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PHILEBUS by Plato, Part 08

Pro. They say so.

Soc. And they must think or they would not say that they have pleasure.

Pro. I suppose not.

Soc. And yet if pleasure and the negation of pain are of distinct natures, they are wrong.

Pro. But they are undoubtedly of distinct natures.

Soc. Then shall we take the view that they are three, as we were just now saying, or that they are two only-the one being a state of pain, which is an evil, and the other a cessation of pain, which is of itself a good, and is called pleasant?

Pro. But why, Socrates, do we ask the question at all? I do not see the reason.

Soc. You, Protarchus, have clearly never heard of certain enemies of our friend Philebus.

Pro. And who may they be?

Soc. Certain persons who are reputed to be masters in natural philosophy, who deny the very existence of pleasure.

Pro. Indeed.

Soc. They say that what the school of Philebus calls pleasures are all of them only avoidances of pain.

Pro. And would you, Socrates, have us agree with them?

Soc. Why, no, I would rather use them as a sort of diviners, who divine the truth, not by rules of art, but by an instinctive repugnance and extreme detestation which a noble nature has of the power of pleasure, in which they think that there is nothing sound, and her seductive influence is declared by them to be witchcraft, and not pleasure. This is the use which you may make of them. And when you have considered the various grounds of their dislike, you shall hear from me what I deem to be true pleasures. Having thus examined the nature of pleasure from both points of view, we will bring her up for judgment.

Pro. Well said.

Soc. Then let us enter into an alliance with these philosophers and follow in the track of their dislike. I imagine that they would say something of this sort; they would begin at the beginning, and ask whether, if we wanted to know the nature of any quality, such as hardness, we should be more likely to discover it by looking at the hardest things, rather than at the least hard? You, Protarchus, shall answer these severe gentlemen as you answer me.

Pro. By all means, and I reply to them, that you should look at the greatest instances.

Soc. Then if we want to see the true nature of pleasures as a class, we should not look at the most diluted pleasures, but at the most extreme and most vehement?

Pro. In that every one will agree.

Soc. And the obvious instances of the greatest pleasures, as we have often said, are the pleasures of the body?

Pro. Certainly.

Soc. And are they felt by us to be or become greater, when we are sick or when we are in health? And here we must be careful in our answer, or we shall come to grief.

Pro. How will that be?

Soc. Why, because we might be tempted to answer, "When we are in health."

Pro. Yes, that is the natural answer.

Soc. Well, but are not those pleasures the greatest of which mankind have the greatest desires?

Pro. True.

Soc. And do not people who are in a fever, or any similar illness, feel cold or thirst or other bodily affections more intensely? Am I not right in saying that they have a deeper want and greater pleasure in the satisfaction of their want?

Pro. That is obvious as soon as it is said.

Soc. Well, then, shall we not be right in saying, that if a person would wish to see the greatest pleasures he ought to go and look, not at health, but at discase? And here you must distinguish:-do not imagine that I mean to ask whether those who are very ill have more pleasures than those who are well, but understand that I am speaking of the magnitude of pleasure; I want to know where pleasures are found to be most intense. For, as I say, we have to discover what is pleasure, and what they mean by pleasure who deny her very existence.

Pro. I think I follow you.

Soc. You will soon have a better opportunity of showing whether you do or not, Protarchus. Answer now, and tell me whether you see, I will not say more, but more intense and excessive pleasures in wantonness than in temperance? Reflect before you speak.

Pro. I understand you, and see that there is a great difference between them; the temperate are restrained by the wise man's aphorism of "Never too much," which is their rule, but excess of pleasure possessing the minds of fools and wantons becomes madness and makes them shout with delight.

Soc. Very good, and if this be true, then the greatest pleasures and pains will clearly be found in some vicious state of soul and body, and not in a virtuous state.

Pro. Certainly. Soc. And ought we not to select some of these for examination, and see what makes them the greatest?

Pro. To be sure we ought.

Soc. Take the case of the pleasures which arise out of certain disorders.

Pro. What disorders?

Soc. The pleasures of unseemly disorders, which our severe friends utterly detest.

Pro. What pleasures?

Soc. Such, for example, as the relief of itching and other ailments by scratching, which is the only remedy required. For what in Heaven's name is the feeling to be called which is thus produced in us?-Pleasure or pain?

Pro. A villainous mixture of some kind, Socrates, I should say.

Soc. I did not introduce the argument, O Protarchus, with any personal reference to Philebus, but because, without the consideration of these and similar pleasures, we shall not be able to determine the point at issue.

Pro. Then we had better proceed to analyze this family of pleasures.

Soe. You mean the pleasures which are mingled with pain?

Pro. Exactly.

Soc. There are some mixtures which are of the body, and only in the body, and others which are of the soul, and only in the soul; while there are other mixtures of pleasures with pains, common both to soul and body, which in their composite state are called sometimes pleasures and sometimes pains.

