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Workshop: Socratic eudaimonia and the care for others

An event sponsored by the International Society for Socratic Studies

Verona, April 8-9, 2020

Despite the appearances given by certain texts, the moral psychology of Socrates need not imply selfishness. On the contrary, a close look at passages in Plato and Xenophon (see Plato, Meno 77-78, Protagoras 358, Gorgias 466-468, Euthydemus 278, Lysis 219; Xenophon, Memorabilia 3.9.4-5) suggests that the egoist’s welfare depends upon the welfare of others (i.e. family or friends). Since the welfare of the egoist’s family and friends is part of the egoist’s own eudaimonia, the egoist has a direct and intrinsic motive to promote the welfare of these others.

The workshop will explore the role that other peoples’ welfare plays in Socratic ethics. Special attention will be paid to test-cases in which the principle that moral action is always good for the agent seems to have no validity. I.e., under which circumstances is the self-sacrifice for the sake of others (such as the soldier’s self-sacrifice on the battlefield) good for the agent (as in Alcibiades I 115a-116d)? We will discuss contradictions or tensions of this sort, and relate them to more general views on eudaimonia held within Socratic literature. Comparison between different Socratic authors will be used as a means to identify the distinctive features of Socratic eudaimonia if compared to other Greek theories of happiness, such as the Aristotelian theory of philautia (NE IX, 1166a-1166b; 1168a-1169b).


(Photo: "Empty Boardroom" by Reynermedia, licensed under CC BY 2.0)