The Philebus is the only Platonic dialogue that takes as its central theme the fundamental Socratic question of the good, understood as that which makes for the best or happiest life. It offers an extended psychological and epistemological investigation of such topics as sensation, memory, desire, anticipation, the truth and falsity of pleasures, and the types and gradations of knowledge, as well as a methodological exposition of dialectic and a metaphysical schema—found nowhere else in the dialogues—that is intended to illuminate the nature of mixture. In its interweaving of ethical, metaphysical, and epistemological issues, the Philebus offers a unique opportunity to assess the relation of these topics in Plato’s mature thought and so to gain insight into his philosophical vision as a whole. This edition also includes parallel passages from other Platonic dialogues and related material from Aristotle, the Stoics, and Epicurus.
“James L. Wood has devoted himself to understanding and explaining the Philebus. The result is this accomplished translation, together with plentiful explanatory notes about Plato’s language and argument, and a series of appendices containing long quotes from Plato and Aristotle on topics related to those covered in this dialogue. The translation has an engaging near-literal quality that can give surprisingly transparent glimpses into Plato’s Greek, in a way reminiscent of Allan Bloom’s Republic. A lot of people will want to have this book, both newcomers to Plato and his long-time readers.” — Nickolas Pappas, Executive Officer, Philosophy, CUNY Graduate Center
“James Wood’s translation of, and commentary on, Plato’s Philebus is a valuable resource for anyone who has the intellectual stamina to tackle one of the more difficult works in the history of Greek Philosophy. His introduction is lucid and engaging, and his translation succeeds in achieving his goal of striking ‘a balance between faithfulness and readability, with an emphasis on the former.’ His series of appendices provides companion texts, not only from Plato, but also from Aristotle, Epicurus and the Stoics. These help the reader to see the issues addressed in the Philebus—the good life, pleasure, knowledge and the metaphysical framework that holds them all together—in a broader context. In sum, Wood’s book is a fine piece of work.” — David Roochnik, Maria Stata Professor of Classical Greek Studies, Boston University