Pleasure and Moral Psychology in Republic IV and IX
In Republic IX, Plato argues that the supreme pleasantness of the virtuous life is a particularly great consideration in demonstrating that the virtuous life is happy. This raises the question of whether this argument spouses the additive or the directive conception of happiness. On the additive conception, the argument is straightforward: the virtuous life is happy because the virtuous life is also the life of supreme pleasure, and the life of supreme pleasure is happy. On the directive conception, the argument is much more subtle: the virtuous life is happy because the virtuous life is the life of a fully integrated, healthy, and flourishing psyche, as demonstrated by (among other things) the transformation of the affective dimensions of the virtuous person's psyche, and such a life is the happy life. This chapter set out this need for interpretive care in more detail by looking at its connection to a more general problem for understanding how Plato thinks virtue benefits its possessor in the Republic, to which any adequate reconstruction of the ‘pleasure arguments’ in book IX must respond. It is argued that Plato's strategy is to demonstrate that virtue benefits its possessor on the grounds that the virtuous person, and only the virtuous person, possesses a healthy and harmonious psyche. Plato's conception of pleasure in book IX is a form of apprehending one's life as satisfying and worth living, and his argument is that having the true form of such pleasure means that one's life is, in fact, satisfying and worth living, and that one's psyche is healthy and harmonious. And such pleasure is to be found only in the virtuous person.
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