02 April 2007

Does Socrates Have a View about Eudaimonia in the Apology?

On the relation between virtue and happiness in the Apology... Wouldn't the simple first step be to check Socrates' usage of eudaimonia in the dialogue? Senn doesn't do this. I looked at Reeve's discussion (Socrates in the Apology), and he doesn't do it (he turns to the Euthydemus or other dialogues). And I looked at a few other randomly selected sources and, strangely, could find no such thing.

Anyway, there are four occurrences. Here's my TLG search. I'll paste it in, links and all, for your convenience. (English texts below.)

1. Plato Phil., Apologia Socratis. {0059.002} Stephanus page 25 section b line 7. (Browse)
pa&ntwj dh&pou, e0a&nte su_ kai\ 1Anutoj ou)

fh~te e0a&nte fh~te: pollh_ ga_r a1n tij eu)daimoni/a ei1h peri\

tou_j ne/ouj ei0 ei[j me\n mo&noj au)tou_j diafqei/rei, oi9 d' a1lloi

2. Plato Phil., Apologia Socratis. {0059.002} Stephanus page 36 section d line 9. (Browse)

ei1 tij u(mw~n i3ppw| h2 sunwri/di h2 zeu&gei neni/khken 0Olumpi/a-

sin: o( me\n ga_r u(ma~j poiei= eu)dai/monaj dokei=n ei]nai, e0gw_ de\

(e.) ei]nai, kai\ o( me\n trofh~j ou)de\n dei=tai, e0gw_ de\ de/omai. ei0

3. Plato Phil., Apologia Socratis. {0059.002} Stephanus page 41 section c line 4. (Browse)

diale/gesqai kai\ sunei=nai kai\ e0ceta&zein a)mh&xanon a2n ei1h

eu)daimoni/aj; pa&ntwj ou) dh&pou tou&tou ge e3neka oi9 e0kei=

a)poktei/nousi: ta& te ga_r a1lla eu)daimone/steroi/ ei0sin oi9 e0kei= (5)

4. Plato Phil., Apologia Socratis. {0059.002} Stephanus page 41 section c line 5. (Browse)

eu)daimoni/aj; pa&ntwj ou) dh&pou tou&tou ge e3neka oi9 e0kei=

a)poktei/nousi: ta& te ga_r a1lla eu)daimone/steroi/ ei0sin oi9 e0kei= (5)

tw~n e0nqa&de, kai\ h1dh to_n loipo_n xro&non a)qa&natoi/ ei0sin, ei1per

(There's also
emakarisa used in a sense similar to 1. at 20b9 here.)

Some puzzles.

1. and 3. use eudaimonia to indicate a blessing, or 'stroke of good fortune', that happens apart from anything we are striving for. (It just turns out that, unlike every other case, being an expert is the rule in the cultivation of character in youths. It just turns out that the afterlife is an unending conversation with great men about philosophical topics.) In these passages, then, eudaimonia is not a 'good attainable through our own efforts.' (One of our 'distinctions in goodness' proves to be a useful tool!) However, 2. uses the word to indicate something that Socrates can produce. (Or is that said only to make a rhetorical parallel, and what Socrates means is that he produces what leads to eudaimonia, or might aptly be blessed with eudaimonia?--It doesn't matter. Even so, it would show that Socrates does not regard himself obliged to keep to any consistent usage.) --Or does Socrates mean 'I make you happy' in the sense that 'I am a blessing sent by the god for you', in which case 1. and 3. actually are compatible?

4. seems to carry along the implicature that some people 'here' are happy, at least in some respects (whatever that might mean). Maybe Socrates has in mind that some persons here are happy to the degree that they are virtuous. However, given the proximity of 4. to 3., wouldn't one expect the word to carry a similar sense in both instances? So then presumably it means that the men 'over there' are 'blessed', not directly through their own efforts, in various ways other than being immortal--and that some men 'here' are to some extent blessed. But then how would that point fit into Socrates' larger claim, that the men 'over there' won't want to execute Socrates for spending his time in philosophical dicussions?

Isn't it a bit odd in 2. that, after talking about happiness, Socrates next talks about his neediness?--One would think that the argument presupposes that he is happy (which is why he can make others happy), and yet wouldn't it be strange for him to say in the same breath that he is needy?

What conclusion might one draw from all this? Wouldn't it be that Socrates simply does not express any considered philosophical view about happiness in the Apology? We're likely forcing the text to look for one. If he has any view at all, it's that happiness is a gift or blessing, which we cannot attain through our own efforts, but which perhaps 'happens' to us if we are virtuous. But, even still, it seems a stretch to say that this is Socrates' view of happiness in the dialogue.

1. Certainly it is, whether you and Anytus deny it or agree; for it would be a great state of blessedness in the case of the youth if one alone corrupts them, and the others do them good.

2. For he makes you seem to be happy, whereas I make you happy in reality; and he is not at all in need of sustenance, but I am needy.

3. To converse and associate with them and examine them would be immeasurable happiness.

4. At any rate, the folk there do not kill people for it; since, if what we are told is true, they are immortal for all future time, besides being happier in other respects than men are here.


Anonymous said...

In considering whether or not Socrates expresses in the Apology a view about what is happiness (eudaimonia), is it enough to look only at those passages where he actually uses the word "eudaimonia"? After all, weren't ancient Greeks generally "eudaimonists" - i.e., didn't they all generally agree (as Aristotle points out in his Ethics) that a person's eudaimonia is determined just by what is good for that person. If so, then, in looking in the Apology for Socrates' view about the nature of happiness, hadn't we better also look at all those passages where he speaks of what is "good" (and "bad") and "harmful" (and "beneficial") for a person?

Michael Pakaluk said...

From an Aristotelian point of view, Socrates' comments about 'good' wouldn't help, so much as his comments about the highest, or best, or ultimate good. But is there anything like that in the Apology?--Not his comments about the priority of virtue over bodily goods and possessions!

From what someone says about what he takes to be good or bad, precious little can be deduced about his view of happiness. E.g. I think it's bad to catch the flu, and good to drink fresh as opposed to spoiled milk. But what follows from that?

Anonymous said...

In the first passage Michael quotes (25b), happiness is, I think, supposed to be a good attainable thru human efforts. As Michael's own 28 March posts seems to suggest, to make a person good/better (virutous/more virtuous) is do them a great benefit. Surely 25b is meant to suggest that if all Athenians save one were able to make the young good (virutous) and actually did so, then (at least most of) the young would thereby be made happy - i.e., thru the efforts of those who have this art.

(Once one sees this, it really is extraordinary that Socrates - who otherwise is anxious to profess ignorance especially about virtue - actually claims to make the Athenians happy (the 2nd passage Michael quotes, 36d-e). I agree with Michael that it is hard to see just what he may mean by that....)

I think that this at least suggests a conclusion no less plausible than the one Michael comes to in his 2 April post. First of all, we know that Socrates urges us all to try to attain virtue. A natural explanation for this would be that Socrates believes being virtuous will make us happy (especially given that 25b suggests, as I've explained above, that if the young were made virtuous then they would be happy). But this means that we may, according to Socrates, be happy through our own efforts. What else would be the point of his constant urging to aspire to virtue?

Furthermore, this suggests that his claims about virtue in the Apology are indeed connected to a view about what happiness is - or at least to a view about what condition is necessary and (by the look of things) sufficient for happiness.