The Emerging Good in Plato's Philebus

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Publication Date
July 2017
Page Count
192 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

The Emerging Good in Plato's Philebus

John V. Garner

Plato’s Philebus presents a fascinating dialogue between the life of the mind and the life of pleasure. While Socrates decisively prioritizes the life of reason, he also shows that certain pleasures contribute to making the good life good. The Emerging Good in Plato’s "Philebus" argues that the Socratic pleasures of learning emphasize, above all, the importance of being open to change.
John V. Garner convincingly refines previous interpretations and uncovers a profound thesis in the Philebus: genuine learners find value not only in stable being but also in the process of becoming. Further, since genuine learning arises in pluralistic communities where people form and inform one another, those who are truly open to learning are precisely those who actively shape the betterment of humanity.
The Emerging Good in Plato’s "Philebus" thus connects the Philebus’s grand philosophical ideas about the order of values, on the one hand, to its intimate and personal account of the experience of learning, on the other. It shows that this dialogue, while agreeing broadly with themes in more widely studied works by Plato such as the Republic, Gorgias, and Phaedo, also develops a unique way of salvaging the whole of human life, including our ever-changing nature.
About the Author

JOHN V. GARNER is an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of West Georgia.

“Garner offers a very fine study of an essential (but under-read and under-appreciated) Platonic text. The book has broad implications both for understanding Plato and for thinking about wider philosophical themes such as the nature of value and the character of legitimate philosophical inquiry.” —Nathan Andersen, author of Shadow Philosophy: Plato's Cave and Cinema

"John V. Garner’s The Emerging Good in Plato’s Philebus is a welcome contribution to the collection of literature on this vexing dialogue. Persuasive and nuanced, the author’s argument is perhaps most impressive for its drawing together many seemingly disparate themes regarding being, knowledge, and goodness in the Philebus. It thus is of particular value to those interested in the broader interrelation of Plato’s ontology, epistemology, and ethics." —Ancient Philosophy

“The passion Garner brings to his research is clearly evident, and the thesis of this book is stimulating and provocative.” —Bryn Mawr Classical Review