Freedom and Happiness in Freedom and Happiness in Plato
Thomas D. Paxson, Jr.
Plato says relatively little about liberty and freedom, and his philosophy has been severely criticized for not attributing sufficient value to civil freedoms, especially. Nonetheless, freedom is an important element in Plato¡¯s understanding of the human condition and our proper destiny. This paper does not address civil freedoms, but has the narrower scope of an examination of eleutheria (freedom) and its ties within Platonic philosophy to eudaimonia, the end and fulfillment of human life. As a guard against anachronism, sense components of the words ¡°eudaimonia¡± and ¡°eleutheria¡± are distilled from their usage. This is followed by an examination of Plato¡¯s treatment of eudaimonia. Finally, links between eleutheria and eudaimonia are delineated.
¡°Eudaimonia¡± is generally taken to mean happiness and ¡°eleutheria,¡± freedom. But if we are to understand the underlying factors which guided Plato¡¯s thought, it will be useful to seek some understanding of the nuances, the sense components of the Greek word with which he formulated his ideas. Only then can we return with some confidence to consider the key arguments bearing on our question.
Cornelius de Heer, in his monograph Makar, Eudaimon, Olbios, Eutuches, argued that Homeric man sought well-being primarily in honor and its manifestations (Iliad) and in security from adversity and the preconditions of such security (Odyssey.).1 In Homer, the gods were makar (blessed, divinely happy) because of their invulnerability, deathlessness, exalted status (even eating special food), and leisurely existence. Human beings who were fortunate achieved some measure of olbos (happiness, bliss, well-being), gaining that honor and security made both manifest and possible by high social status, martial excellence, cunning, wealth, the respect accorded them by others, etc. The gods, sometimes referred to as daimones, intervened unpredictably in human affairs so that even the greatest of heroes was at their mercy. Hesiod was concerned in Works and Days with more ordinary mortals. The uncertainty of the forces over which people had no control made magic, no less than hard work, necessary to avoid the wrath of daimones.2 De Heer concluded that ¡°therefore, eudaimon is a precise term meaning ¡®success in dodging the daimones¡¯ and ¡®enjoying the favour of the daimones.¡¯¡±3
De Heer focused most of his attention on the fifth century, identifying the ¡°sense components¡± of a word group by examining the words¡¯ appearances in surviving literature. In Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides security from adversity, usually taken to be permanent, was found to be the primary sense component of eudaimon, and in the background is sometimes a reference to divine favor, lofty status, and/or wealth as bases for this security. There are exceptions to this generalization. People flock to see Iphigenia when she arrives at Aulis because she is regarded as among the eudaimones (428). She certainly has high social status, being daughter of a king; but we, the soothsayers, and the king know she is anything but secure from adversity. In the Trojan Women (509 & 510) Euripides has Hecuba lament,
... ton d¡¯ eudaimonon
medena nomizet¡¯ eutuchein prin an thane.
I take Hecuba to be saying that those who are eudaimon (exalted--perhaps by virtue of social standing, wealth, or prowess) should not be considered to be fortunate before they die. Some terrible fate may yet befall them. It is not clear whether she regards eudaimonia as a temporary or, more likely, as a permanent state (being well-born, of aristocratic lineage) that does not suffice to guarantee good fortune.
In Aristophanes¡¯ comedies there are numerous instances in which especially the verb form, eudaimoneo, carries with it the sense component of enjoyment. This sense component is infrequent in the usage of Euripides, rare in Sophocles, and non-existent in Aeschylus, according to de Heer¡¯s analysis.
When Platonic uses of eudaimon are considered in light of Cornelius de Heer¡¯s analysis of 5th century uses, there can be no presupposition that enjoyment is an operative sense component in any
particular instance without clear supporting evidence. I examined all the instances cited by Friedrich Ast in the Lexicon Platonicum for eudaimon, eudaimonia, and eudaimoneo.4 In addition, I found several instances not referenced in the Lexicon. In the Republic, in particular, I examined 27 instances of the adjectival form. It is noteworthy that those used by the Platonic Socrates to develop and express his own view demonstrated a marked primacy for security from adversity and an inner quality of the subject other than enjoyment, whereas of the eight uses by others, or imputed by Socrates to others, none carried the sense component of an inner quality other than enjoyment as far as could be determined from the context. Instead, wealth, enjoyment, and leisure were prominent. Security from adversity did seem to be present in perhaps three of the eight instances. Plato clearly recognized that some of his contemporaries used the word differently than he was proposing that it be used. His ironic reference to eudaimonas feasters at 421b and the ¡°so-called eudaimonon feasts¡± at 612a provide additional evidence. Other sense components evident in Plato¡¯s usage can be highlighted by passages that seem to rely heavily on a single component. For example, 526e seems to rely on that of exalted status, though whereas that had traditionally involved status either within the hierarchy of human society or above, i.e. the gods, Plato has in mind his metaphysical hierarchy, the eudaimonestaton realm of the Forms. Another passage (540c) seems to rely on the components of exalted status within the human community, divine favor or both: ¡°The city will publicly establish memorials and sacrifices for [the guardians who have died] as for divine spirits, if the Pythian agrees, or if not, then for eudaimosi and divinely inspired men.¡±5
In the Republic Plato¡¯s use of the verb form, eudaimoneo, closely parallels that of the adjective form. Security from adversity, some inner quality (other than enjoyment), and hints of exalted status are the primary sense components in four of the six instances; the subjects of three of these four were city-states. Of the remaining two, one is the heavily ironic passage 420e in which Socrates suggests that it would be silly to give the artisans lives of leisure and enjoyment, because they would give up the practice of their crafts. The other is 365d, where Adeimantus praises the benefits of acting unjustly while appearing to be just. The nominal form, eudaimonia, differs from the adjectival and verbal forms in Plato¡¯s usage by reflecting in addition to the standard security from adversity and inner quality, the sense components of enjoyment, leisure, and freedom. Five of the nine instances of ¡°eudaimonia¡± were found in Book IX. These, plus that at 566d in Book VIII, are contained in Socrates¡¯ discussion of tyranny and the wretchedness of tyrant and tyranny in contrast to the eudaimonia of philosopher-king and the glorious city he or she rules, kallipolis. Socrates wants to show that not only will the tyrant fail to be secure from adversity and fail to have harmony within his (or her) psuche (which would suffice on Plato¡¯s view to preclude eudaimonia), but the tyrant will also fail to enjoy the power and wealth he or she seems to possess. Nor will the tyrant be free, since enslaved to his or her minions. Presumably, even leisure will be lost through frantic efforts to retain power. Tyrant and tyranny, Plato argues, cannot have eudaimonia, even on such a superficial understanding of eudaimonia. In contrast, the ruler of kallipolis will have security, internal harmony, enjoyment of the satisfaction of curiosity, leisure to pursue philosophy, and the freedom to obtain the good. Nonetheless, this ruler will be forbidden the eudaimonia that would make her or him anything but a guardian (420d); he or she will be forbidden the accumulation of personal wealthy, the generation of a personal dynasty, etc.
