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Pleasure, Judgment and the Function of the Painter-Scribe Analogy

  • Emily Fletcher EMAIL logo


This paper puts forward a new interpretation of the argument at Philebus 36c–40d that pleasures can be false. Protarchus raises an objection at 37e–38a, and in response Socrates presents the elaborate painter-scribe analogy (38e–40c). Most previous interpretations do not explain how the analogy answers Protarchus’ objection. On my account, Protarchus’ objection relies on the plausible intuition that pleasure is simply not in the business of assessing the world, and so it cannot be charged with doing so incorrectly. Socrates responds by demonstrating that pleasure can be mistaken about the world, despite not making an independent assessment of it. The painter-scribe analogy demonstrates how pleasure comes to be mistaken about the world by reproducing the mistake of a judgment. Socrates persuades Protarchus that pleasure can be mistaken in part by preserving his intuition that pleasure itself is not the source of the mistake.

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Published Online: 2022-06-09
Published in Print: 2022-06-30

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