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Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy

Volume 21, Issue 1, Fall 2016

Kelly E. Arenson
Pages 21-45
DOI: 10.5840/epoche201681664

Impure Intellectual Pleasure and the Phaedrus

This paper considers how Plato can account for the fact that pain features prominently in the intellectual pleasures of philosophers, given that in his view pleasures mixed with pain are ontologically deficient and inferior to ‘pure,’ painless pleasures. After ruling out the view that Plato does not believe intellectual pleasures are actually painful, I argue that he provides a coherent and overlooked account of pleasure in the Phaedrus, where purity does not factor into the philosopher’s judgment of pleasures at all; what matters instead is the extent to which a given pleasure fosters the philosophical life. I show that to argue, as James Warren has recently done, that Plato thinks intellectual pleasures are not per se painful is less successful than the Phaedrus account at explaining philosophers’ lived experiences of pleasure, which often involve pain.