restricted access A Rejoinder to Professors Gosling and Taylor
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A Rejoinder to Professors Gosling and Taylor Hedonism is for Socrates the radical view that pleasure is the standard according to which one ought to steer one's life, the view that pleasure represents the proper end of human existence. Hedonism is not for Socrates the weaker view that the good life is also the most pleasant. Were it not for the Protagoras, all would agree, I think, that Socrates does not regard pleasure as the highest goal of human life. Perhaps even Gosling and Taylor would concede that but for the Protagoras no reader of Plato would assign to pleasure a pivotal role in Socratic ethics:/ffdon~ as a standard of rightness or goodness is absent from the Apologyand Crito, and is railed against in the Phaedoand the Gorgias.The Gosling-Taylor project of reading all these dialogues in light of the Protagoras's presumed Socratic endorsement of hedonism, and interpreting them so that they are not incompatible with the Protagoras, drains the hedonism in the Protagoras of its radicality and substitutes--without warrant--the weaker, non-Socratic understanding of hedonism. Gosling and Taylor's accusation that I commit an ignoratioelenchiis one example of this sort of softening of the issue. I argue that Socrates (in the Apology) decides what to fear by appealing to the standard of what is right rather than determining what is right by appealing to the standard of fearfulness, and that it is therefore inaccurate to describe him as courageous through fear. Were the question here the weak one of whether the courageous man in fact chooses what is truly least fearful I could agree with Gosling and Taylor that it is irrelevant to consider the standard to which Socrates appeals in making his choice. Yet both in the Protagorasand in the Phaedo--as well as, I believe, in the Apology---what is at stake ~ the standard, the motivation behind the choice. In the Apology Socrates is not, as Gosling and Taylor claim, "motivated by" fear, even though he specifies what he fears. In order to explain what motivates him to fear and then to avoid what he fears, Socrates turns to the notions of duty and honor. Socrates declares (Apology 29b) that it is not because of fear of death or any other danger that he remains steadfast at his post and refuses to relinquish his duty of examining himelf and others; rather, he will obey his superior, whether God or man, becauseto do otherwise is wrong, wicked, and dishonorable. Indeed, it is since disobedience is wrong, wicked, and dishonorable that Socrates fears it more than death. Socrates thus can hardly be said to "leave inexplicit" the criteria that determine for him what is kak0n, nor does he allow any room for pleasure and pain to emerge as those criteria. As I sought to demonstrate in my paper, the philosopher in the Phaedo is characteristically indifferent to pleasure, pain, and fear. Although no human life can be devoid of intercourse with these, the way in which a philosopher negotiates his dealing with pleasures, pains, and fears is by choosing among them through reference to a higher standard. Regarding Gosling and Taylor's claim that I misrepresent their view on the Phaedo I shall of course defer to them. I direct the reader to pp. 522-23 and n. 18 of my paper, however, to explain what aspects of Gosling and Taylor's discussion prompted my interpretation. [117] 118 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 98:1 JANUARY 199 o Professors Gosling and Taylor insist that the Phaedo, in denouncing pleasure, concentrates specifically on bodily pleasure. I maintain that at Phaedo 68-69 what is deplored as spurious aret~ is the very goal of maximization of pleasure and minimization of pain and fear. As in the Protagoras, the calculus in the Phaedo has its eye on the bottom line; the type or quality of the pleasure is not a factor. The hedonism in the Protagoras, I firmly contend, is of the very crudest sort. I do not concede that it is enlightened in any sense--not even in Gosling and Taylor's limited sense in which its criterion of goodness is not immediate pleasure...