Based on his dissertation (Yale). -/- This is an argument that philosophy is born with and dependent on the idea of nature; and that this idea was first discovered or manifested in the perception of biological reality, in particular the perception of hereditary transmission of physical and behavioral qualities, together with the perception that moral and legal codes are relative and contingent. It was generally only within the spiritual and intellectual horizon of certain types of aristocracies to have access to (...) such perceptions, as well as ability and liberty to openly state or explore them. A connection is further observed, on these grounds, between philosophy and tyranny, or rather the philosopher and tyrant as closely related types that emerge during the decline of e.g., Greek and Renaissance Italian aristocratic communities. I make this case through a study of Nietzsche's reading of antiquity, in particular his reading of Plato and Pindar, or rather a Nietzschean reading of these. The first long chapter also covers George Frazer and anthropological and historical literature, as well as Homer. This is a revised version of my own doctoral dissertation, and includes a long new introduction explaining my intentions in this book. I make the case in this introduction that this same matter of selective breeding, whether sexual selection, or various societies' management of marriage and reproduction, constitutes the most important part of morality, legislation, or of the "lawgiver's art," and that a sharp awareness of this reality is what led, again, to the discovery of the standard of nature and the subsequent birth of philosophy. -/- The type of the tyrant is ultimately interpreted as a kind of "active philosophy," although it must be emphasized that such can only be the case for the ancient Greek or Renaissance Italian type, not what is called by the name "tyrant" indiscriminately today. Accordingly the voice of Callicles in Plato's Gorgias is interpreted as the political philosophy, or the weaponized posture of the pre-Socratic philosophical type. (shrink)
In this article, I approach some phenomena seen predominantly on social-media sites that are grouped together as cancel culture with guidance from two major themes in Plato’s thought. In the first section, I argue that shame can play a constructive and valuable role in a person’s improvement, just as we see Socrates throughout Plato’s dialogues use shame to help his interlocutors improve. This insight can help us understand the value of shaming people online for, among other things, their morally reprehensible (...) views. In the second section, I argue that it is required for the proper functioning of democratic institutions that some views be excluded from the public sphere, which follows some Platonic ideas from the Laws. In neither case do I argue that this approach is good in an unqualified sense or even ultima facie good. However, I maintain that these important insights from Plato’s dialogues illuminate crucial aspects of how we should think about cancel culture. (shrink)
In the introduction to the volume, the editors explain the overarching aim of the volume and contextualize the main themes of its chapters. Even if the notions of biopolitics and biopower have played a crucial role in philosophy, the humanities, and the social sciences over the last decades, they have been used in various and at times diverging senses, which has also produced different narratives about the history of biopolitics. The main aim of the volume is to clarify whether and (...) to what extent the concept of biopolitics is applicable to antiquity. To answer such questions, the chapters collected in the volume address three main topics, namely the possible presence of biopolitical discourse in ancient thought, the extent to which the application of a biopolitical approach to ancient thought requires qualifications, and some influential contemporary interpretations of the relation between biopolitics and antiquity. (shrink)
Throughout his political works, Plato takes the aim of politics to be the virtue and happiness of the citizens and the unity of the city. This paper examines the roles played by law in promoting individual virtue and civic unity in the Republic, Statesman, and Laws. Section 1 argues that in the Republic, laws regulate important institutions, such as education, property, and family, and thereby creating a way of life that conduces to virtue and unity. Section 2 argues that in (...) the Statesman, the political expert determines the mean between extremes and communicates it to citizens through laws that guide their judgment and conduct, so that they become virtuous themselves and the city is unified; this account of the role of law suggest how even non-expert legislation can contribute to virtue and unity. Section 3 argues that the Laws affirms and develops the idea that citizens should know and accept the laws to become virtuous themselves and to unify the city, and explains how the persuasive preludes and the sanction for violation attached to laws contribute to citizen virtue and civic unity. (shrink)
