In Laws book X Plato tries to give us conclusive evidence that there are at least two gods (one good and the other bad). The reasoning depends crucially on the idea of ‘self moving motion.’ In this paper I try to show that the ‘evidence’ is not persuasive. (Nevertheless, the idea of ‘self – moving motion is interesting.).
In this article, I make the case for the continued relevance of Plato’s Timaeus. I begin by sketching Allan Bloom’s picture of the natural sciences today in The Closing of the American Mind, according to which the natural sciences are, objectionably, increasingly specialized and have ejected humans qua humans from their purview. I argue that Plato’s Timaeus, despite the falsity of virtually all of its scientific claims, provides a model for how we can pursue scientific questions in a comprehensive way (...) that stresses their connections to other disciplines, including the humanities, and that puts humanity qua humanity back in the picture. I then argue that being led by Plato’s philosophy to return humanity conceptually to the natural world can improve our thinking regarding climate change and other important environmental crises. (shrink)
This book sheds new light on Plato's cosmology in relation to Greek religion by examining the contested distinction between the traditional and cosmic gods. A close reading of the later dialogues shows that the two families of gods are routinely deployed to organise and structure Plato's accounts of the origins of the universe and of humanity and its social institutions, and to illuminate the moral and political ideals of philosophical utopias. Vilius Bartninkas argues that the presence of the two kinds (...) of gods creates a dynamic, yet productive, tension in Plato's thinking which is unmistakable and which is not resolved until the works of his students. Thus the book closes by exploring how the cosmological and religious ideas of Plato's later dialogues resurfaced in the Early Academy and how the debates initiated there ultimately led to the collapse of this theological distinction. (shrink)
I argue that Plato thinks that the soul has location, surface, depth, and extension, and that the Timaeus’ composition of the soul out of eight circles is intended literally. A novel contribution is the development of an account of corporeality that denies the entailment that the soul is corporeal. I conclude by examining Aristotle’s objection to the Timaeus’ psychology and then the intellectual history of this reading of Plato.
Did Plato intend the laws of the Laws to change? While most scholars agree that there is to be legal change in Magnesia, I contend that this issue has been clouded by confusing three distinct questions: (1) whether there are legal mechanisms for changing the law in Magnesia, (2) what the attitudes of Magnesian citizens towards innovation and legal change are, and (3) whether Plato thinks the law is always the ultimate political authority. Once we separate these issues and look (...) at the relevant texts more closely, we see that the Athenian Visitor is primarily concerned with supplementing the original lawgiver’s laws and that any innovation that occurs should be consistent with this lawcode. This does not settle the question about whether it is always right to act in accordance with the existing laws, though it does provide a valuable framework for understanding a central aspect of Platonic political philosophy. Thus, although Plato’s ideal places knowledge above the law, in practice the laws of Magnesia will be fixed and authoritative for those people living under them. (shrink)
In Plato's Laws, the Athenian Visitor says that the best constitution is a mixture of monarchy and democracy. This is the theoretical basis for the institutions of Magnesia, and it helps the citizens to become virtuous. But what is meant by ‘monarchy’ and ‘democracy’, and how are they mixed? I argue that the fundamental relations in Plato's discussion of constitutions are those of authority and equality. These principles are centrally about the extent to which citizens submit to the judgment of (...) an authority and the extent to which they decide for themselves respectively—the extent to which they are ruled by themselves or ruled by another. The institutions of Magnesia reflect these principles in practice and provide a more nuanced way to understand Plato’s assessment of democratic institutions. (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)
In Giorgio Agamben's Homo Sacer project, he gives an archaeology of Western political power from ancient Rome up through Carl Schmitt's model of "exceptional sovereignty," where the sovereign is "he who decides on the exception."1 Agamben takes Schmitt's thesis further, arguing that, in modern biopolitics, the "sovereign is he who decides on the value or the nonvalue of life as such," and therefore, on life and death in the state.2 Although this model also appears in Foucault's work, Penelope Deutscher argues (...) that Agamben's use of it includes "the particularly lethal variant seen in the capacity to cancel the status of what is put to death."3 "Homo sacer" is the name that Agamben gives to the form of political... (shrink)
For students and the general reader, this is the best English translation of the entire 'Laws' available. I give several examples of important lines that are translated well in this edition, but I take issue with the translation of some other lines and with part of Schofield's introduction on grounds that these parts do not reveal Plato's political and cosmic holism as clearly as they could have.
