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Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy

Volume 15, Issue 1, Fall 2010

John Kress
Pages 13-34

Pleasure Unlimited
Philebus and the Drama of the Unlimited

The Philebus is a difficult dialogue, often criticized for treating obscure ontological questions while neglecting the dramatic aspect characteristic of the Platonic dialogue. In this paper, I argue that, while subtle, the dramatic dimension is essential in understanding the ontological inquiries pursued and the dialogue as a whole. I argue that the Philebus should be read as an agon, a dramatic contest, between Socrates, the advocate of nous, and Philebus, the silent advocate of hēdonē. I show that this contest about the nature of the Good must be executed dramatically because, as Plato brings to light, hēdonē belongs to the Unlimited, and as such, always and necessarily resists reduction to logos, which, as dianoia, is necessarily connected with nous and Limit.

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