Pro. How is that?

Soc. Whenever, in the restoration or in the derangement of nature, a man experiences two opposite feelings; for example, when he is cold and is growing warm, or again; when he is hot and is becoming cool, and he wants to have the one and be rid of the other;-the sweet has a bitter, as the common saying is, and both together fasten upon him and create irritation and in time drive him to distraction.

Pro. That description is very true to nature.

Soc. And in these sorts of mixtures the pleasures and pains are sometimes equal, and sometimes one or other of them predominates?

Pro. True.

Soc. Of cases in which the pain exceeds the pleasure, an example is afforded by itching, of which we were just now speaking, and by the tingling which we feel when the boiling and fiery element is within, and the rubbing and motion only relieves the surface, and does not reach the parts affected; then if you put them to the fire, and as a last resort apply cold to them, you may often produce the most intense pleasure or pain in the inner parts, which contrasts and mingles with the pain or pleasure, as the case may be, of the outer parts; and this is due to the forcible separation of what is united, or to the union of what is separated, and to the juxtaposition of pleasure and pain.

Pro. Quite so.

Soc. Sometimes the element of pleasure prevails in a man, and the slight undercurrent of pain makes him tingle, and causes a gentle irritation; or again, the excessive infusion of pleasure creates an excitement in him,-he even leaps for joy, he assumes all sorts of attitudes, he changes all manner of colours, he gasps for breath, and is quite amazed, and utters the most irrational exclamations.

Pro. Yes, indeed.

Soc. He will say of himself, and others will of him, that he is dying with these delights; and the more dissipated and good-for-nothing he is, the more vehemently he pursues them in every way; of all pleasures he declares them to be the greatest; and he reckons him who lives in the most constant enjoyment of them to be the happiest of mankind.

Pro. That, Socrates, is a very true description of the opinions of the majority about pleasures.

Soc. Yes, Protarchus, quite true of the mixed pleasures, which arise out of the communion of external and internal sensations in the body; there are also cases in which the mind contributes an, opposite element to the body, whether of pleasure or pain, and the two unite and form one mixture. Concerning these I have already remarked, that when a man is empty he desires to be full, and has pleasure in hope and pain in vacuity. But now I must further add what I omitted before, that in all these and similar emotions in which body and mind are opposed (and they are innumerable), pleasure and pain coalesce in one.

Pro. I believe that to be quite true.

Soc. There still remains one other sort of admixture of pleasures and pains.

Pro. What is that?

Soc. The union which, as we were saying, the mind often experiences of purely mental feelings.

Pro. What do you mean?

Soc. Why, do we not speak of anger, fear, desire, sorrow, love, emulation, envy, and the like, as pains which belong to the soul only?

Pro. Yes.

Soc. And shall we not find them also full of the most wonderful pleasures? need I remind you of the anger

Which stirs even a wise man to violence,
And is sweeter than honey and the honeycomb? And you remember how pleasures mingle with pains in lamentation and bereavement?

Pro. Yes, there is a natural connection between them.

Soc. And you remember also how at the sight of tragedies the spectators smile through their tear?

Pro. Certainly I do.

Soc. And are you aware that even at a comedy the soul experiences a mixed feeling of pain and pleasure?

Pro. I do not quite understand you.

Soc. I admit, Protarchus, that there is some difficulty in recognizing this mixture of feelings at a comedy.

Pro. There is, I think.

Soc. And the greater the obscurity of the case the more desirable the examination of it because the difficulty in detecting other cases of mixed pleasures and pains will be less.

Pro. Proceed.

Soc. I have just mentioned envy; would you not call that a pain of the soul?

Pro. Yes

Soc. And yet the envious man finds something in the misfortunes of his neighbours at which he is pleased?

Pro. Certainly.

Soc. And ignorance, and what is termed clownishness, are surely an evil?

Pro. To be sure.

Soc. From these considerations learn to know the nature of the ridiculous.

Pro. Explain.

Soc. The ridiculous is in short the specific name which is used to describe the vicious form of a certain habit; and of vice in general it is that kind which is most at variance with the inscription at Delphi.

Pro. You mean, Socrates, "Know thyself."

Soc. I do; and the opposite would be, "Know not thyself."

Pro. Certainly.

Soc. And now, O Protarchus, try to divide this into three.

Pro. Indeed I am afraid that I cannot.

Soc. Do you mean to say that I must make the division for you?

Pro. Yes, and what is more, I beg that you will.

Soc. Are there not three ways in which ignorance of self may be shown?

Pro. What are they?

Soc. In the first place, about money; the ignorant may fancy himself richer than he is.

Pro. Yes, that is a very common error.

Soc. And still more often he will fancy that he is taller or fairer than he is, or that he has some other advantage of person which he really has not.

Pro. Of course.


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