalship… The art of a builder attains to a higher degree of accuracy than the other arts…

Arts:

  • Those which are less exact, like music…
  • Those which are more exact, like carpentering, arithmetic and the kindred arts of weighing and measuring…

Arithmetic:

  • One popular,
  • Other philosophical,

Arts have different provinces, and vary in their degrees of certainty… (as there is a knowledge which is purer than another, so too there is a parallel to pure pleasure, one pleasure is purer than another) …

 Those arts into which arithmetic and mensuration enter, far surpass all others; and that of these the arts or sciences which are animated by the pure philosophic impulse are infinitely superior in accuracy and truth…

Dialectic:

  • The knowledge which has to do with being and reality, and sameness and changeableness, by far the truest of all… only concerned with things fixed…

Even he who supposes himself to be occupied with nature is really occupied with the things of this world, how created, how acting or acted upon… (Case of the so-called scientists) … He is laboring, not after eternal being, but about things which are becoming, or which will or have become…

Then mind and science when employed about such changing things do not attain the highest truth…

The stable and pure and true and unalloyed has to do with the things which are eternal and unchangeable and unmixed, or if not, at any rate what is most akin to them has; and that all other things are to be placed in a second or inferior class…

Mind (when engaged in the contemplation of true being) and Wisdom

The being who possess the good always everywhere and, in all things, has the most perfect sufficiency, and is never in need of anything else…

Assuming memory and wisdom and knowledge and true opinion to belong to the same class, let him consider whether he would desire to possess or acquire, — I will not say pleasure, however abundant or intense, if he has no real perception that he is pleased, nor any consciousness of what he feels, nor any recollection, however momentary, of the feeling, — but would he desire to have anything at all, if these faculties were wanting to him?

And about wisdom I ask the same question; can you conceive that anyone would choose to have all wisdom absolutely devoid of pleasure, rather than with a certain degree of pleasure, or all pleasure devoid of wisdom, rather than with a certain degree of wisdom?

The perfectly and universally eligible and entirely good cannot possibly be either of them (pleasure or wisdom) …

The nature of the Good:

  • We should seek the good not in the unmixed but in the mixed life (a life which is well mixed) …

Two fountains flowing:

  • One is pleasure, a fountain of honey…
  • Other wisdom, a sober draught in which no wine mingles, if of water unpleasant but healthful

Two sciences:

  • One regarding only the transient and perishing (deals with becoming) …
  • Other the permanent and imperishable and everlasting and immutable… a truer science (deals with being) …

‘Why, Socrates,’ they will say, ‘how can we (mingle wisdom and the greatest and most vehement pleasures)?’ seeing that they are the source of ten thousand hindrances to us; they trouble the souls of men, which are our habitation, with their madness; they prevent us from coming to the birth, and are commonly the ruin of the children which are born to us, causing them to be forgotten and unheeded; but the true and pure pleasures, of which you spoke, known to be of our family, and also those pleasures which accompany health and temperance, and which every virtue, like a goddess, has in her train to follow her about wherever she goes, — mingle these and not the others; there would be great want of sense in any one who desires to see a fair and perfect mixture, and to find in it what is the highest good in man and in the universe, and to divine what is the true form of good – there would be great want of sense in his allowing the pleasures, which are always in the company of folly and vice, to mingle with mind in the cup.’

Unless truth enter into the composition, nothing can truly be created or subsist…

What, then, is there in the mixture which is most precious, and which is the principal cause why such a state is universally beloved by all?

The vestibule of the habitation of the good:

  • Every man knows that any want of measure and symmetry in any mixture whatever must always of necessity be fatal, both to the elements and to the mixture, which is then not a mixture, but only a confused medley which brings confusion on the possessor of it…
  • The power of the good has retired into the region of the beautiful; for measure and symmetry are beauty and virtue all the world over…
  • We may hunt the good with three ideas: Beauty, Symmetry and Truth… these taken together we may regard as the single cause of the mixture, and the mixture as being good by reason of the infusion of them…
  • Whether pleasure or mind is more akin to truth? Pleasure is the veriest impostor in the world (Protarchus)… for pleasures, like children, have not the least particle of reason in them… whereas mind is either the same as truth, or the most like truth, and the truest…
  • Whether pleasure or wisdom is more akin to measure? Nothing (Protarchus) can ever be more immoderate than the transports of pleasure, or more in conformity with measure than mind and knowledge…
  • Whether mind has a greater share of beauty than pleasure, and is mind or pleasure the fairer of the two? No one, Socrates, either awake or dreaming ever saw or imagined mind or wisdom to be in aught unseemly, at any time, past, present, or future.
  • Then, Protarchus, you will proclaim everywhere, by word of mouth to this company, and by messengers bearing the tidings far and wide, that pleasure is not the first of possessions, nor yet the second, but that in measure, and the mean, and the suitable, and the like, the eternal nature has been found.
  • In the second class is contained the symmetrical and beautiful and perfect or sufficient, and all which are of that family…
  • And if you reckon in the third class mind and wisdom, you will not be far wrong, if I divine right…
  • And would you not put in the fourth class the goods which we were affirming to appertain specially to the soul – sciences and arts and true opinions as we called them? These come after the third class, and form the fourth, as they are certainly more akin to good than pleasure is…
  • The fifth class are the pleasures which were defined by us as painless, being the pure pleasures of the soul herself, as we termed them, which accompany, some the sciences, and some the senses…
  • And now, as Orpheus says, ‘With the sixth generation cease the glory of my song.’ Here at the sixth award, let us make an end; all that remains is to set the crown on our discourse…

The scale of goods:

Dialogue’s final verdict on the subject of discourse:

The claims both of pleasure and mind to be the absolute good have been entirely disproven in this argument, because they are both wanting in self-sufficiency and also in adequacy and perfection… (Both Philebus and Socrates theses, founder and are determined inadequate) …

But, though they must both resign in favour of another, mind is ten times nearer and more akin to the nature of the conqueror than pleasure… (Socrates thesis is saved through its affinity with the highest good) …

Pleasure will rank fifth (in the scale of goods) … But not first; no, not even if all the oxen and horses and animals in the world by their pursuit of enjoyment proclaim her to be so; — although the many trusting in them, as diviners trust in birds, determine that pleasures make up the good life, and deem the lusts of animals to be better witnesses than the inspirations of divine philosophy… (Pleasure completely falls to dust, and it is pulverized into a nothingness/illusory good by the force of the argument. Only pleasures that partake of the good and its kindred wisdom and reason, may approach the scale) …

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