On the Good Life

Thinking through the Intermediaries in Plato's Philebus

By Cristina Ionescu

Subjects: Plato, Ancient Greek Philosophy, Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Ancient Greek Philosophy
Hardcover : 9781438475073, 216 pages, July 2019
Paperback : 9781438475066, 216 pages, July 2020

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Table of contents


1. The Unity of the Philebus: Metaphysical Assumptions of the Good Human Life

2. The Placement of Pleasure and Knowledge in the Fourfold Articulation of Reality

3. Hybrid Varieties of Pleasure: True Mixed Pleasures and False Pure Pleasures

4. The Nature of Pleasure: Absolute Standards of Replenishment and Due Measure

5. Pleasures of Learning and the Role of Due Measure in Experiencing Them

6. Plato’s Conception of Pleasure Confronting Three Aristotelian Critiques

Appendix. The Philebus’s Implicit Response to the Aporiai of Participation from the Parmenides


Argues that mediation is a central theme in this Platonic dialogue dedicated to the exploration of what it means to live a good life.


Plato's Philebus continues to fascinate us with its reflections on what it means to live a good life by aiming at the right combination of pleasure and knowledge. In this book, Cristina Ionescu argues that mediation is a central theme in the dialogue. Whether we talk about mediating between distinct ontological levels, between steps of reasoning, between pleasure and knowledge, between distinct types of pleasure, or between concrete circumstances and ideals, the steps in between remain essential to a good life. Focusing on ethical, epistemological, and metaphysical aspects of the dialogue, Ionescu occasionally steps beyond the letter of the text, while remaining faithful to its spirit, as she tries to illuminate what is only hinted at.

Cristina Ionescu is Associate Professor in the School of Philosophy at the Catholic University of America. She is the author of Plato's Meno: An Interpretation.


"Offering a genuinely new and profound interpretation, this is one of the most exciting and readable books on the Philebus I have encountered. It contributes very significantly to the field of ancient ethics, and Plato's ethics in particular. It also speaks very powerfully to perennial ethical and axiological concerns. Readers will almost certainly find Ionescu's close exegeses and her provocative speculative insights to be responsible yet creative, textually grounded yet inspired. Everywhere philosophically interesting, this book seems to me a force to be reckoned with. " — John V. Garner, author of The Emerging Good in Plato's Philebus