Home | Bibliography | Site Search | Site Map

"You need not lose these hours"

These are philosophical studies of illusions: The Sandman of E.T.A. Hoffmann; Byron's view of women; the Greeks and Pandora. Their background is logic of language which asks how sense (i.e. language with meaning) is distinguished from nonsense (i.e. language without meaning) in the discussion of philosophical questions.

Topics on this page ...

The title of this page is from Pliny the Elder, about whom his nephew Pliny the Younger said: "he thought every hour lost that was not given to study" (Letter 27). In the prelude below, before Schweitzer's letter, the quotation is from Virgil: Deus mihi haec otia fecit.


Prelude

"God has given me this peace." How grateful I should be that I am able to study a little every day. And it is unphilosophical = foolish if I waste these hours, which have been given me to learn to "know myself" and how the good man must live his life, and to understand "logic of language".

My capacity for sound sleep enables me to carry on like this and keep going without a day's rest. But oh! for one free day when I could at least sleep enough to get rid of the fatigue which more and more invades me; to concentrate entirely on finishing my book, to study my music and play the organ at leisure; to walk, to dream, to read for pure refreshment's sake. When will that day come? Will it ever come? (Letter to the author of George Seaver, Albert Schweitzer: the Man and his Mind (1947), p. 162)


"Dirty-blonde hair"

When I was a child at school, girls whose hair was blonde but with blonde and various shades of brown roots and strands were said to have "dirty-blonde" colored hair. That was I think what other children called it, although I have not heard that expression in over fifty years. I haven't forgotten.

Goethe. Fable of woman

[Goethe] consecrates woman as the one who helps to achieve nobility and to guard nobility, because she fulfills this mission in his [Goethe's] own life. (Goethe: Five Studies (1961), tr. Joy, p. 82)

"Aurelia had become for him like a patron saint," Hoffmann wrote (I think in The Devil's Elixirs). And so there is at the end of Goethe's Faust: the eternal feminine draws us upwards. But Byron would not have said that. When Schweitzer writes "to what heights", Byron would have replied: "Yes, to what heights -- of fantasy!"

I used once to call E.T.A. Hoffmann's writing, many years ago now, "very serious laughter" [But I also shared, and still share, Dostoyevsky's earliest view of Hoffmann]. Now, however, having "lived through the bitter prose", even if I cannot "devote [myself] to the poetry of the thing", I can at least think philosophically about the prose. But I can now read these stories only for the second part, because they have lost their sting. (In any case, I have never been interested in looking at Hoffmann's work from a "psychological point of view", but only from a philosophical and life-experience one.)

He sat beside Olympia, her hand in his own, and declared his love enthusiastically and passionately in words which neither of them understood, neither he nor Olympia. And yet perhaps she did, for she sat with her eyes fixed unchangeably upon his, sighing repeatedly, "Ah! Ah! Ah!" Upon this Nathanael would answer, "Oh, you glorious heavenly lady! You ray from the promised paradise of love! Oh! what a profound soul you have! my whole being is mirrored in it!" and a good deal more in the same strain. But Olympia only continued to sigh "Ah! Ah!" again and again.

"Yes, you are my lovely, glorious star of love," said Nathanael, "and will shine forever, purifying and ennobling my heart." "Ah! Ah!" replied Olympia ... ("The Sand-Man" (1816), tr. Bealby)

That has been my experience of women and I believe therefore that I would have to agree, with respect to romantic love, with Byron.

Byron. Fables about women

I do not recollect anything equal to the transparent beauty of my cousin, or to the sweetness of her temper.... She looked as if she had been made out of a rainbow -- all beauty and peace. (John Nichol, Byron (London 1880), p. 20-21)

She was the beau ideal of all that my youthful fancy could paint of beautiful. And I have taken all my fables about the celestial nature of women from the perfection my imagination created in her. I say created; for I found her, like the rest of the sex, anything but angelic. (ibid. p. 33-34)

The girl the following was written of did not want it to be true. She wanted to dye her hair in order not to break young men's hearts. But the poet said it was impossible.

... only God, my dear

Could love you for yourself alone

And not [for] your yellow hair.  (Yeats, For Anne Gregory)

In one of Plato's dialogs, Socrates agrees with Anne's wish "not to be loved for her yellow hair" rather than for the qualities of her ethical soul (in contrast to the natural soul that animates her body's "winning ways"). Would any girl really want to have it said of her, that her body is the best thing about her?

