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Psychology for Sophists
I argue that in Plato's Protagoras, the ur-text for Socratic intellectualism, Socrates argues for, rather than assuming (as past interpreters have supposed), that we always do what we believe to be the best of our options. Socrates in fact introduces ‘we always do what we believe to be the best of our options’ as a hypothesis that would explain both how virtue is knowledge (his position) and how virtue is teachable (Protagoras') on the basis of a ‘highest’ hypothesis, ‘pleasure is the good’. The identification of the good with pleasure allows Socrates to remove the akrasia objection to the teachability of virtue and thereby to replace a popular conception of the agent as moved to act by the strongest of competing forces with a conception of the agent as a subject representing actions as good/better and bad/worse and acting on what appears best.