To this point ¡°eudaimonia¡± and its relatives have not been translated ¡°happy.¡± This is not because I want to argue that Platonic eudaimonia is not happiness, though that translation will not work well at 395e, 406c, 458e, 526e or 540c.6 Rather, it reflects an effort to be as open as possible to the sense components revealed by the context. Another concern is that ¡°happiness¡± has become distorted by utilitarian analyses in terms of pleasure, just one of the sense components of the word. Prior to the 19th Century, ¡°happiness¡± would have been a happier translation of ¡°eudaimonia.¡± The Oxford English Dictionary gives a definition of ¡°happy¡± that does make sense of ¡°the happiest world of the Forms.¡± ¡°Happy¡± had, as one of its meanings, ¡°blessed, beatified.¡±
Security from adversity, divine favor, good fortune, exalted status, etc. are called ¡°sense components¡± following de Heer. Whatever he meant by that expression, I do not use it as synonymous with ¡°meanings.¡± ¡°Eudaimonia¡± I take to mean well-being. The question is, how is the condition of well-being understood? The ¡°sense components¡± are aspects of the subject¡¯s condition that are held to be constitutive of well-being.
¡°We believe,¡± Prof. J.C. Dybikowski has observed, ¡°that a person¡¯s happiness is closely bound up with how he sees his life and with his psychological states. His life might seem enviable to us judging from without, but if he looks upon it as disappointing and lack-lustre, we would not regard him as happy.¡±7 In the ancient Greek context self appraisal was very much affected by the appraisals of others. A.W.H. Adkins demonstrated that ancient Greece, particularly Homeric and archaic Greece, was characterized by a shame culture.8 In such cultures one tends to see one¡¯s life principally in terms of social relations and the attitudes of others, the esteem in which others hold one, one¡¯s place in society, etc., rather than in terms of one¡¯s own subjective states. A poor farmer who enjoys farming, but is cognizant of the disdain in which his way of life is held by those who count, is not likely to describe or even feel his life to be especially eudaimon. In the Republic Adeimantus explains that he should live unjustly while pretending to live justly: ¡°...since appearance, as the wise men tell me, forcibly overwhelms truth and controls eudaimonias¡± (365c). Prof. Dybikowski noted that in the Gorgias (470c9ff) Polus cites Archelaus as a conspicuous example of an eudaimon who has been singularly wicked.9 Polus is shocked and disconcerted that Socrates will not acknowledge Archelaus¡¯ eudaimonia despite his exalted status as ruler of Macedonia, his great wealth, and his being envied both at home and abroad. It is clear that Polus thinks that knowledge of the external circumstances of Archelaus and the Persian king alone warrant belief that they are eudaimones. Socrates protests not that he has to learn whether Archelaus is contented and satisfied with his life, but whether he is well educated and just.10 It is altogether natural that in uses of ¡°eudaimonia¡± we should find references to status wealth, honors, divine favor, and security from adversity rather than to enjoyment, contentment, or feelings of fulfillment, though enjoyment has become commonly considered by the 4th Century BCE.
¡°Eudaimon,¡± ¡°eudaimono,¡± and ¡°eudaimonia¡± are used in ways ¡°happiness¡± cannot be used--and are so used not just by Homer, Pindar and Aeschylus. Even Plato employs such uses, as we saw with respect to Rep. 526e:
We must examine whether the greater portion of [geometry and calcu-
lation] which is more advanced tends to make it easier to see the Form
of the Good. All things tend in that direction which compel the soul to
turn itself toward the place in which the eudaimonestaton part of reality
exists, which the soul must see at any cost.11
In the Protagoras (316b) Socrates introduces Hippocrates as coming from ¡°a great and eudaimonos family.¡± At Phaedo 111a Socrates is describing the ¡°real¡± world, which is far more beautiful than our world. In the ¡°real¡± one ¡°the earth itself is adorned not only with all these stones but also with god and silver and the other metals, for many rich veins of them occur in plain view in all parts of the earth, so that to see them is a sight for the eyes of the eudaimonon.¡±12
The argument here is not that eudaimonia is significantly different from happiness, but rather that ancient Greek culture was sufficiently different than our own that they identified the constituents of well-being somewhat differently than many of us do today. As already noted, the use of the English word ¡°happiness¡± has changed over the centuries; it has changed through the change in the way in which we view and assess our lives. From this standpoint, eudaimonia is happiness and we can learn much about happiness by attending to what the ancient Greeks wrote about eudaimonia. We can learn especially how happiness may be understood in a culture quite different than our own.
The family of terms comprising eleutheros, eleuthero, eleutheria, eleutherios, and eleutheriotetos was examined in a fashion similar to that in which the family of terms associated with eudaimonia was studied, though with the eleutheros family I knew of no systematic linguistic study of 5th Century BCE uses akin to de Heer¡¯s study of makar, eudaimon, olbios, and eutuches. Again, I focused on Plato¡¯s Republic both because of its centrality to our interests and because of the wide range of topics it considers. The core meaning of the eleutheros family seems to be freedom from servitude and constraint. Six of the 23 instances of eleutheros in the Republic cited in Astius¡¯ Lexicon Platonicum carry the sense of non-slave: 351d10, 431c2, 433d3, 577c5 (describing a city), 577d7, and 578e5. Rep. 461b10 expresses the sense of non-prohibition. ¡°Eleutheros¡± is also used to characterize socio-political forms of independence among non-slaves. Oligarchs are eleutheroi in an oligarchy (569c1); the people, in a democracy (557b4).13 The political sense of ¡°eleutheros¡± involves that autonomy that comes not from being outside the system, as a resident alien, but from one¡¯s place within it. Since personal independence among citizens in even a democratic state varies significantly in degree, the term seems sometimes to be used to pick out those who are the more prominent:
...will you be able to find a surer proof of an evil and shameful state
of education in a city than the necessity of first-rate physicians and
judges, not only for the base and mechanical, but for those who claim
to have been bred in the fashion of eleuthero?14
Another echo of this freedom to which not all citizens attain is found at 431c2, where the masses are described as eleutheron in name, but not in substance.