Why should she not respond with contempt toward anyone who saw her that way? In Cervantes a girl says, "You say that you love me because I am beautiful, but you expect me to love you although you are not." Well, but there seems no help for this, not if "earthly love comes from seeing and liking someone, and has nothing to do with whether they are like a saint or not" (Pérez Galdó). And if wisdom means deed rather than understanding, then there is no wisdom, because a human being may go mad at any age.

"... and I return to my room alone, and want to bite my hand off" (Dostoyevsky, The Gambler). The allusion is to an animal trapped in a snare that is willing to chew through its own limb in order to escape. That is romantic love.

We might think differently

Categories of thought and life. Imagine two communities, one in which male and female see each other as nothing more than mates for procreation, and another where there is romantic love as in ours. There is no necessity for the second category {romantic love} to exist. Are there any necessary thought-worlds (categories)? "Categories are the expression of our interest" -- here I would like to ask who "our" is [time and place] -- "and direct our interests" (cf. PI § 570).

Beauty and the Art of Pleasing

PANDORA, in Greek mythology, the first woman; so called [pan, all + doron, a gift] because she received gifts from all the Olympians. She was the creature of Prometheus, and the gods came down to see her and conferred their gifts on her. Athena instructed her in all works of female skill. Aphrodite endowed her with beauty and fascination. Hermes inspired her with a desire of pleasing, and taught insinuating words. Athena carried her, thus equipped, into the assembly of the gods, and all admired the work. (Encyclopedia American 1954)

In Hesiod (eighth to seventh century B.C.)

Eve in Michelangelo's 'The Creation of Adam', Sistine Chapel ceiling, Rome

The alluring figure in the crook of the Creator's arm is Eve. To me she looks like trouble, and Hesiod would have agreed: she is Pandora. ("The Creation of Adam", Sistine ceiling, in Kenneth Clark, Civilisation (1969) v, p. 129)

[Hesiod tells both the two stories about Pandora, the first of her as "Gifted by all", and the second of her as unstopping all mankind's woes except hope. Zeus had her created as a punishment for Prometheus' theft of fire, to be an affliction that man neither could nor would want to escape. (Works and Days, c. lines 47-105)]

Epimetheus gave no thought to what Prometheus had told him, never to accept a gift from Olympian Zeus but to send it back lest some affliction befall mortals (Works and Days c. line 89, tr. West) .... misguided Epimetheus, who from the start turned out a disaster to men who live by bread, since he was the original one who received the moulded maiden from Zeus for a wife (Theogony c. line 504, tr. West) ... from her is descended the female sex, a great affliction to mortals as they dwell with their husbands (ibid. c. line 589).

"When woman come in at door, peace fly out window." (Chinese proverb, in 1930s movies)

I should say, or have said, like Dmitri Karamazov, "Beauty is both an awe inspiring and a terrifying thing. God and the devil are fighting there, and the field of battle is the human heart" (I, iii, 3). And man imagines, fool that he is, that he can drink that poison and not be maddened by it. Why suppose that every quandary has a solution -- as if existence as such were rational?

"Two kinds of beauty, two kinds of love" (from Dostoyevsky's notes for The Idiot), as I will adapt that distinction. Two things only had I wanted from life. The first, a philosophical education, is something possible to take from life if there are free-speech libraries. And the other life would have to give, namely "a living (freehold farm) in poesy" (The Golden Pot) -- But maybe, maybe it is self-delusional to want one. A living ("myriad poverty") in philosophy is the life proper to man, the life Socrates lived. I will never live that life, but it is a bright ideal -- unlike the life of Nathanael.

... who never cared (and never could care),
who never understood (and never could understand)

That is from Rudyard Kipling (sort of).

Man, miserable creature that he is, is unable (and unwilling -- as the Greek mythologists saw) to give up his illusions. Don Quixote and Dulcinea: "Does Dulcinea exist? I don't know. It's not something that can be demonstrated conclusively one way or the other. I contemplate her as she needs must be." Like Goethe's "eternal feminine" (if I understand that idea, and I don't think I do), an eternal illusion that one can never be free of. "I have only seen Dulcinea twice, and it may be that on one of those occasions she was not looking in my direction."

It's hard to resign oneself to a colorless existence, impossible to renounce oneself altogether. And here is light, beauty, warmth. -- Why one runs to it like a child to its nursemaid. (Turgenev)

And it may happen at any moment, at any age, despite how absurd in its hopelessness it may be, that one falls "victim to an astonished heart" (which was Noel Coward's way of describing this phenomenon). And as one thinks about it, one feels a sense of emptiness in one's life. And despair ("a terrible tearing grief", in Hoffmann's words) that there is nothing whatever that one can do about this. Except wait for the wound to close, the madness to pass, a return to the weary burden of living, which one hopes will end.

