Plato'S Theory Of Absolute Happiness

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Introduction Plato’s point of view about happiness is clearly seen mostly in his Middle Dialogues. One of his central claims which is expressed in his play The Republic is that justice is not only desirable for its own sake, but that it actually maximizes the happiness of those who practice it. This essay will examine Plato’s arguments in support of this thesis, firstly to determine what he means by happiness, to what extent it exists in his proposed ideal state, and whether this in any way supports his claims about the benefits of justice. In particular, I will argue that there are two different conceptions of happiness at his play The Republic , and two methods of achieving its highest form, namely justice and philosophy, before arriving at a final definition of the Platonic ‘form’ of happiness – a matter that Plato touches on only briefly in the text, but that is nevertheless central to his thinking on the subject. Happiness and Pleasure The first and most important question that must be asked is what does Plato mean by happiness? The word used to describe it most often in the text is eudaimonia , which may also be translated as ‘flourishing’ 1. This implies a process or form of activity, whereas ‘happiness’ tends to suggest a state of mind or an emotion ranging from satisfaction through to absolute joy. However, it would be a mistake to focus too much on this distinction as Plato uses the word more or less interchangeably with ‘pleasure’, and eudaimonia also carries the same hedonistic connotations as the English word ‘happiness’. In accordance with the central analogy of the Republic between the state and the soul, however, eudaimonia can be equally well applied to both. Indeed, Socrates states several times that flourishing related to society is more important than the happiness of any individual class. As he said: “our aim in founding the city is not to
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