Philebus


The Philebus, composed between 360 and 347 BC, is among the last of the late Socratic dialogues of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. Socrates is the primary speaker in Philebus, unlike in the other late dialogues. The other speakers are Philebus and Protarchus.

The dialogue’s central question concerns the relative value of pleasure and knowledge, and produces a model for thinking about how complex structures are developed. Socrates begins by summarizing the two sides of the dialogue:

Philebus was saying that enjoyment and pleasure and delight, and the class of feelings akin to them, are a good to every living being, whereas others contend, that not these, but wisdom and intelligence and memory, and their kindred, right opinion and true reasoning, are better and more desirable than pleasure for all who are able to partake of them, and that to all such who are or ever will be they are the most advantageous of all things.

But he then goes on to dismiss both pleasure and knowledge as unsatisfactory, reasoning that the truly good life is one of a measured and sensible mixture of the two.

The dialogue is generally considered to contain less humour than earlier dialogues, and to emphasize philosophy and speculation over drama and poetry.

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