Plato often depicts Socrates inquiring together with an interlocutor into a thing/concept by trying to answer the “What is it?” question about that thing/concept. This typically involves Socrates requesting that his discussion partner answer the question, and usually ends in failure. There are, however, instances in which Socrates provides the sort of answer, in relation to a more familiar thing/concept, that he would like to receive in relation to a more obscure thing/concept, thus furnishing his interlocutor with an example of (...) how he would like him to answer. This chapter considers this dialectical tool by focusing on three instances of its use (Meno 73e3–76e4; Laches 191e9–192b3; Theaetetus 146e7–147c6). It argues, first, that in these instances Socrates provides true and adequate definitions of the things/concepts in question. It further argues that dialectic, for Plato, is just as much about the essences everyday things/concepts as it is about the essences of more obscure things/concepts; and that it is just as much about the meanings of the words we use to designate things, as it is about the essences of those things. (shrink)
In book II of Plato’s Republic, Socrates discusses the cities of necessity and luxury (372d-373a). Discussions of these cities have often focused on citizens desiring more than they need, which creates a demand for luxury. Yet the second part of the equation, which is not usually recognized, is that there must be sufficient supply to meet this demand. The focus of this article is on the importance of supply in the discussion of the first two cities in book II of (...) the Republic. This article argues that the way Plato models the cities makes it the case that a surplus above levels of necessity will be generated from time to time. That the unwanted surplus cannot be spontaneously disposed of entails that the first two cities are institutionally incomplete. A government is needed in order to coordinate the disposal of the surplus supply the city will produce. (shrink)
Plato’s survey in Laws book 3 of the development of human society from its earliest stages to the complex institutions of democratic Athens and monarchical Persia operates both as a conjectural history of human life and as a critical engagement with Greek political thought. The examples Plato uses to illustrate the stages of his stadial account, such as the society of the Cyclops and the myths of Spartan prehistory, are those used by other political theorists and philosophers, in some cases (...) also drawing on the presence of the same stories in classical Greek epic and tragedy. By incorporating his critique into a timeline Plato is able to suggest that some approaches are limited in scope to specific social conditions, whereas his Athenian Stranger presents his analysis from an external and superior viewpoint, looking down on human society from above. (shrink)
Abstract: In 1934 Gadamer delivered the lecture Plato und die Dichter. Its central topic was the relationship between poetry, philosophy and politics in Plato’s thought. Gadamer developed an original phenomenological investigation on Plato’s ethical-political philosophy and the role that art played in it, in which the dimension of language and the meaning of utopia are structural for his arguments. This article aims, in the first place, to elucidate some political dimensions of Plato und die Dichter. In order to do this, (...) I will carry out a critical review of Donatella Di Cesare’s and Dennis Schmidt’s contemporary readings of these aspects. In the conclusions, after briefly analysing in the third section the relationship between phrónēsis, aretḗ and andreía in the Platonic dialogues, I will try to demonstrate how these notions illuminate the question of the seduction of power (neglected by Schmidt in his reading of Gadamer’s Plato), as well as the inseparability of this problem with respect to the dialectical conception of utopia. It will be suggested that it is possible, from and beyond the Gadamerian reading of Plato, to rethink the idea of civil disobedience and the political value of the myth from standpoint of utopia. // Resumen: En 1934 Gadamer pronunció la conferencia Plato und die Dichter,cuyo tema central era la relación entre poesía, filosofía y política en el pensamiento platónico. Allí desarrolló una original investigación fenomenológica sobre la filosofía ético-política de Platón y el lugar que el arte ocupaba en ella, en la que la dimensión del lenguaje y el significado de la utopía son estructurales para sus