The Background

J. C. B. Gosling and C. C. W. Taylor

in The Greeks On Pleasure

Published in print December 1982 | ISBN: 9780198246664
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191681035 | DOI:
The Background

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With the possible exception of Democritus, no Greek writer before Plato seems to have made pleasure a central topic for discussion. In so far as earlier writers dealt with it incidentally, their thought is dominated by two main traditions. On the one hand there is the didactic tradition represented by e.g., Hesiod, Theognis, and the accumulated folk wisdom associated with the Seven Sages, a tradition which was developed, rather than radically transformed, by the 5th-century sophists. On the other hand we have the scientific tradition of the pre-Socratic philosophers, in whose work pleasure is seen, in common with all other aspects of human life, primarily as a phenomenon to be incorporated in a comprehensive proto-scientific theory, and specifically as a subject for physiological explanation. Diverse though these traditions were in their origins and their focus of interest, we can find evidence in Plato not merely of the influence of both, but also of the integration of elements of both within a single theory. This chapter discusses the didactic tradition and the physiological tradition.

Keywords: pleasure; didactic tradition; physiological tradition

Chapter.  6547 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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