Forcing goodness in Plato's republic

Social Philosophy and Policy 24 (2):21-39 (2007)
Abstract
Among the instances of apparent illiberality in Plato's Republic, one stands out as especially curious. Long before making a forced return to the cave, and irrespective of the kinds of compulsion operative in such a homecoming, the philosopher-king has been compelled to apprehend the Good (Rep. VII.519c5-d2, 540a3-7). Why should compulsion be necessary or appropriate in this situation? Schooled intensively through the decades for an eventual grasping of the Good, beginning already with precognitive training in music and art calculated to equip the guardian with a natural affinity towards the good and beautiful (Rep. III.401d3-402a4), the fully mature guardian might be expected to leap towards the Good when it is first opportune. For the Good is, according to Plato, the greatest thing to be learned (megiston mathêma; Rep. VI.504e4-5, 505a2). Reflection on these questions permits us to develop a richer appreciation of the forms of necessitation and compulsion Plato envisages for his guardians, which turn out to be primarily merely hypothetical instances of nomic necessitation. It follows that many of Plato's appeals to compulsion are neither coercive nor objectionably authoritarian. Footnotesa I thank the participants in the Liberty Fund Conference on Ancient Political Theory, held in San Diego, California in 2006, for their helpful and spirited criticisms. Still more do I thank Fred Miller and David Keyt, whose incisive written comments improved an earlier draft of this essay in countless ways. Finally, I am indebted to Ellen Wagner, who first permitted me to see the importance of questions regarding prepolitical necessitation for our understanding of Plato's Republic and from whose paper on this topic I have benefited enormously. (See note 5 below.).
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