Arts, Crafts, and the Production of Pleasure

Christopher Janaway

in Images of Excellence

Published in print February 1998 | ISBN: 9780198237921
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597800 | DOI:
 Arts, Crafts, and the Production of Pleasure

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Argues that Plato has the beginnings of a conception of aesthetic pleasure, but that he does not use it to assign autonomous value to the arts. In his Gorgias, Plato argues that rhetoric and music are not genuine exercises of craft‐like expertise (techne) because they do not work on general principles that can specify what is a good outcome and what steps will achieve it. Instead, he alleges, these art forms simply aim at providing pleasure or gratification to their audience. Aiming at pleasure is seen as a haphazard enterprise, quite distinct from aiming at the good, which requires generalizable knowledge rationally applied. In the later dialogue, Philebus Plato gives a complex account of pleasure, including some discussions of a ‘pure’ pleasure that is arguably aesthetic.

Keywords: aesthetic pleasure; Gorgias; music; Philebus; Plato; pleasure; rhetoric; techne

Chapter.  10263 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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