argumentaciones. El presente artículo se propone, en primer lugar, elucidar algunos aspectos de la dimensión política de Plato und die Dichter. Para ello, se realizará una revisión crítica de las lecturas contemporáneas de estos aspectos por parte de Donatella Di Cesare y Dennis Schmidt. En las conclusiones, tras analizar brevemente en el tercer apartado la relación entre phrónēsis, aretḗ y andreía en los diálogos platónicos, intentaré demostrar cómo estas nociones alumbran la cuestión de la seducción del poder (descuidada por Schmidt en su lectura del Platón gadameriano), así como la inseparabilidad de este problema con respecto a la concepción dialéctica de la utopía. A partir de esto último se sugerirá que es posible, a partir y más allá de la lectura gadameriana de Platón, repensar la idea de “desobediencia civil” y el valor político del mito desde el punto de vista de la utopía. (shrink)
Resumo: Este artigo visa explorar a questão da educação em Platão a partir da contextualização histórica, pensando o modelo de Atenas, Lesbos e Esparta, e da perspectiva por onde uma má paideía, a baixa qualidade na formação de cidadãos, se torna a principal causa geradora da ruptura social. Foi feita, então, uma reflexão sobre as possibilidades de educação que atenienses de classes sociais distintas teriam e sobre a proposta platônica fundamentada na combinação entre a ginástica e a música, para que (...) se desenvolvesse um perfil de cidadão com ideais coletivos sólidos a ponto de se evitar a stásis. Palavras-chave: Platão, educação, dissensão, stásis, paideía. Abstract:This article aims to explore the question of education in Plato from the historical context, thinking the model of Athens, Lesbos and Sparta, and from the perspective where a bad paideía, the low quality in the formation of citizens, becomes the main generating cause of social disruption. Then, a reflection was made on the educational possibilities that Athenians from different social classes would have and on the Platonic proposal based on the combination of gymnastics and music, so that a citizen profile with solid collective ideals would be developed to the point of avoiding stásis. Keywords: Plato, education, dissension, stásis, paideía. (shrink)
The Protagoras examines how community can occur between people who have nothing in common. Community, Protagoras holds, has no natural basis. Seeking the good is therefore not a theoretical project, but a matter of agreement. This position follows from his claim that “man is the measure of all things.” For Socrates community is based on a natural good, which is sought through theoretical inquiry. They disagree about what community is, and what its bases and goals are. But Plato illustrates the (...) seriousness of Protagoras’s position through the repeated breakdown of their conversation. The dialogue leads us to question both speakers’ assumptions about community. Socrates must face the problem that not everything can be brought to language. Protagoras must recognize that there is a basis of community even in what cannot be shared. Community is grounded in an event that is both natural and not up to us, and cultural and articulate. (shrink)
The absence of any discussion of the virtue of piety in Plato’s Republic has been much remarked, but there are textual clues by which to recognize its importance for Plato’s construction and for the book’s intended effect. This dialogue is Socrates’s repetition, on the day after the first festival of Bendis, of a liturgical action that he undertook—at his own expense, at the “vote” of his “city”—on the previous day. Socrates’s activity in repeating it the next day is an “ethological” (...) mimesis of properly pious liturgy. In the course of that liturgy we find that piety is specifically discussed, but in a mirror, and darkly. The mirror of piety is the laws about stories of the gods. The absence is in the discussion of the best city, that is, one above aristocracy. (shrink)
Plato’s Laws include what H.L.A. Hart called the ‘classical thesis’ about the nature and role of law: the law exists to see that one leads a morally good life. This paper develops Hart’s brief remarks by providing a panorama of the classical thesis in Laws. This is done by considering two themes: (1) the extent to which Laws is paternalistic, and (2) the extent to which Laws is naturalistic. These themes are significant for a number of reasons, including because they (...) show how Laws might be viewed as a sophisticated forerunner of natural law theory. The upshot is that Plato's metaphysical commitments about legal ontology allow him to base the truth of legal propositions on the way they relate to the truth of corresponding moral propositions. (shrink)
