restricted access The Hedonic Calculus in the Protagoras and the Phaedo : A Reply
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Notes and Discussions The H edonic Calculus in the Protagoras and the Phaedo:A Reply In this short note we shall not be concerned with the first two sections of Prof. Weiss's well-argued paper [see JHP 27, no. 4 (October 1989): 511--29]. We shall confine ourselves to section 3, where she attempts to rebut our contentions (in The Greeks on Pleasure, chap. 5) a) that the attack on bodily pleasure in the Phaedo is not incompatible with enlightened hedonism, a doctrine apparently espoused by Socrates in the Protagoras, and b) that the attack on hedonistic calculation in the former dialogue is not an explicit rejection of the hedonistic calculus described in the latter. In what we hope is an eirenic rather than a boringly defensive spirit we emphasize the modesty of our thesis, which is restricted to the two negative propositions just stated. We make no stronger claim: in particular, (1) we do not claim that the Phaedo contains a defense of the hedonism of the Protagoras or of any form of hedonism, or that it is an extension of the hedonism of the Protagoras, nor (2) do we claim that there are no shifts of stance between the two dialogues. With respect to (2) we can do no better than to refer the reader to the final paragraph of our chapter. With respect to (l) Prof. Weiss misrepresents our view in saying (p. 522) that we attempt to show that the Phaedo prefers intellectual to bodily pleasures "because of their greater pleasantness ." This attributes to us a definite position which we explicitly eschew, on the grounds that the text does not warrant any determinate position on the question of whether the intellectual life is preferable because pleasanter than the life of bodily pleasure, or independently of pleasantness. See especially The Greekson Pleasure, p. 94: "One exchanges one's worthless bodily pleasures for something with real value, i.e., intelligence, but what gives intelligence its real value is what we can buy with it, viz., goodness and, perhaps, the pleasures of the philosophic life" (no emphasis in original text); ibid.: "The precise delineations of the logical relations between the concepts of goodness, intelligence and pleasure in the total description of that life, even if Plato had been capable of such a task, would have been irrelevant to the context of this passage." Prof. Weiss's central contention is, however, that even our modest thesis cannot be sustained; according to the hedonism of the Protagoras the sole ultimate value is pleasure , whereas according to the Phaedo the ultimate value is not pleasure but phronesis(p. 523). Here again we have to repeat ourselves. First, the Phaedo contrasts phrones~ not with pleasure as such, but with bodily pleasure. Secondly, the Phaedo is crucially Znexplicit as to whether phronesis possesses ultimate value, either uniquely or in corntits ] 116 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 28:1 JANUARY 199o mon with some other good such as arete,or whether its value is derivative, whether from the value of genuine pleasure or the value of something else. (This, we believe, emerges from our detailed examination of the "currency" metaphor, pp. 92-94 .) On our interpretation the hedonistic thesis of the Protagoras is explicit on those very points; that constitutes one of the shifts of stance which we have just mentioned. But Prof. Weiss provides no reason to think that the divergence between the dialogues is any wider than we thus allow. On a subsidiary point, Prof. Weiss accepts our claim that Socrates is represented in the Apologyas fearing wicked and dishonorable action worse than death (p. 526). But she rejects our contention that he is therefore represented as being courageous through fear, on the ground that he does not decide which is the right course of action by appeal to the standard of fearfulness, but conversely decides which course of action is most fearful by appeal to the standard of what is right. This is an ignoratioelenchi. Fear, on Plato's standard account (Lach. 198b, Prot. 358d, Laws646e),just is expectation of evil (prosdokiakakou); hence whoever is motivated by that expectation (sc. to avoid the kakon)is motivated by fear. Since Socrates...