¡°Eleutheros¡± is used to describe a virtuous character. Of those deemed worthy of children¡¯s imitation the Platonic Socrates lists the brave, the temperate, the pious, and the eleutherous (Rep. 395c5). Uses of ¡°aneleutheros¡± suggest that the eleutheros person is without constraints of stinginess, greed, pettiness, and meanness, or to give a positive characterization: is generous, open, having wide-ranging ideas and interests, cf. Rep. 579b.
The notion of non-constraint can be extended further to include the lack of discipline, order, and restraint; free-spiritedness. Children are scornfully called eleutheroi when lacking reverence for parents (562e9) or when not restrained by their parents (590e3 and 591a3). In this sense even slaves can be no less ¡°free¡± than their masters (563b6). Such a sense might be present at Rep. 562c2, where it is said that a democracy is the only city worth living in for one who is by nature eleutheros. The extremity would be licentiousness, though there is no unambiguous instance of such a use of eleutheria in the Republic.15
Uses in the Republic of the verb form fall into four groups: (1) to manumit, to release from servitude or slavery (567e5, 579a2); (2) to release from oppression or suffering (566e2, 569a5, 591b3); (3) to release from control, regulation (575a6); and (4) to act without restraint, to act licentiously (561a4). A similar range of uses can be found for the noun, eleutheria, though here the context often allows several levels to be operative at once.
The Nature of Platonic Eudaimonia
Plato is more concerned with eudaimonia than with eleutheria in his ethical dialogues. Plato presents characters (e.g. Callicles and Thrasymachus) that speak for the view that eudaimonia is that well-being, that eu-daimonizai (well-destined life), that consists in good health, honor, material prosperity, and political power. In reaction to those sophists who attributed all ethical value to convention, Plato sought to ground it both in human nature and in the Forms. Just as he located the virtues in the psuche, Plato regarded eudaimonia as essentially a property of the psuche and its activity. He internalized virtue and eudaimonia, but did not subjectivize them.16 Eudaimonia is ethical; it is the psychic condition and activity of the true kalokagathos, the noble and worthy individual. What may at first look like word-play and equivocation is for Plato an analysis that will tie it, as the generally accepted telos of human life, to the ethical aretai (excellences, virtues) so necessary for a polity in which such an end can best be attained.
A useful introduction to Plato¡¯s strategy is found in Socrates¡¯ argument in the Gorgias that the eudaimon person is just and sophron (temperate) (499e6-508a).17 Both Socrates and his interlocutor, Callicles, agree that the telos in terms of which something is to be judged good for human beings is eudaimonia. Earlier Callicles had distinguished conventional morality from natural morality. According to nature, he had held, well-being is a consequence of fostering one¡¯s desires and satisfying them. The more desires subsequently satisfied, the better off one is. Justice is a constraint foisted on the superior individuals by the inferior. Socrates had shamed Callicles into agreeing that there are good and bad pleasures and good and bad pains. Good pleasures and pains are those useful in achieving the good, ultimately well-being, while bad pleasures and pains interfere with the realization of that end. Socrates¡¯ argument is given in two formulations. The second runs from 506d2-5-7c7:
1. We are good, both we and everything else that is good, by
reason of some arete (excellence) present in us.
2. The arete of each thing does not come about best randomly
but by an order (taxei), correctness (orthoteti), and techne
assigned as appropriate to each of them (506d5-9).18
3. The arete of each thing is produced by order and arrangement.
A certain kosmos (order) present in each existent thing and
peculiar to it renders it good (506e1-3).
4. The psuche having its own order (kosmos) is better than the
disordered one (506e4-5).
5. A psuche which has kosmos is an ordered/orderly (kosmia)
6. An ordered/orderly psuche is sophron (temperate) (507a1).
7. The temperate psuche is good (507a1-2).
8. The intemperate psuche, one that is licentious and witless,
is bad (507a5-7).
9. The temperate will do what is fitting in regard both to gods
and to people (507a8-10). (by definition)
10. A person who does what is fitting in regard to the gods acts
piously and is pious (507b1-3).
11. A person who does what is fitting in regard to other people acts
justly and is just (507b3-4).
12. A person who does what is fitting, in pursuing and avoiding,
acts courageously and is courageous (507b4-9).
13. Necessarily, the temperate person is pious, just, and courageous
14. Necessarily, the person who is temperate, pious, just, and
courageous is completely (teleos) good (507c1-3).
15. Necessarily, the good person does well whatever he or she
16. Necessarily, one who does well whatever he or she does is
blessed (makarion) and happy (eudaimona), while one who
does evil is wretched (507c4-5).19
17. The temperate person is eudaimon.
With respect to the argument against Callicles, the critical steps are (4) and (6). The former is ambiguous. ¡°Its own order¡± may refer to the order peculiar to the individual or the order peculiar to the kind. This same ambiguity appears in (3): ¡°a certain kosmos present in each existent thing and peculiar to it renders it good.¡± Again, each thing may be taken as an instance of a type, having the order of that particular type of thing, or it can be regarded sui generis. Plato¡¯s whole metaphysics supports the presupposition that the order is that peculiar to the kind. This coheres well with (6), which is more plausible with this reading. Callicles does presuppose the existence of a natural ordering, that of pleonexia or insatiable grasping. Callicles should object to (6), for temperance (sophrosune) is opposed to pleonexia. By this time, however, he is cowed.
The key to Socrates¡¯ argument is the word ¡°kosmos¡± and its relatives. As Prof. E.R. Dodds noted, Plato explains at 508a that ¡°the domain of order (kosmiotes) embraces not only human societies but the entire universe, which is therefore called kosmos. And its ruling principle is not pleonexia as Callicles supposes, but proportion (he isotes he geometrike, a6).¡±20 E.R. Dodds¡¯ reference to the proportion of geometrical equality is important. In political discussions ¡°geometrical equality¡± meant apportionment to each in accordance with his or her particular worth, whereas ¡°arithmetical equality¡± treated all persons as having equal worth. In 508a there is no doubt that the Platonic Socrates is speaking of the kosmos of geometrical equality and is suggesting that this kosmos is cosmic, i.e. it embraces and informs the whole natural order--including ourselves, our psuchai. An orderly psuche will reflect apportionment in accordance with worth.
