SOPhiA 2021

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Cutting off the Head of a Hydra: Plato on the Insatiability of Desire
(History of Philosophy, )

In the Republic, Plato describes our appetitive desires as insatiable. I argue that it is this feature of desire, whatever it turns out to be, that is Plato's chief worry about desires being left to themselves. Thus, if we are to understand what motivates Plato to develop a system of education that shapes our desires, we must understand in what sense he takes them to be insatiable. This talk presents an answer to this question, according to which our desires are insatiable in that they grow always more intense and numerous upon resurfacing. After considering two tempting but mistaken readings, we introduce our own. We explain what it means for the desires to become more numerous, saying that desires fragment into ``sub-desires'', with desires and sub-desires standing in a genus-species relation. We then explain why Plato finds this worrisome, arguing that the fragmentation of desire necessarily harms the soul. With the reading of insatiability laid out, we go on to explain why Plato thought of the desires as insatiable in this way. We argue that the increases in intensity and multiplicity are due to the spirited and rational parts, respectively, taking on the appetitive desires as their own. We conclude by drawing out a remarkable consequence of our view, namely that it justifies the Republic's central thesis of the goodness of the just life.

Chair: Karol Lenart
Time: 15:20-15:50, 11 September 2021 (Saturday)
Location: SR 1.007
Remark: (Online Talk)

Alec Sault 
(University of Victoria, Canada)

I am an undergraduate student of math and philosophy at the University of Victoria. I am also a senior teaching assistance in math and research assistant to Dr. Michael Raven. In philosophy, my main interests are in metaphysics, philosophy of math and logic, and ancient philosophy (especially Aristotle).

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