Der Sandmann - der ironische Zug

Apropos of "seeing other human beings as automatons" (PI § 420) ... but in the context of the story of Professor Spalanzani's "stupid daughter" and Nathanael's madness.

But several most honorable gentlemen did not rest satisfied with this explanation; the history of this automaton had sunk deeply into their souls, and an absurd mistrust of human figures began to prevail. Several lovers, in order to be fully convinced that they were not paying court to a wooden puppet ...

As to whether or not Olympia is merely a mechanical doll and not also a metaphor, I do not think there is reason to doubt.

In his story "Automata" Hoffmann quotes Macbeth's words to Banquo's ghost (iii, 4):

Thou hast no speculation in those eyes

Rather like the sculptor Pygmalion with Galatea in the early days, when she was only the lifeless creation of the longings of Pygmalion's heart and mind (Imagination and the soul).


The Way Back Down the Garden Path

Note: Words that follow "Query" are Internet search queries that were found in the logs of my site. The allusion is to Wittgenstein's "signposts and false paths".

On the contrary, examples are definitions

Query: Why does giving an example not amount to giving a definition?

Why? Because your English teacher says so, because her English teacher said so, and so on back to at least Plato. If an example explains the use of a word such that "Now I can go on" (PI §§ 123, 151), then it is a definition -- by definition: a 'definition' is a rule for using a word, an explanation of meaning (and grammatical rules take many different forms) -- although not a Platonic-Form definition [which is an example of a preconception (Phaedo 100a): the requirement rather than the result of an investigation (Rationalism")].

Not only does giving an example (or examples) "amount to giving a definition" -- it is a definition, at least in what I am calling "Wittgenstein's logic of language" it is. On the other hand,

Query: meaning versus usage.

Is that a distinction without a difference? We do contrast a general definition with specific examples of its application -- i.e. we do in cases where there is a general definition; the dictionary makes it look like all words have general definitions, but definitions that are too general are not helpful; remember a general definition must not only say "What x is" but also "What x is not" (or, in other words, what x excludes).

Would dictionary compilers include "illustrations" (i.e. sample sentences) if those were not necessary to understanding how a word is used? Limiting definition -- i.e. the concept 'definition' (or, the application of our word 'definition') -- to sign-for-sign ("definition by synonym") definitions (and thereby excluding ostensive and play-acted definitions and definition by giving-examples and other types of "explanations of meaning") fosters the following of false grammatical analogies, to misunderstanding the logic of our language. Most of the words of our language do not have general definitions (essences or common-natures) and therefore they cannot be defined by sign-for-sign definitions.

I have to entirely unpack the logical rucksack to respond to a query like the one above. Because it expresses the most fundamental mistake (i.e. the view of language we receive at school) that the student of philosophy must correct in his thinking; until he does that, he cannot see language aright, and as a consequence his philosophizing will be confused and self-mystified.

For Wittgenstein, philosophy begins and ends with logic. I would not say that it ends there -- but it must begin there.

It seems very telling that Wittgenstein came to philosophy via mathematics (and, as is my belief, that because he had a religious view of life, he did not come to philosophy because he felt the need for a philosophical world-view instead of a religious one). Indeed, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus was originally to be a book about logic, not about philosophy (Wittgenstein wrote in his Notebooks 1914-1916: "My work has extended from the foundations of logic to the nature of the world" (quoted by Drury in "Letters to a Student of Philosophy", p. 174). What I have just said may be hyperbole [It may also not be], but what is not hyperbole is to say that, in the case of the vast majority of human beings, detaching ethics and metaphysics from philosophy is anti-rational and thus harmful to the understanding of how we should live our life.

"The high seas of language"

Query: a point is considered an undefined term that is accepted as true; give a good description of a point.

Look at the high-seas of language here (PI § 194): "is considered", "is accepted", "undefined", "true". What is the difference between giving a good description of the use of a term and defining that term? Well there is no difference. And if the word 'point' were undefined in geometry, then to utter it would be to utter nonsense. And "a good description" of nonsense would be more nonsense. If your instructor were a doctor (a witch doctor no doubt), all her patients would be brain dead from self-mystification. How can you presume to teach what you yourself do not understand? "A bad philosopher is like a slum landlord. It is my job to put him out of business" (Recollections p. 117; Drury dates this remark "1930(?)").