The Platonic Socrates did not simply assume in the Gorgias that the orderly psuche, being one in which the worthier elements were duly more dominant, would necessarily be sophron (temperate). This is, rather, his analysis of sophrosune. Although we are not told in the Gorgias what the elements of the psuche are, sophrosune is to be understood as that order in the psuche such that whatever in the psuche is responsible for envy, lust, greed, etc. is subordinated to and therefore controlled by better elements in the psuche, e.g. those responsible for faithfulness, generosity, and love of the beautiful and noble. The plausibility of this analysis rests on a larger framework, a framework including both an analysis of the nature and constituents of the psuche and a set of values that determines relative worth. Of course Callicles is represented as not sharing many of the values that Socrates smuggles in under kosmos, but Plato seems to think that his readers will share those values. Through Themisius Aristotle gives us evidence that some of Plato¡¯s contemporaries did indeed share those values and did find the Gorgias to be both persuasive and inspiring.21
Our narrower concern is not with the analysis of sophrosune, but with that of eudaimonia given in (16): ¡°Necessarily, one who does well whatever he or she does is blessed and eudaimona, while one who does evil is wretched.¡±22 Taken by itself, this does not adequately convey the Platonic Socrates¡¯ understanding of well-being, eudaimonia. We need to look at the argument. According to (1) arete (excellence, virtue) is a necessary and sufficient condition of being a good thing of that kind.23 From (2) and (3) we learn that the correct order and arrangement of a thing is necessary and sufficient for its arete. Thus, the correct order of a thing is necessary and sufficient for its being a good thing of that kind. But it is the human being and the human psuche that is of central consideration, and it is clear that the appropriate order and arrangement necessary and sufficient to human arete pertains to the psuche. (13) tells us that sophrosune is sufficient for all the cardinal human aretai and (14) that the cardinal human aretai are sufficient for being good. But (15) tells us that a good person, i.e. a person who is good as a person, does well whatever he or she does. From (16) we learn that if one does well whatever he or she does, then he or she is eudaimon. Thus, if a person is good (as a person), then he or she is eudaimon. A sufficient condition of eudaimonia is the appropriate order and arrangement of the person, keeping in mind that this is because it is sufficient both for human arete and for doing well whatever one does. Now both (15) and (16) are probably presented as true by definition. With respect to (15) this is what an agathos, a good person, is. In the early dialogues there is substantial evidence that Socrates regards doing well as at least co-extensive with eudaimonia, as C.D.C. Reeve has noted.24 In that case, the appropriate order and harmony within the psuche together with the virtuous activity that issues from it is both necessary and sufficient for eudaimonia, and that harmony and order which is appropriate is that of a geometrical equality in which the elements are given shares in accordance with their worth to the whole.25 Notwithstanding all the weaknesses of the argument, this is, I take it, Plato¡¯s position.
If Plato¡¯s analysis of eudaimonia is more sketched in the Gorgias than developed (let alone established), there is also the well-known discussion in the Republic, Bk IX. There the Platonic Socrates seeks to show that the tyrannical individual, and especially the tyrannical individual who rules a state as tyrant, is so far from being eudaimon that he is actually wretched. The three arguments are presented in 576b11-587b10. The argument from 576b11-580c9 depends on the similarities between the tyrannical city and the tyrannical individual, on the one hand, and on the other, the kingly city and the kingly individual in whom the rational element within the psuche, with the help of the spirited element and the cooperation of the appetitive element, governs the individual for the good of the individual as a whole. Just as the city-state ruled by a tyrant is as a whole enslaved, especially its better elements, though some elements within the city-state are free and masters, so the psuche of the tyrannical individual is enslaved, especially its better elements, though the appetites are free and masters. As a result, the tyrant ruled city-state has least power to do what it wants and the tyrant ruled psuche least power to do what it wants. Plato continues the argument by bringing in many of the factors relevant to a traditional assessment of eudaimonia. The tyrant ruled city-state must be poor, not wealthy (since all wealth is concentrated and spent in the tyrant¡¯s efforts to maintain his position and satisfy his pleonexia). The tyrant ruled city-state must be full of fear (fear of the capriciousness of the tyrant and the tyrant¡¯s fear of his subjects and even of his minions). It must have more lamentations, complaints, and grief than city-states constituted in other ways. All these things are said to be characteristic of the tyrannical individual as well, with the interesting variation that the psuche is said to be not only poor but unsatisfied (apleston). Being unsatisfied may be just what it is for a psuche to be poor. Plato seems to be acknowledging that the conditions of well-being include some kind of freedom (to which we shall return), the power to do what one wants, adequate wealthy, and freedom from fear, lamentations, complaints, and grief. All of these features of eudaimonia can be tied into the concern for security from adversity in some way. Wealth provides some measure of security. Fear is a response to the insecurity and precariousness of one¡¯s welfare; and lamentations, complaints and grief are all responses to misfortune and adversity. To be enslaved is to be exceedingly insecure; it is to be subject inescapably to a master whose interests do not typically include one¡¯s own welfare at all. The power to do what one wants is on Plato¡¯s view the power to act for one¡¯s own true welfare.
The second argument, 580d1-583a11, turns on the three-fold division of the human psuche into that by which we learn, that by which we feel anger, and that by which we crave gain and the satisfaction of our appetites. Each division has its own telos: wisdom and management; power, victory, and high repute (honor); and food, drink, sex, other things of this sort, and money. Each division has its own form of pleasure. There are then three general types of persons defined in terms of which division within the psuche happens to be the ruling principle. Each type will prefer the pleasure attendant upon achieving the end toward which the ruling part in the psuche strives. But only the lover of wisdom will of necessity have experienced the other sorts of pleasures, so only the lover of wisdom is qualified to judge. This point is buttressed by the claim that the organon, instrument, of judging is preeminently the organon of the philosopher. Therefore the pleasure of learning is best of the three, and (by implication) the philosophic life most eudaimon. This argument is important in affirming that the most eudaimon life will, inter alia, be the one with the most pleasant pleasures, cf. 583a1-3.