At 252e1 to 253c9 in Plato’s Sophist, the Eleatic Visitor explains why philosophy is a science. Like the art of grammar, philosophical knowledge corresponds to a generic structure of discrete kinds and is acquired by systematic analysis of how these kinds intermingle. In the literature, the Visitor’s science is either understood as an expression of a mature and authentic platonic metaphysics, or as a sophisticated illusion staged to illustrate the seductive lure of sophistic deception. By showing how the Visitor’s account (...) of the science of philosophy is just as comprehensive, phantasmatic and self-concealing as the art of sophistry identified at the dialogue’s outset, this paper argues in favor of the latter view. (shrink)
Plato’s Apology opens with a distinction. By opposing his accusers’ deceitfulness to his own blunt truthfulness, Socrates distinguishes a philosophical manner of speech from its politico-forensic counterpart. This can be said to culminate at 17d3, where Socrates claims to be a stranger (xenos) to the manner of speech—the lexis (17d3)—of the court. He asks to be allowed to talk with his own voice (phônh), in his own way (tropos, cf. 17d5–18a3) and without making fine speeches (“kekalliepêmenous ge logous,” 17b9). In (...) contrast to the accusers’ claim that he is a clever or dangerous speaker (17b1: “deinou ontos legein”) Socrates asks to be excused for talking at random (eikê, 17c2). But wouldn’t this be exactly what a clever speaker should say? The question is as urgent as it is old. In recent research, there are two tendencies. Either Socrates is taken to be just like the clever speakers whose strategies he renounces or he is taken to be honest and truthful. In this paper, I shall call the defenders of these two tendencies Liars and Fanatics, and argue that the Apology’s treatment of the ideals of human discursivity shows that both, to a certain extent, have it right. (shrink)
Contributors to this volume focus on the character of Socrates as the embodiment of philosophy, employing this as a starting point for exploring various themes exposed in the Apology. These include the relation of philosophy to democracy, rhetoric, politics, or society in general, and the overarching question of what comprises the philosophic life.
For the last four decades, David Keyt has devoted substantial scholarly energy to the reconstruction of political and ethical arguments in Aristotle’s <i>Nicomachean Ethics</i> and <i>Politics</i>, and to a lesser degree the same in Plato’s <i>Republic</i>. Although Keyt’s translation of and commentary on <i>Politics</i> Books V and VI in the Aristotle Clarendon series (1999), to my mind, is his most substantial contribution to ancient philosophy scholarship, close competitors are his scholarly articles which seek to reconstruct the philosophical positions of Aristotle (...) (and to a lesser extent Plato) with pain-staking logical and philological care. <i>Nature and Justice</i> contains eleven such articles, eight previously published and three appearing for the first time. (Titles are listed at the end of the review.) Several of the articles are landmark works of Aristotle scholarship both for the scholarly controversies which they have sparked and for the methodological approach they exhibit. (shrink)
Analisi della possibile influenza esercitata dalla lettura di Platone su Freud, e in particolare della teoria del sogno come via per conoscere dei desideri precedentemnte "repressi" esposta nella "Repubblica".
Abstract: In this paper I claim that Plato’s Cave is fundamentally a political, not an epistemological image, and that only by treating it as such can we appreciate correctly its relation to the images of the Sun and the Line. On the basis of textual evidence, I question the two main assumptions that support (in my view, mistakenly) the effort to find an epistemological parallel between the Cave and the Line: first, that the prisoners represent humankind in general, and, second, (...) that the cave itself represents the visible world of ordinary experience while the world outside the cave represents the realm of the Forms. Disrupting these assumptions opens up a reading that highlights the cultural and political themes at play in this famous allegory and allows us to make better sense of it. -/- Keywords: Plato, Cave, Politics, Culture -/- Resumen: En este ensayo sostengo que la Caverna de Platón es fundamentalmente una alegoría política, no epistemológica, y que solo tratándola como tal, podremos apreciar correctamente la relación que guarda con las imágenes del Sol y de la Línea. Sobre la base de evidencia textual, pongo en duda las dos hipótesis principales sobres las que se funda (a mi parecer, equivocadamente) el esfuerzo por encontrar un paralelo epistemológico entre la Caverna y la Línea: la primera, que los prisioneros representan a la humanidad en general, y la segunda, que la propia caverna representa el mundo visible de la experiencia corriente, mientras que el mundo fuera de la caverna representa el reino de las Ideas. La suspensión de estos supuestos posibilita una lectura que pone de relieve los temas culturales y políticos que están en juego en esta famosa alegoría y nos permite así entenderla mejor. -/- Palabras Clave: Platón, Caverna, Política, Cultura . (shrink)
