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Volume 17, 2019

Le Plaisir: Platon, Aristote et la postérité

Karine Tordo·Rombaut
Pages 59-90

Protagoras 351b3‑358d4 : le plaisir et rien d’autre

In Protagoras 351b3‑358d4, Socrates apparently admits the use of pleasure and pain as criteria for distinguishing between good and bad. Focusing on this passage, my paper outlines three problems, raising from : (1) the contradiction between Socrates’ objection to pleasure in other platonic dialogues and his assent here to a hypothesis which identifies good with pleasure ; (2) the petitio principii apparently involved in Socrates’ argument to support the thought that knowledge is more powerful than emotions ; (3) the compatibility of his “ hedonist ” hypothesis with his “intellectualist” thought. My paper undertakes to reconstruct Socrates’ argument, in order to answer problem (2). I contend that this argument makes the humans admit they are deprived of the knowledge both of good and evil and of pleasant and painful, a point sufficient to silence them when they speak of “knowledge being defeated by pleasure”. This contention helps answering problem (1), through a distinction between so‑called pleasures (to which Socrates objects) and real ones (which he might accept). My conclusion answers problem (3), by showing that, held together, both the “hedonist” hypothesis and the “intellectualist” thought lead to not take pleasure for granted, as required to secure a philosophical approach.