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Research Graduate School of Philosophy PhD ceremonies

Plato on pleasure and illusion

PhD ceremony:Mr D.H.C. (Derek) van Zoonen
When:October 27, 2022
Supervisor:prof. dr. L.W. (Lodi) Nauta
Co-supervisor:dr. T.M. Nawar
Where:Academy building RUG
Plato on pleasure and illusion

Scholars have typically ignored Plato’s views on the nature and value of pleasure (hêdonê) or rejected them as confused, flawed, and not worthy of our attention. In stark contrast, *Plato on Pleasure and Illusion* seeks to develop a more charitable, more sympathetic account of Platonic hedonic theorizing—specifically focusing on the proposal that pleasure is philosophically and ethically problematic because it can be highly deceptive. Chapter 1 makes sense of the Phaedo’s claim that the good life involves renunciation from bodily pleasure and argues that this ethical ideal is rooted in the suggestion that such pleasure inflates the reality and clarity of the messy sensible world in which we find ourselves. Chapter 2 studies Republic 9’s proposal that what presents itself as a pleasure may not always be the real thing and argues that this puzzling idea pivots on an objectivist theory of pleasure on which something only counts as a pleasure if it involves the fulfilment of a need. Chapter 3 turns to the Philebus and examines its equally puzzling claim that pleasures can be false in the same way in which beliefs can be false. Having clarified that this position is driven by a sophisticated cognitivist theory of pleasure, on which pleasure is a special way of apprehending the world, I explain how hedonic cognitivism and hedonic fallibilism (as I call these positions) fit into the larger aims of the Philebus. Chapter 4, lastly, looks at another argument in the Philebus in which it is suggested that, as a restorative process, pleasure cannot be the good our lives as a whole are aimed at reaching—even though the hedonist cannot appreciate this from a first-person, introspective perspective.