In Plato’s Laws, the Athenian Stranger maintains that law should consist of both persuasion (πειθώ) and compulsion (βία) (IV.711c, IV.718b-d, and IV.722b). Persuasion can be achieved by prefacing the laws with preludes (προοίμια), which make the citizens more eager to obey the laws. Although scholars disagree on how to interpret the preludes’ persuasion, they agree that the preludes instill true beliefs and give citizens good reasons for obeying the laws. In this paper I refine this account of the preludes by (...) arguing that the primary purpose of the preludes is to motivate correct action, and that for citizens who lack rational-governance this is achieved via useful false beliefs. That is to say, in many cases, the prelude functions as a “noble lie” (γενναῖον ψεῦδος). (shrink)
Plato’s Protagoras contains, among other things, three short but puzzling remarks on the media of philosophy. First, at 328e5–329b1, Plato makes Socrates worry that long speeches, just like books, are deceptive, because they operate in a discursive mode void of questions and answers. Second, at 347c3–348a2, Socrates argues that discussion of poetry is a presumptuous affair, because, the poems’ message, just like the message of any written text, cannot be properly examined if the author is not present. Third, at 360e6–361d6, (...) it becomes clear that even if the conversation between Socrates and Protagoras was conducted by means of short questions and answers, this spoken mode of discourse is problematic too, because it ended up distracting the inquiry from its proper course. As this paper 2 sets out to argue, Plato does not only make Socrates articulate these worries to exhibit the hazards of discursive commodifi cation. In line with Socrates’ warning to the young Hippocrates of the dangers of sophistic rhetoric, and the sophists’ practice of trading in teachings, they are also meant to problematize the thin line between philosophical and sophistical practice. By examining these worries in the light of how the three relevant modes of discourse are exemplifi ed in the dialogue, this paper aims to isolate and clarify the reasons behind them in terms of deceit, presumptuousness and distraction; and to argue that these reasons cast doubts on the common assumption that the dialogue’s primary aim is to show how sophistical rhetoric must succumb to Socratic dialectic. (shrink)
This study asks after the fate of sophistry in the Eleatic Stranger's investigation of the best of the six regimes governed by law, and outlines as far as possible the role of the rhetor under the supervision of the true statesman, as well as the function and effects of myth on the citizens of the best regime. In short, I argue that Socrates' competitors do, in a qualified manner, still have a place in such a polis precisely where the work (...) of gathering intelligence finds its civic limit. (shrink)
An important argument in favour of recognising the cultural relativism and against universality of dignity and human rights, is the claim that the concept of dignity is a genuinely modern one. An analysis of a passage from the Demiurge’s speech in Timaeus reveals that Plato devoted time to reflecting on the question of what determines the qualitative difference between certain beings (gods and human being) and the world of things, and what forms the basis for the special treatment of these (...) beings – issues that using the language of today can be described reasonably as dignity. The attributes of this form of dignity seem to overlap with the nature of dignity as we know it today. Moreover, Plato proposes a response both to the question of what dignity is like, as well as the question of what dignity is. It is existential perfection, rooted in a perfect manner of existence, based on a specific internal unity of being. Dignity is therefore primordial in regard to particular features and independent of their acquisition or loss. Plato’s approach allows him to postulate that people be treated as ends in themselves; an approach therefore that prohibits the treatment of people as objects. Both the state and law are ultimately subordinated to the good of the individual, rather than the individual to the good of the state. -/- Istotny argument na rzecz relatywizmu kulturowego i przeciwko powszechności godności i wynikających z niej praw człowieka, oparty jest na poglądzie, że godność uznana została dopiero w czasach nowożytnych. Analiza fragmentu mowy Demiurga z Platońskiego dialogu Timajos