Are "words about whose meaning we are at variance" the names of things whose nature is not clear to us?

Query: time isn't real.

That query might be apropos of Kant (If something is a condition of all perceptions, such as space and time are, it must be a component, not of what is perceived, but of the perceiver; the question here is: what kind of necessity is Kant's "must"?). But I am not going to say anything about Kant here, but apropos of Plato's Phaedrus (263a-b), and that apropos of "words about whose meaning we are at variance". Because if we say that "words are names and the meaning of a name is the thing the word stands for" (PI § 1), then we are going to assume that "words about whose meaning we are at variance" are the names of things whose nature is not clear to us (or in other words, is not really known by us). And then we shall be led to speculate ("theorize") about what their nature "really" is. And that is what Wittgenstein called metaphysics (Z § 458), the way that leads one up the garden path.

"If 'time' isn't the name of an object, which obviously it isn't (We don't define the word 'time' by pointing to an object), then, if 'time' is the name of anything real, what is it the name of?" Here one false path would be to say that, "The word 'time' is the name of a phenomenon." But the meaning of the word 'phenomenon' is as vague as the meaning of the word 'concept' (that is, as the word 'concept' is commonly used, or uttered). As such it makes nothing clearer. It is like calling 'thought' a phenomenon, and thereby assigning it a ghost-like existence. The word 'time' is not the name of a ghost. In fact, it is not the name of anything -- which simply means: we don't use the word 'time' that way. This is why Wittgenstein said to "ask for the use rather than the meaning", because the word 'meaning' suggests "words are names and the meaning of a name is the thing the word names". To show that this is not always the case, Wittgenstein described primitive language games, showing words that do not function as names in our language.

There is something more and important that needs to be said about this. For concepts define phenomena, not vice versa (The interplay of percepts, or presumed facts of nature in themselves, and the conceiving of them is not simple -- as if we merely read off the facts in front of our eyes and ears -- although our self-confidence makes it appear that it is, as if human limits did not affect the conception of percepts, i.e. phenomena).

[Related discussions: Rejecting the grammar the tries to force itself on us, and Critical introduction to Nominalism ("What is philosophy?")]

Query: numerals can be negative?

What kind of "can" -- what kind of possibility -- is this? Is this a question you can reason out the answer for yourself, or must you seek an authority, the inventor of negative numerals e.g.? You may well be told that numerals can indeed be negative, but, however, that numbers cannot be, or vice versa. [What are numerals? What are numbers? | Why don't we speak of negative numerals?]

The limits of my words as the limits of what I can know

Query: if you don't have words, you cannot know, Wittgenstein.

That may be correct for the TLP. It is correct for Socrates' use of the word 'know' (the particular meaning of that word which he chose for his philosophy). However not for the post-TLP Wittgenstein. What words do we have for your knowledge of how an orange tastes? [Must we be able to say -- i.e. put into words -- what we know?]

A radically conventional view of language meaning, or not

"Your account of Wittgenstein is of a radically conventional view of language (although not in all cases, e.g. not in the case of the "characteristic formation of a pattern" (PI II, i, p. 174d) [a lion and forms of life]). But when Wittgenstein said that what we meant by 'the meaning of a word' is, in a large class of cases, its use in the language, he did not think of himself as selecting one meaning of the word 'meaning' rather than another" (although in some instances he did say that he was doing just that ["to produce certain experiences" and paper crown (BB p. 65)], "he thought of himself as simply describing how we in fact use the word 'meaning'." I don't think that view is correct, because if anything in clear it is that people have no clear notion of what they "mean" when they talk about the 'meaning of a word' (unless they simply mean, as they were taught to mean in school: a dictionary definition). Otherwise they would never ask 'What is the meaning of mind' = "What is mind?' It is only sometimes clear that when someone asks for a particular word's meaning, what he want to be told is how to use that word.

Plato's grammatical model of measuring in ethics

Query: mathematics in Plato's Euthyphro.

We could say: Plato takes maths (measurement) for his grammatical model in his Euthyphro (7b-c), as well as in the Protagoras (355e-356c): he wants all language to conform to that model; just as Wittgenstein in his TLP takes the classical mechanics of physics as his model of how language works. In both cases, we can say: they made a false -- i.e. inapplicable -- analogy. Or that from "some" they mistakenly conclude "all". A picture holds them captive (PI § 115), one which prevents them from seeing the facts in front of them as they are (That applies to Wittgenstein more than Plato in this particular case).