The third argument, 583b1-587b10, turns on his theory of ousia, being. Between pleasure and pain is a psychic state of quietude that is often perceived as if it were genuinely pleasurable or painful. Those who have been in pain, for example, tend to perceive its cessation as pleasurable. But such pleasure is not pure and is, as it were, an impressionistic representation of genuine pleasure. Pleasure is depicted as an accompaniment of the filling of a void or deficiency in either one¡¯s bodily or one¡¯s psychic condition. Hunger, for example, manifests a bodily emptiness that is filled by nourishment; ignorance is a psychic emptiness filled by wisdom. If one were to attribute a theory of degrees of reality to Plato,26 the argument would be along the following lines: the truer filling/fulfillment is the more real, and the more real is the more genuinely pleasurable. That which is always the same, constant in nature, in truth, and in being, has a greater part of pure being than that which changes, and does not partake of real being, knowledge, or truth. Generally that which serves the body partakes less of being, and therefore of truth, than that which serves the psuche, and the body itself partakes less of being and truth than does the psuche. If, then, to be filled with what befits nature is pleasure, then that which is more real and more really filled with real things would more really cause us to enjoy genuine pleasure. The satisfactions of the wisdom loving part of the psuche, therefore, are more real and yield more genuine pleasures than the satisfactions of the victory loving (i.e. spirited) part of the psuche and still more than the gain loving (i.e. appetitive) part. As a result, the Platonic Socrates concludes, the tyrant will be furthest removed from true pleasure and the philosopher king the least removed.
It has become common to interpret Plato¡¯s language of degrees of being in terms of degrees to which things are qualifiedly what they are, the less qualifiedly something is octagonal, for example, the greater being it has as octagonal. On this interpretation, the argument would be, in effect, that the truer filling/fulfillment is the less qualified, and the less qualified filling/fulfillment is the more genuinely pleasurable. Generally, that which serves the body partakes less of truth (being more qualified on Plato¡¯s view) than that which serves the psuche, and the body itself partakes less of truth than does the psuche. That which is less qualifiedly filled and itself is less qualifiedly is more filled than that which is more qualifiedly filled and which itself is more qualifiedly. If to be filled with what befits nature is pleasure, then that which is less qualifiedly and is less qualifiedly filled would cause us to enjoy a more genuine and purer pleasure. The satisfactions of the wisdom loving part of the psuche, therefore, are less qualifiedly and more pure and yield more genuine pleasures than the satisfactions of the victory loving part of the psuche and still more than the gain loving part.
In this argument the permanence of eudaimonia is indicated, and through this the security from adversity so much a part of Greek tradition. The appeal to degrees of being can be seen as an appeal to exalted status, here represented as metaphysical status.
The Platonic Socrates seeks to show that the tyrant must utterly fail to be eudaimon, even on Polus¡¯s superficial understanding of eudaimonia in terms of one¡¯s external circumstances. Enslaved to his unbridled appetites and fearful not only of his subjects but even of those whose job it is to do his bidding, the tyrant will be unable to enjoy the wealth and power that he does possess and will be most insecure from adversity and unable to do what he really wants. His very power will condemn him to wretchedness. In the Gorgias (525e) Socrates explains that the despised Thersites is eudaimonesteros than the tyrants precisely because he lacked power and for that reason had not incurably corrupted his psuche. The three-fold argument that the ¡°tyrannical¡± psuche is farthest removed from eudaimonia takes account of the following traditional sense components of eudaimonia: security from adversity,27 exalted status (significantly reinterpreted), and wealth (re-interpreted to mean satisfaction), in addition to the newer components of enjoyment and leisure. Exalted status may be found (1) in terms of the higher status accorded the psuche than that accorded the body, (2) in terms of the notion that the eudaimon psuche is governed by the best element within it, and also (3) in terms of the proper end of that best element of the psuche, apprehension of the most true and most real (or most complete). On Plato¡¯s analysis the popular sense components are rooted in a psychic harmony of geometrical equality in which the better guide the lesser and in particular the wisdom-loving part governs the whole for the sake of the whole. If this analysis is correct so far, then eudaimonia is inextricably linked to justice and sophrosune (temperance), these two constituting the special order and harmony within the psuche that, together with the virtuous activity that issues from this order and harmony, is the well-being or eudaimonia which is our telos. In eudaimonism, virtue is not an external means for achieving happiness, but is an intrinsic part of eudaimonia itself.28
Eleutheria and Eudaimonia
Professor Irwin has perceptively argued that Plato¡¯s moral theory focuses on interests rather than rights.29 Each person has a primary interest in attaining as virtuous and eudaimon a life as possible. This will, inter alia, give each person a stake in the development of virtue in others, so Plato provides a basis for community and altruism.30 But Platonic theory provides no basis for rights, let alone inalienable rights; thus, the wise person has no moral restraint to prevent her or him from interfering in the lives of the not-wise in their own interests. As Prof. Irwin puts it, ¡°If [freedom¡¯s] moral claim is only its benefits to the agent, then the agent suffers no moral loss if his freedom is overridden for his benefit. But if someone has a right to freedom, he does suffer a moral loss when his freedom is violated in his own interest.¡±31 The morality of the ruler in kallipolis is that of unchecked, albeit benevolent, paternalism. Why should we want the unsatisfying when a guardian would guide us to eudaimonia? The answer to this rhetorical question is that we tend to believe that an important part of a satisfactory life is a significant measure of autonomy (though as Existentialists were wont to argue, we tend to avoid thoroughgoing autonomy). What checks on paternalism would benevolence provide within Platonic ethics? At best that all interference would have to contribute to the well-being of the person in whose life the ruler intervened. But worse than this, the ruler might be permitted to interfere for the sake of the whole community despite the adverse effects on the individual, provided that the interference did not reduce the individual¡¯s (or perhaps merely the city-state¡¯s) arete, excellence of character.
Professor George Nakhnikian has argued that the nonwise in kallipolis need not be construed as passive in relying on the philosopher-kings to educate them in arete:
The auxiliaries and workers... are not incapable of indirect
confirmation of the hypothesis that the philosopher-king really
knows what he is doing. Although they cannot grasp the
principles from which he operates, they can see the results of
his rule and see that they are just and good in practical terms...