ujawnia, że Platon rozwinął refleksję nad czymś, co stanowi o jakościowej różnicy między pewnymi istotami (bogami i ludźmi) a światem rzeczy, i co jest podstawą szczególnego traktowania tych istot, a co językiem współczesnym zasadnie można określić jako godność. Zbieżna jest charakterystyka tej godności z charakterystyką przyjmowaną współcześnie. Co więcej, Platon daje propozycję odpowiedzi nie tylko na pytanie, jaka jest godność, ale także na pytanie, czym jest godność. Jest ona doskonałością egzystencjalną, ugruntowanym w szczególnie doskonałym sposobie istnienia, opartym na szczególnej wewnętrznej jedności bytu. Jako doskonałość istnienia ogarnia ona cały byt, wszystkie jego cechy; jest nieoddzielalna od bytu (jest przyrodzona i niezbywalna). Jako pierwotna wobec partykularnych cech, jest niezależna od ich nabywania lub utraty. Platońskie ujęcie pozwala w oparciu o ujęcie godności formułować postulaty zbieżne z formułowanymi dziś dyrektywami nakazującymi traktować osoby jako cele same w sobie i zakazującymi traktowania osób w sposób czysto instrumentalny, przedmiotowy. Okazuje się, że – zdaniem Platona – jednostki nie wolno traktować czysto instrumentalnie dla dobra państwa; zarówno państwo, jak i prawo są podporządkowane dobru jednostki. (shrink)
Like Leo Strauss and Karl Popper, most readers take it that one cannot have a political reading of the Republic at all, except by interest in Plato’s attitude toward the proposals developed by Socrates and his interlocutors. But this is not true. I do not mean that it is a good idea to cultivate apathy concerning Plato’s attitudes to sexual equality, private property, food, war, and so on. I mean that there is this possibility mentioned by Stanley Rosen, that “Plato (...) speaks in the story he tells, not in the arguments he assigns to his dramatis personae.”1 That possibility, more usually deployed against Popper, might also worry Strauss. For it is not obvious that treating Socrates as Plato’s satirical voice is any.. (shrink)
In the Gorgias, Socrates argues that just punishment, though painful, benefits the unjust person by removing injustice from her soul. This paper argues that Socrates thinks the true judge (i) will never use corporal punishment, because such procedures do not remove injustice from the soul; (ii) will use refutations and rebukes as punishments that reveal and focus attention on psychological disorder (= injustice); and (iii) will use confiscation, exile, and death to remove external goods that facilitate unjust action.
This paper argues that the creation of Kallipolis and the educational progamme designed therein should be read in the context of one branch of Plato’s critique of Athenian democracy; namely, its employment of the Laconizing trope prominent in Politeia literature in order to identify and radicalize the desires innervated by an idealized vision of Spartan unity. In particular, it aims to show that the discussion of sexual difference in the famous first wave of Book 5, as well as the peculiar (...) conception of phusis on which the foundation of Kallipolis rests and the account of familial discord so decisive for the distinct moments of its demise, should be read in light of the service they perform to Plato’s reframing of ownership. (shrink)
Three problems threaten any account of philosophical rule in the Republic. First, Socrates is supposed to show that acting justly is always beneficial, but instead he extols the benefits of having a just soul. He leaves little reason to believe practical justice and psychic justice are connected and thus to believe that philosophers will act justly. In response to this problem, I show that just acts produce just souls. Since philosophers want to have just souls, they will act justly. Second, (...) Socrates’ alleged aim is to demonstrate that justice is beneficial, but philosophers, who have to give up a life of philosophy to rule, actually appear to be harmed by ruling. I explain that, since the founders of the city justly command them to rule, philosophers cannot, in fact, obtain a better life, and so ruling does not harm them. Third, it seems incongruous that philosophers, who should, as just people, jump at the opportunity to rule Kallipolis, must be compelled to rule. I show that Plato carefully constructs an educational system that produces rulers who do not want to rule, since such rulers alone will rule best. (shrink)
Thrasymachus versus Socrates on philosophy and political action -- 1647: the history of the leveller-agitators and the new model army -- Hobbes' and Locke's metaphysics: substances no longer act, institutions act -- Hobbes and Locke on religious conflict: when institutions act, subjects act -- Hobbes and Locke on politics: sovereign action and contractual action -- Unveiling the forgotten model: the leveller-agitators on joint action.
