Brooks A. Sommerville
This paper addresses two interpretive puzzles in Plato’s Philebus. The first concerns the claim, endorsed by both interlocutors, that the most godlike of lives is a pleasureless life of pure thinking. This appears to run afoul of the verdict of the earlier so-called ‘Choice of Lives’ argument that a mixed life is superior to either of its ‘pure’ rivals. A second concerns Socrates’ discussion of false pleasure, in which he appears to be guilty of rank equivocation. I argue that we can solve both puzzles by attributing to Plato an account of pleasure as a species of intentional attitude.
I offer a fresh interpretation of the dialectical strategy of Physics 2.8’s arguments that things in nature happen for the sake of something. Whereas many recent interpreters have concluded that these arguments inevitably beg the question against Aristotle’s opponents, I argue that they constitute a careful attempt to build common ground with an opponent who rejects Aristotle’s basic worldview. This common ground, first articulated in the famous Winter Rain Argument, takes the form of an intriguing pattern of reasoning: that natural proceedings that happen in a given manner always or for the most part do not do so by chance.
Moral virtue is, for Aristotle, famously acquired through the practice of virtuous actions. But how should we understand the activity of Aristotle’s moral learner, and how does her activity result in the acquisition of virtue? I argue that by understanding Aristotle’s learner as engaged in the emulative imitation of a virtuous agent, we can best account for her development. Such activity crucially involves the adoption of the virtuous agent’s perspective, from which I argue the learner is positioned so as to appreciate the value of virtuous action—its fineness—and what it would be to act finely herself.