They are able to exercise a certain degree of autonomy.32
The heart of Prof. Nakhnikian¡¯s defense of Platonic ethics turns on a deeper autonomy, that of the reasonable, i.e. the ability to do for oneself those things that can be done only by oneself in contribution to one¡¯s eudaimonia.33 Such things include, for example, loving oneself, loving virtue, but most importantly loving oneself with an undemanding love that is inseparable from an undemanding love of others. Prof. Nakhnikian praises Plato for recognizing in rationality the self-love that is part of ¡°deep autonomy,¡± but criticizes him for failing to recognize (1) its connection to the undemanding love of others and (2) the value of being free to err. I take Prof. Nakhnikian to be suggesting that Irwin¡¯s criticism is misguided. At the level of deep autonomy, there can be no benefits to me that would warrant violation of my freedom; my freedom could not be overridden for my benefit. At that level, though, freedom is so internal that my external circumstances, no matter how degrading, would seem to be irrelevant. Chattel slavery would not seem enough to violate my freedom; it would at least have to diminish my virtue for it to affect my freedom in this sense.
One of the features we saw Plato attribute to eudaimonia was the ability to do what one really wants. Part of what this means for Plato, given that eudaimonia is our end, is freedom from the constraints of stinginess, greed, pettiness, meanness, and certainly pleonexia. This is precisely one sense component of eleutheria. But what other sense components of eleutheria would Plato regard as tied inextricably to eudaimonia? In the Menexenus, that problematic speech by Socrates, the philosopher observes, ¡°For he whose eudaimonia rests with himself, if possible, wholly, and if not, as far as possible, who is not hanging in suspense on other men, or changing with the vicissitude of their fortune, has his life ordered for the best¡± (247e7-248a3). This passage suggests that the author recognized for eudaimonia the necessity of freedom not only from slavery but also from dependence on others. Against this would seem to be the weight of the Republic with its proposals for a carefully guarded education, replete with censorship, a rigid meritocratic class structure based on the abilities, skills, and excellences (aretai) of its citizens, a set of stringent safeguards which would regulate the lives of the rulers, and above all a subordination of those lacking political wisdom to those having it.
The central project of the Republic is to show that justice is preferable to injustice apart from its misthoi (wages, i.e. contingent rewards). Similarly our examination will presuppose that there is no necessity of eleutheria for eudaimonia except for those kinds of eleutheria required by arete itself. One of these kinds is the already stipulated freedom from the constraints of pettiness and pleonexia. This is broadened to the arete that is termed eleutheriotes, the character of the eleutherios, the free person, namely liberality, generosity (Rep. 402c3). This excellence is incompatible with being enslaved.34 It is the opposite of that illiberality that is specifically said not to be a part of the philosophic nature (Rep. 486a4), but liberality because of its inextricable ties to sophrosune and justice would be a virtue of all three classes of citizens within kallipolis. Beyond this the Platonic Socrates says that the trades debase the body and crush and fragment the psuche (Rep. 495d6-e2); their pursuit is thus inimical to true philosophy and therefore to the development of arete in its fullest form. Freedom from the necessity of hard physical labor is therefore required for those whom society has selected to develop arete in its fullest form. Notoriously, these persons are limited to a small class of wisdom-loving rulers.
In order to discern the character of the psuche¡¯s eleutheria on Plato¡¯s view, it is necessary to remember how difficult it is seen to be to achieve sustained psychic unity. In From the Many to the One Professor A.W. H. Adkins directed our attention to the community of impulses, powers, tendencies, attachments, and passions, many conceived as of divine origin, from which the ancient Greeks of Homeric and archaic times, especially, sought to wrest psychic harmony.35 ¡°Psuche¡± came to designate the unitary self. The title of his book, Professor Adkins tells us, came from Bk IV of Plato¡¯s Republic (443e1) where Socrates describes how the just human being becomes one from many, ordering her or his psuche so that each element within it performs its proper function and not the function of another. In the Republic harmonious unity of the psuche is the psychological aspect of the telos which we all seek but so seldom attain.36 Plato divided the psychic community within into three, the division comprising the appetites and the love of money being especially populous.37 The psychic community as a whole, the psuche, is said to have the character given to it by the operation and activities of the ruling division within it. The oligarchic and tyrannical psuchai are both dominated by the appetitive division. The former is judged to be superior to the democratic psuche because the greed which dominates and governs the oligarchic individual gives some order and purpose to the whole, whereas the tyrannical is worst of all because the most base appetites anarchically tyrannize the whole.
Professor John Clardy Kelly points out that the openness of this psychic community within each individual to various kinds of psychic structure and constitution, as it were, entails that the human psuche is not completed by nature.38 Additional evidence of this incompleteness is found in the yearnings characteristic of each of the divisions. These are associated in Bk IX (585a9-b4) with a kind of emptiness that needs filling or fulfillment, as Prof. Kelly notes, ¡°in relationship to that which is external to¡± the psuche.39 But Kelly goes on to argue that another sense in which the psuche is found to be incomplete is that ¡°the desires for gain, honor, and learning are generic rather than specific. ...it is through a person¡¯s actions and passions that the generic desires of the soul acquire specificity, which is why there is such emphasis on the role of nurture and education in the Republic (iv 423d8-424b2).¡±40 This formative and completing function of activity contributes to the necessity of virtuous activity for eudaimonia.
There is a sense, as a result of the forgoing, that the freedom to develop into an oligarchic, a timocratic, or a tyrannical individual is a function of the psuche¡¯s incomplete formation. Avoidance of rule by the better within the community of the psuche leads in the extreme to the anarchic tyranny of the masses of appetites, both necessary and unnecessary. In this context eleutheria is the inheritance spent to buy wisdom as actions close off alternatives in a person¡¯s development. But paradoxically, it is not expended. The inchoate community of the immature psuche becomes organized in pursuit of what it wants, eudaimonia. Insofar as freedom is the ability to do what one really wants, to pursue one¡¯s own telos, the philosophic psuche is the most free. She is free not in the unguidedness of choice, but because her choice is very much guided by knowledge of the good, but in self-mastery and the ability to move toward her telos. On Plato¡¯s analysis, this is the freedom that is farthest removed from the anarchic rule of the masses of appetites and is almost as far removed from the ¡°democratic¡± rule of the leaderless community of ever-shifting coalitions within the psuche.