The gods, however, took pity on the human race, born to suffer as it was, and gave it relief in the form of religious festivals to serve as periods of rest from its labors. They gave us the Muses, with Apollo their leader, and Dionysus; by having these gods to share their holidays, men were to be made whole again . . .That Plato1 regarded music as an extremely powerful means to cultivate morality and good citizenship is well-known.2 In the (...) Laws we are told that musical license is the chief reason for political license, and in the Republic Socrates insists that music education is the greatest bulwark of a polis.3 The Platonic corpus is also peppered with striking suggestions that the well-educated soul is, above .. (shrink)
Plato noticed a sizeable problem apropos of establishing his republic—that there was always a ready pool of zealous potential rulers, lying in wait for a suitable opportunity to rule on their own tyrannical terms. He also recognized that those persons best suited to rule, those persons with foursquare and unimpeachable virtue, would be least motivated to govern. Ruling a polis meant that those persons, fully educated and in complete realization that the most complete happiness comprises solitary study of things unchanging, (...) would have to compromise their happiness for the wellbeing of their polis and of the people in it. Plato’s solution, in effect that the aristoi would merely recognize their duty to sacrifice personal happiness for the happiness of the polis, has perplexed and continues today to perplex scholars. Like Plato, Jefferson recognized that there was always a pool of eager sharks, ready to govern. His republicanism, comprising a ward system and general education, was founded on the fullest participation of its citizenry, suitably educated and a governing aristoi. The true aristoi, the “natural aristoi”, are the intelligent and virtuous and that government is best which allows for a “pure selection” of the natural aristoi into the governing offices. Nonetheless, as Jefferson’s own life shows, non-parochial governing meant being rent from domestic tranquility, being forced to leave behind one’s personal affairs to decay, and being tossed willy-nilly into the coliseum of nonstop political wrangling. Why would anyone, particularly one wanting to be happy, wish to govern? Thus, Jefferson faced the same problem that Plato faced. How could a state be structured so that the wisest and most virtuous would be motivated to rule? In this paper, I argue that Jefferson, in full recognition of the problem of encouraging the most intelligent and virtuous to govern, the problem of public service, offers a solution that is remarkably Platonic. (shrink)
The article argues that the Euthydemus shows the essential connection between sophistry, right usage of language, and politics. It shows how the sophistic use of language correlates with the manners of politics which Plato associates with the sophists. First, it proceeds by showing the explicit criticism of both brothers, for they seem unable to fulfill the task given to them. Second, several times in the dialogue Socrates criticizes the sophists’ use of language, since it is totally inappropriate to fulfill the (...) above-mentioned pedagogical task. I will show that this critique mirrors a deeper conflict between two different conceptions of language. Finally, the article suggests that the sophistic erroneous use of language has direct implications on their political theory, which Plato criticizes inthe Euthydemus as well as in the Republic. (shrink)
In Book II of the Republic, Socrates briefly depicts a city where each inhabitant contributes to the welfare of all by performing the role for which he or she is naturally suited. Socrates calls this city the `true city ' and the `healthy one'. Nearly all commentators have argued that Socrates' praise of the city cannot be taken at face value, claiming that it does not represent Socrates' preferred community. The point of this paper is to argue otherwise. The claim (...) is that Socrates genuinely believes the city is a healthy and desirable city, and that he believes that the First City is in fact superior to the Kallipolis. (shrink)
Introduction -- The Minos and the Socratic examination of law -- The rational interpretation of divine law -- The examination of laws of Sparta -- Divine law and moral education -- The problem of erotic love and practical reason under divine law -- Perfect justice and divine providence -- The savior of the law.