Query: shift in Gestalt.
Query: visual aspect shift.

Uncanny it is how shifting around the words of the expression 'Gestalt shift' gives a new perspective ("change in pattern"). Meaning is not a function of form; no, it is not a logical function (as in logical necessity). Nonetheless, it is uncanny what a shift (change) in syntax may suggest.

Wittgenstein, Plato, and general definitions

Query: does Wittgenstein think definitions are useless?

What is "useless", in the sense of 'mistaken', is the assumption -- which Plato turns into a requirement -- that the meaning of every common name of our language is -- or, for Plato, must be -- the common nature of the things named by that word; because not every common name has a Socratic-Platonic definition, as Wittgenstein shows that the word 'game' does not. But if a name does have a defining common nature, then knowledge of that common nature serves as a guide for applying that name to any particular case, and although you may still go wrong (PI § 292), where there is no defining common nature you are left without any guide at all.

When a word does have a common-nature (or, general) definition, however, that definition is not useless. If you know that a word has such a definition, then you know something important about its grammar; just as if you know that a word does not have such a definition, you know something important about its grammar.

It is not "useless" in the sense of 'idle' to look for general definitions. What is idle (and self-mystifying) is to assume that every word must have such a definition ... whether anyone is able to state what it is or not; as if to say: "We can't say what the meaning is that we abstracted when we learned to use such-and-such word, but it must be the case that we abstracted a common nature, because otherwise ..." -- because otherwise we might have to Look and see! the facts in plain view (PI § 340) rather than simply guessing -- i.e. leaving it to "whatever seems right" (ibid. § 258)) to us -- and then believing in our own guess, as if our guess were a picture of reality rather than a picture we ourselves have replaced reality with.

The "theory of abstraction" would be as readily rejected by Socrates as by Wittgenstein: for both, if you cannot say what the common nature of a word you claim has a common nature is, then you don't know what you're talking about.

Query: Socrates' and Augustine's views of words.

For both, words are names, and a name is "obviously" -- i.e. by definition -- a name of something. cf. Antisthenes: "who knows a word's meaning knows the thing the word stands for." Thus whoever knows the meaning of the word 'time' knows what thing the word 'time' stands for and therefore what time itself is. Obviously this won't do. We all know how to use the word 'time', but none of us knows "what time is" -- simply because 'time' is not the name of anything. (The question 'What is time?' is nonsense, i.e. an undefined combination of words.) Most words do not have the [name-of-object] grammar of the word 'cow'. (The word 'cow' is defined ostensively; in the case of the name of an object, to define is to point out. But words such as 'time' and the "abstract words" such as 'good' that concerned the Greeks are not defined that way [on that model].)

Query: undefined words fallacy.

Surely an argument that contains undefined words (i.e. nonsense) should not be "valid", and yet in mathematical logic it can be valid. (This is related to sense [or, meaning] in natural language being prior to truth or falsity.) In mathematical logic 'valid' does NOT = 'true' in natural language. (In the Stoic propositional logic, by contrast, meaning was as important as form.)

Query: Wittgenstein, rule, index.

A sign-post too can be likened to an index: rules, sign-posts, indexes -- all are ways of giving directions, of telling you how to go on, or not go on (A book's index may, by the absence of an entry, indicate that a topic is not discussed in that book).


"World-Negation"

The following gives an example, and thereby seems to explain, what Schweitzer means by the expression 'world-negation'.

... the characteristic ethic of Plato has nothing whatever to do with [the] virtues [of wisdom, courage, temperance and justice]. If the conception of the Good is supersensible and the immaterial world is the only real one, then it is only thought and conduct which deal with the immaterial that can have any ethical character. In the world of appearance there is nothing of value to be made actual. Man is simply compelled to be an impotent spectator of its shadow play. All willing must be directed to enabling oneself to turn away from this [world of appearance], and get sight of that true activity which goes on in the light. The true ethic, then, is world-negation. (Civilization and Ethics, tr. C.T. Campion, 2nd rev. ed. (1929), Chapter 5, p. 41-42)