Perhaps nowhere is the question of eleutheria in Plato¡¯s philosophy more pressing than in his treatment of paideia, education or enculturation. The censorship suggested in Books II and III of the Republic, not to mention the role assigned to the Nocturnal Council in the Laws, suggests that Platonic paideia is incompatible with eleutheria. Plato¡¯s position is more complex than this. Correct paideia is on his view important for the development of arete. Plato recognized that social, cultural, and educational influences greatly affect the development of our thought and character. According to the Republic the youth, especially, were to be carefully inculcated with the values of kallipolis. Those who were to become rulers, after they attained maturity, were to diligently and vigorously pursue wisdom. Plato did not believe that education properly proceeds by cramming heads full of information and dogma. Rather, philosophic education involves the student¡¯s active inquiry. The dialectic of inquiry that the Platonic Socrates practices and that Plato exhibits proceeds through elenchos (examination and refutation), aporia (bewilderment), the formulation and testing of new hypotheses, and recollection, noetic apprehension, etc. In short, arete depends on that wisdom that is the product of dialectic. While children are believed to require a carefully guarded education, adults seeking to gain wisdom must engage in free inquiry. Especially noteworthy is the role of aporia and contradiction in the practice of dialectic. The liberating effect of cognitive dissonance and bewilderment is relied upon to jolt the inquirer¡¯s psuche into changing its accustomed perspective and looking higher, as it were. It is precisely here that intellectual freedom is experienced in its purist form. This freedom is necessary for the acquisition of wisdom, and wisdom is an inextricable part of human arete. In Plato¡¯s thought, the eleutheria of free inquiry within the context of dialectic is therefore required for true eudaimonia.
For Plato eleutheria is the power to do or bring about what one really wants. The expression, ¡°what one really wants¡± is notoriously ambiguous, even though all participants in the ancient Greek discussion would have agreed that what we really want is eudaimonia. As we have seen, this means to a Callicles the development and satisfaction of our many desires. What we really want in Callicles¡¯ view, accordingly, is that for which we feel at the moment strong cravings, and in general a life full of such cravings and their satisfactions. Plato¡¯s analysis of what we really want, like his analyses of sophrosune and justice, is inextricably intertwined with his analysis of human nature and the human condition. Professor Irwin¡¯s focus on interests rather than rights is too narrow for our purposes, since this suggests individual or group interests, rather than the good of the rationally ordered whole, the kosmos. Plato¡¯s conception of eleutheria, freedom, cannot be grasped apart from its dialectical connections within Platonic metaphysics and axiology. In the Platonic dialectic all of the key concepts are intertwined and interdependent. We saw how in the Gorgias sophrosune was a central thread, connecting arete and eudaimonia, while in the Republic justice, dikaiosune, and in the Protagoras knowledge, episteme, are similarly central. To put this another way, an investigation of eleutheria leads inevitably to the central elements of Platonic philosophy: the coalescence of being, goodness, truth, and beauty; the Forms; their images constituting the sensible world; etc.
Human beings, like everything else in the cosmos, have a telos. Plato¡¯s position is that the good for human beings is objective; it is determined by our nature as human beings embedded in a rationally ordered cosmos that reflects the unchanging and eternal principles of all being, the eide or Forms. Even these, and a fortiori everything else, are dependent upon the Good. What each of us really wants, on this view, is to attain the telos of human nature. Human perfection is rooted in the perfection of what directs a person¡¯s life, her or his psuche. Our telos is eudaimonia, that well-being comprising a special order and harmony within the psuche together with the virtuous activity that both shapes and issues from it. Without wisdom, I am led to frustrate my fundamental quest for perfection. I become a slave to my desires--fulfilling their ends rather than my own. This slavery is the slavery fundamentally opposed to the true freedom of self-mastery and self-fulfillment. A wise human being is virtuous; being virtuous she is free and empowered to bring about what she really wants, teleios, fulfillment and perfection.41 All other freedoms on Plato¡¯s view are either ultimately illusory or at best imperfect images of true freedom.
In this paper I have been exploring the nature of happiness and freedom within Platonic philosophy and the connection between them. I wonder whether Plato isn¡¯t right in holding that at the most fundamental level freedom is the ability to flourish unconstrained by what would undermine or prevent such flourishing. Of course, in Plato¡¯s thought, the flourishing is bound up with an essentialism regarding human nature. Insofar as happiness is, at root, this flourishing secure from adversity to which freedom gives us access, they are fundamentally connected with one another. What this provides us is an understanding of the moral significance of human freedom rooted in eudaimonism without appeal to rights.
1. Cornelius de Heer, Makar, Eudaimon, Olbios, Eutuches: A Study of the Semantic Field Denoting Happiness in Ancient Greek to the End of the 5th Century B.C. Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert, 1968.
2. Ibid., p. 24.
3. Op. cit., p. 25.
4. Friederich Ast, Lexicon Platonicum , Bonn: Rudolf Habelt Verlag, 1956.
5. Translation by G.M.A. Grube, Cf. 458e. See also Laws III, 694d1-e4.
6. Grube uses this translation at 395e & 540c; Cornford and Lee, only at 395e; Shorey, only at 458e; and Sterling & Scott, at 406c, 458e, and 540c. Bloom perseveres in all instances and Lindsay in all but the penultimate instance. Rep. 395e might have a hitherto unnoted sense. Plato might be trading on the high status sense component of eudaimonia. In this case Socrates could be prohibiting men from imitating women who brag while imagining themselves eudaimonas in being of higher status than they are. In short, this may be a passage reflecting the inferior status traditionally assigned women in ancient Greece. The queens of tragedy, e.g. Clytemnestra, had undeniably high social status, but there were no such women of 5th and 4th Centuries B.C.E. Athens.
7. J.C. Dybikowski, "Is Aristotelian Eudaimonia Happiness?" (Canadian Philosophical Review, Vol. 20, No. 2, 1981 (pp. 185-200), p. 193. Professor Dybikowski in this passage formulates an objection to the thesis that Aristotelian and Platonic eudaimonia are happiness. The objection is that Plato and Aristotle were not sufficiently concerned with the person's own feelings or attitudes regarding her/himself, and Prof. Dybikowski argues against it. Our concern here is only to point out a peculiarity of the use of "eudaimonia."
8. A.W.H. Adkins, Merit and Responsibility: A Study in Greek Values. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1960.
