Book 9 Chapter 2

The Three Pleasures: Wisdom, Honor, Gain Icon

September 9, 2015
Socrates

The first proof of happiness is the rankings of the States:

This is the order of their virtue as well. The son of Ariston (the best) has decided that:

Socrates

The second proof is derived from the nature of the soul. We have divided the individual soul, like the State, into three principles which correspond to the three pleasures and governing powers.

  1. This principle of knowledge makes a man want to learn and is wholly directed to the truth. It cares the least for gain or fame. This part of the soul can be called the ’lover of wisdom’ or ’lover of knowledge'.

  2. Another principle makes a man angry.

  3. The third has many forms and is generally called appetitive. It makes man want to eat, drink, and want money. The loves and pleasures of this third part were concerned with gain. This part of the soul loves gain or money. The passionate element is wholly set on ruling and conquering and getting fame. We can call it the “contentious” or “ambitious”.

Socrates

One principle prevails in the souls of one class of men, another in others.

Thus there are three classes of men:

These three indicate the three kinds of pleasure, which dispute each other. Which of the three classes of men have most pleasant lives? Each will praise his own class and depreciating the others. The money-maker will contrast the vanity of honour or learning if they bring no money. The lover of honour will think that the pleasure of riches is vulgar, while the pleasure of learning are nonsense. The philosopher values most the pleasure of knowing the truth. If he will avoid the other pleasures if he can.

Socrates

Of these three, which have all the pleasures? Does the lover of gain get more pleasure from knowledge than the philosopher gains pleasure from gain?

The philosopher greatly has the advantage.

He has known the taste of the other pleasures from his childhood. But the lover of gain in all his experience has not necessarily tasted the sweetness of the truth. The lover of wisdom has a great advantage over the lover of gain, for he has a double experience. Does he have greater experience of the pleasures of honour than the lover of honour has of the pleasures of wisdom? Nay, all three are honoured in proportion as they attain their object.

The rich, the brave, and the wise have their crowd of admirers. They all have experience of the pleasures of honour. But the delight which is to be found in the knowledge of true being is known to the philosopher only.

Socrates

His experience will enable him to judge better than any one. He is the only one who has wisdom and experience. Reason is not possessed by the covetous or ambitious man, but only by the philosopher. If wealth and gain were the criterion, then the praise or blame of the lover of gain would surely be the most trustworthy. Or if honour or courage were the criterin, then the judgment of the ambitious or pugnacious would be the truest. The only inference possible is that pleasures approved by the lover of wisdom are the truest.

And so the pleasure of the intelligent part of the soul is the pleasantest of the three. He of us in whom this is the ruling principle has the pleasantest life. The wise man speaks with authority when he approves of his own life. What does the judge affirm to be the life which is next, and the pleasure which is next? Clearly that of the soldier and lover of honour who is nearer to himself than the money-maker.

Last comes the lover of gain. Twice the just man has overthrown the unjust in this conflict.

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