The Statesman is a difficult and puzzling Platonic dialogue. In A Stranger's Knowledge Marquez argues that Plato abandons here the classic idea, prominent in the Republic, that the philosopher, qua philosopher, is qualified to rule. Instead, the dialogue presents the statesman as different from the philosopher, the possessor of a specialist expertise that cannot be reduced to philosophy. The expertise is of how to make a city resilient against internal and external conflict in light of the imperfect sociality of human (...) beings and the poverty of their reason. This expertise, however, cannot be produced on demand: one cannot train statesmen like one might train carpenters. Worse, it cannot be made acceptable to the citizens, or operate in ways that are not deeply destructive to the city's stability. Even as the political community requires his knowledge for its preservation, the genuine statesman must remain a stranger to the city. Marquez shows how this impasse is the key to understanding the ambiguous reevaluation of the rule of law that is the most striking feature of the political philosophy of the Statesman. The law appears here as a mere approximation of the expertise of the inevitably absent statesman, dim images and static snapshots of the clear and dynamic expertise required to steer the ship of state across the storms of the political world. Yet such laws, even when they are not created by genuine statesmen, can often provide the city with a limited form of cognitive capital that enables it to preserve itself in the long run, so long as citizens, and especially leaders, retain a “philosophical” attitude towards them. It is only when rulers know that they do not know better than the laws what is just or good (and yet want to know what is just and good) that the city can be preserved. The dialogue is thus, in a sense, the vindication of the philosopher-king in the absence of genuine political knowledge. (shrink)
The _Statesman _is a difficult and puzzling Platonic dialogue. In _A Stranger's Knowledge_ Marquez argues that Plato abandons here the classic idea, prominent in the _Republic_, that the philosopher, _qua_ philosopher, is qualified to rule. Instead, the dialogue presents the statesman as _different _from the philosopher, the possessor of a specialist expertise that cannot be reduced to philosophy. The expertise is of how to make a city resilient against internal and external conflict in light of the imperfect sociality of human (...) beings and the poverty of their reason. This expertise, however, cannot be produced on demand: one cannot train statesmen like one might train carpenters. Worse, it cannot be made acceptable to the citizens, or operate in ways that are not deeply destructive to the city’s stability. Even as the political community requires his knowledge for its preservation, the genuine statesman must remain a stranger to the city. Marquez shows how this impasse is the key to understanding the ambiguous reevaluation of the rule of law that is the most striking feature of the political philosophy of the _Statesman_. The law appears here as a mere approximation of the expertise of the inevitably absent statesman, dim images and static snapshots of the clear and dynamic expertise required to steer the ship of state across the storms of the political world. Yet such laws, even when they are not created by genuine statesmen, can often provide the city with a limited form of cognitive capital that enables it to preserve itself in the long run, so long as citizens, and especially leaders, retain a “philosophical” attitude towards them. It is only when rulers know that they do not know better than the laws what is just or good that the city can be preserved. The dialogue is thus, in a sense, the vindication of the philosopher-king in the absence of genuine political knowledge. (shrink)
Plato’s Republic is a political thought experiment, claims the present paper. Thought-experimenting is announced in the story of the Ring of Gyges, and done in a thorough and systematic way through a series of political scenarios: community of goods, of women and children, educational system and the philosopher rule? The paper considers the longstanding issue of plausibility, putting it in the context of current debates about thought-experiments, and the issue of replaceability: can a given political thought experiment be replaced by (...) an argument which features only norms and empirical information? The paper also puts the Republic thought experiment into a broad historical context, presenting it as the point of origin of utopian literature on the one hand, and the thought-experimental tradition in political philosophy on the other hand, contrasting it with the social-contract thought-experiment, also adumbrated in the Republic but fully developed in modern thought. (shrink)
The challenge from the sophists with whom Plato is confronted is: Who can prove that the just man without power is happy whereas the unjust man with power is not? This challenge concerns the basic issue of politics: the relationship between justice and happiness. Will the unjust man gain the exceptional happiness of the strong by abusing his power and by injustice? The gist of Plato’s reply is to speak not of justice but of intrinsic justice, i.e., the strength of (...) virtue which, in his account, is the fundamental good of man. Nevertheless, many contend that intrinsic justice is actually injustice, for the division of power in the state is undemocratic while in the soul, the suppression of desire by the reason. Plato’s advocacy of hierarchical, elite political system has enraged democrats, while his idea of philosopher king has enraged the aristocrats as well. So, who will appreciate Plato’s effort? (shrink)
We have built our understanding of politics (the understanding that is today, letting us down) on a one-sided understanding of freedom as the ability or capacity to do as we wish, and have forgotten the role that self-discipline—self-control and self-mastery—have in ensuring real freedom. And we have done this at the same time as losing our capacity to think of polhics in terms of the virtues and vices of our ruling elites. To rectify these connected failures we need to look (...) again at Plato's politics. (shrink)