9. Dybikowski, op. cit.
10. Prof. Dybikowski is quite right to note that for Plato education and justice have much to do with one's psychological states. The just person is blessed with a psychic harmony that the unjust person lacks. Nonetheless, Plato did not seem to think it necessary to point this out here. His whole argument with Polus turns not on enjoyment or self-satisfaction but with the well-being and health of the psuche.
11. Grube translation.
12. Translation by Hugh Tredennick.
13. Cf. Rep. 387b5 and 405a3.
14. Rep. 405a6-b1. Translation by Shorey.
15. At 560e5 the nominal form is used in this way when Socrates says of others that they call anarchian "eleutherian." Cf. 564a where (political) freedom is said to be greatest in a democracy.
16. Eudaimonia is internalized in the sense that the virtuous life either constitutes eudaimonia itself or constitutes the necessary and sufficient condition of it, where the virtuous life is understood as the life characterized by a virtuous psuche and the virtuous activity which it naturally manifests.
17. The Gorgias is generally regarded as being among the dialogues that express the views of the historic Socrates. Whether or not this is the case, there is clearly continuity between this argument and the view developed in the Republic.
18. I follow E.R. Dodds here in understanding apodedotai to mean "assigned as appropriate." Plato: Gorgias. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1959, p. 334.
19. Cf. Rep. 353e4-354a4.
20. E.R. Dodds, op. cit., p. 337.
21. Fragment 64, V. Rose, ed., Aristotelis Opera, ex recensione Immanuelis Bekkeri: Fragmenta (Berolini: Apud W. de Gruyter, 1960), the relevant portion of which is translated in The Complete Works of Aristotle edited by Jonathan Barnes (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), p. 2418.
22. Cf. Eryxias 393e (generally regarded as spurious), which identifies the eudaimonestatoi with "whoever fare/do (prattoien) most exceedingly well."
23. Arete is necessary because it is said to be the source of the good of everything that is good; there is nothing that is good except by virtue of arete: "Alla men agathoi ge esmen kai hemeis kai talla panta hos' agathoi estin, aretes tinos paragenomenes;" There is room to doubt whether arete is here claimed to be sufficient for being a good thing. It would not be said to be sufficient if this were consistent with having arete without being good. Greek syntax seems to allow this. (14) states that the four cardinal human aretai are sufficient for being a good person. This sufficiency is interpolated into the interpretation of (1) above to simplify the argument.
24. C.D.C. Reeve, Socrates in the Apology. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1989, p. 126, n. 23.
25. The sufficiency of arete for eudaimonia in Plato's philosophy is a thesis that has received much discussion in recent years. I treat virtuous activity as the natural manifestation of virtue, rather than as among the "misthoi of arete" as it were. Both arete and virtuous activity are components of the virtuous life, and it is a life that is typically called eudaimon. This line of thought leads me to substantial agreement with Professors Thomas Brickhouse and Nicholas Smith, to whom I owe much. They recently argued that for Plato virtue is an independent good and is so because it is conducive to happiness through its own agency, but that it is not sufficient for happiness "because virtuous activity can be thwarted by events which the virtuous person may be powerless to prevent" (p. 3 of "Socrates on Goods, Virtue, and Happiness" [in Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, Vol. V, edited by Julia Annas, Oxford, 1987]). As a result they conclude that virtue alone does not suffice for happiness; virtuous activity is required as well (p. 14, n. 18). In Socrates' case the activity is the examination of himself and others. The necessity of virtuous action for eudaimonia is attributed to Socrates by Prof. C.D.C. Reeve (op. cit., pp. 129-132) on the basis of passages like Chrm. 174b11-c3 and Euthyd. 280d1-7 & 282a1-4. But for Prof. Reeve, this virtuous activity is the exercise of the political craft, which he has Socrates identify with arete but which no human being possesses. Though virtue is sufficient for happiness, he claims, it is inaccessible. See Prof. Terence Irwin's Plato's Moral Theory (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1977) for a very different view.
26. Professors Gregory Vlastos and G.E.L. Owen pioneered the movement to explicate Platonic talk about degrees of being in terms of degrees to which something is qualifiedly F or unqualifiedly F. This approach seems to have gained dominance and is reflected in the commentaries of Professors Nicholas White (1979), Julia Annas (1981), and C.D.C. Reeve (1988). Contrast these commentaries with those by R.L. Nettleship (1901), N.R. Murphy (1951), and R.C. Cross & A.D. Woosley (1964).
27. The adversity at issue is adversity for one's psuche. The Platonic Socrates holds that doing injustice harms one's own psuche more than anything else one can do to one. See Apology 30c6-d5, Gorgias 475c7-9.
28. See "Eudaimonism Revisited" by George Nakhnikian (Political Theory, Vol. 7, 1979, pp. 267-279), p. 275.
29. Terence Irwin, Plato's Moral Theory: The Early and Middle Dialogues (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977), pp. 269-280.
30. Ibid., pp. 272-276.
31. Irwin, op. cit., p. 275.
32. Nakhnikian, op. cit., p. 275.
33. Nakhnikian, op. cit., p. 277.
34. It follows from this, together with a person's interest in associating only with the virtuous, that one should not own slaves. Plato does not seem to recognize this implication.
35. A.W.H. Adkins, From the Many to the One: A Study of Personality and View of Human Nature in the Context of Ancient Greek Society, Values, and Beliefs .Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1970. See also Bennet Simon's Mind and Madness in Ancient Greece (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1978), especially chapters 4 and 5. Simon notes that despite this perception of a man or woman as a field of contending forces, he or she is not seen as fragmented (p. 85).
36. Plato's image in the Phaedrus of the psuche comprising a charioteer with an unruly and a well-behaved steed graphically illustrates this struggle. (Phdr. 246b ff.)
37. Admittedly this way of putting it obscures the metaphysical unity of the psuche comprising the "community" of psychic agents and passions. But a community need not be fragmented; it can act as one.
38. John Clardy Kelly, "Virtue and Inwardness in Plato's Republic" (Ancient Philosophy, Vol. 9, 1989, pp. 189-205), p. 200.
40. Op. cit.
41. This formulation is influenced by Mortimer J. Adler's The Idea of Freedom (Garden City, NJ: Doubleday & Co., 1961). This study prepared by The Institute for Philosophical Research contains a careful discussion of competing conceptions of freedom in the West.