McMaster Philosophy Department Speaker Series Welcomes:
Katharine O’Reilly (Toronto Metropolitan University)
Aspect and Illusion in the Account of Pleasure in Republic IX 583c-585a
In this paper I analyse the argument in Republic IX which likens the pleasures of lives other than that of the philosopher to shadow-paintings. I argue that it depends upon a claim about the role of perspective and comparison in the experience of pleasure and pain: that what precedes an experience can make it seem like a true pleasure or pain, but that this is illusory. Against influential existing interpretations, I defend a reading in which pleasures and pains are taken as appearances in a non-veridical sense. In doing so I address some interpretive puzzles: why illness and pain are appropriate examples in Socrates’ argument; how it is that the neutral state can sometimes feel painful; and why anticipation figures in the argument. I conclude that the argument for the philosopher’s life as most pleasant should be taken seriously, as part of the reason why it is the best life, such that it is an important contribution to the project of the Republic as a whole.