If we look at this in Schweitzer's way -- which I think confuses (1) the question of how to know the highest truths (e.g. "the Good in itself") with (2) the question of how after death the soul comes to be blessed -- enjoying possession of the truth -- for living virtuously in this world (Gorgias 526c) rather than punished for having lived unvirtuously in this world -- i.e. the question of how man should live his life in this world (for man in this world is not only a soul, and so man cannot live only philosophizing) -- then Plato's world-picture is not life-negation (like the Buddha's), but is this-world negation from the point of view of knowing the highest truths (the knowledge of which is the highest good for man) while the soul is trapped in the body, as is the religion of Jesus (his picture of the Kingdom of God, which is this-world-negation, and his ethics of love, which is this-life-affirmation, make up his world-view). As evidence of this Plato himself did not withdraw from this world: he did want to work in this world so that a philosopher might become king -- a king who would make the people ethically rather than materially better, which would allow them to enjoy a blessed life once freed from the body at death. In sum, one cannot say that Plato's ethics has "nothing whatever to do with ... virtue", because quite the contrary, virtue is essential to it.

Using Schweitzer's conceptual scheme, if I understand it for it's not clear to me whether I do, it seems that world-negation does not entail life-negation. Or at least this-world-negation does not entail that. And this responds to the question of pessimism and optimism. One may be pessimistic about this world without therefore denying the worth of man's life in it. And if one does not deny that worth, then what can one advocate other than working in this world? (But whether one will advocate working for both the ethical and the material betterment of man, as Schweitzer did, is I think another question.)

Question: is the fact of death -- (e.g. that I shall die, and that all those I love, and that everything I love, will pass away (Shelley's Ozymandias, the Bible's vanitas vanitatum) as well -- which is the basis of Medieval life-negation = denial of the inherent worth of life in this world) -- the source of all life-negation?

Schweitzer's account of Socrates

Plato seeks the general notion of the Good, but he abandons the path which was pointed out, even if not followed to the end, by Socrates, viz. the determination of it by a process of induction. (ibid. p. 40)

Schweitzer speaks of "the attempt of the historic Socrates to explain the Good as that which is rationally pleasure-giving" (p. 41). What is the source of Schweitzer's belief this was the historical Socrates -- where does he find this? I do not find it in Xenophon [where the good is identified with the useful or beneficial, and where it is said of Socrates that "he always chose the better rather than the more pleasurable way"], and I do not find it in Plato either unless the Protagoras (351d-354c) is Schweitzer's source, but what reason is there to attribute that dialog's views to either Socrates or Plato? (Plato's dialogs are the work of a philosopher philosophizing -- i.e. they are wide-ranging thought-experiments.)

For Socrates, the good is rationally knowable because the good for a thing is the specific excellence (areté) that is proper to that thing. And as with all other things, so too with man. (Socrates and the Delphic precept Know thyself.)

Schweitzer uses the expression "the ethically-rational life-ideal put forward by Socrates" (p. 34), and that I recognize. But he also says "the notion of pleasure, which lives in it", and this I don't understand why he says at all. (Schweitzer wrote only a few remarks about Socrates in his Civilization and Ethics, and he does not justify in footnotes the remarks that he does make.)

I also cannot account for Schweitzer's statement that, according to Socrates, "an inner, mysterious voice [is] the highest moral authority in man". I can find no support for this, or for the statement that "care of the soul", an expression found in Xenophon (Memorabilia i, 2, 4), is not certainly Socratic -- although it's true that the word 'soul' was used by Socrates to mean no more than the ethical aspect of man, as distinct from Plato's metaphysical-speculative notion, and maybe Schweitzer is alluding to care of the Platonic soul as of a thing immortal.

Living for pleasure -- whether rationally guided (aiming for the most pleasure and least pain) or not -- was what Socrates' sleep-walking contemporaries did and what many men in our day do. But what has pleasure-seeking to do with ethics if the subject of ethics is the good rather than the evil life? For pleasure is surely not the specific excellence that is proper to man, the excellence in accord with which man should live his life if he is to live the life that is the good for man. (Plato's own conclusion about pleasure is found in Philebus 67a-b.)

Socrates is not an example of either life-negation or world-negation. For him, the rationally good -- i.e. the good as known by the natural light of reason -- is itself worth living for: nothing more than that is needed to direct Socrates to work to make himself and his companions better ethically: "to grow in goodness every day" (Memorabilia i, 6, 1-9).


Site copyright © September 1998. Send Internet mail to Robert [Wesley] Angelo. Last revised: 29 July 2016 : 2016-07-29

The URL of this Web page:
https://www.roangelo.net/logwitt/logwit73.html

Back to top of page

Wittgenstein's Logic of Language - Introduction and Table of Contents | Bibliography | Site Search | Site Map