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)
In this paper I will focus on a crux in two Platonic scholia, where manuscripts have the impossible διονύσιον, but Greene suggests δίκαιον. This amendment was made on the basis of a gloss of Photius’ Lexicon, although the corresponding gloss of Suidas confirms the text of Platonic scholia. However the agreement with Photius is not so important, not only because it is impossible to prove that he reproduces the text of the glossary composed by the Atticist Aelius Dionysius without any (...) modification (it is also the source of Suidas and other Byzantine lexica, and especially of the so called Erweiterte Synagoge, which the Platonic scholia derive from as well), but also because our scholia reveal elsewhere a major affinity with Suidas than with Patriarch’s Lexicon. In the light of a careful review of the loci paralleli I therefore suggest the reading δημόσιον. (shrink)
Susan Sauvé Meyer presents a new translation of Plato's Laws, 1 and 2, in which a Cretan, a Spartan, and an Athenian discuss legislative theory, moral psychology, and the criteria for evaluating art. Meyer's fluent and readable translation achieves a high standard of fidelity to the original Greek. The commentary lays bare the structure of the argumentation, illuminates the philosophical issues, and explains difficult passages, making this complex and intricate work accessible to students and scholars alike.
Abstract: While recent scholarship often makes the claim that Plato’s theology in the Laws is based upon inferences from observable features about the world, this interpretation runs into difficulties when one considers (1) the continuing importance that the Socratic turn undertaken in the Phaedo has for speculation in the Laws about the order of the cosmos and (2) the actual observations that Plato makes about the sublunar and celestial realms in the Laws. In light of these difficulties, I develop an (...) interpretation of the theology of the Laws that seeks to show the priority of soul to matter by means of an articulation of the fundamental orientation to the world that is manifest in human beings seeking shared understanding through λόγος. This fundamental orientation is characterized by the recognition that νοῦς, not personal ambition, should guide human action and thought, and I argue that this recognition supplies at least partial support for the belief that νοῦς is in control of the cosmos. This interpretation helps makes sense of difficult passages in the Platonic corpus that ground cosmology on piety (Laws 10.898c6, Philebus 28e2, Timaeus 29a4). The relationship of this philosophical piety to the piety required by the laws of Magnesia is, however, problematic, and it could appear that Plato bridges this gap by a prudentialist account of why the laws of the city should be considered divine. I broach this problem in the final section of this paper by way of an examination of the relationship between the second sailing (δεύτερος πλοῦς) of the Phaedo and the δεύτερος πλοῦς of the Statesman and the Laws. I conclude with the observation that both the Phaedo and the Laws make use of an enchantment (ἐπῳδή) that goes beyond the bounds of what λόγος can establish. (shrink)
A reflection intended to orient a reading of the Laws as a whole, with special attention to the range of philosophical issues included and excluded from the Athenian's reach, as this is indicated by the dramatic context, to the vision of the god as the measure of the laws that provides the centering goal of the Athenian's labors, and to the dialectical structure of the Athenian's address to the Magnesians.
This volume is dedicated to an intriguing Platonic work, the Laws. Probably the last dialogue Plato wrote, the Laws represents the philosopher's most fully developed views on many crucial questions that he had raised in earlier works. Yet it remains a largely unread and underexplored dialogue. Abounding in unique and valuable references to dance and music, customs and norms, the Laws seems to suggest a comprehensive model of culture for the entire polis - something unparalleled in Plato. This exceptionally rich (...) discussion of cultural matters in the Laws requires the scrutiny of scholars whose expertise resides beyond the boundaries of pure philosophical inquiry. The volume offers contributions by fourteen scholars who work in the broader areas of literary, cultural and performance studies. (shrink)
In Laws 5, the Athenian argues in favour of virtuous over vicious lives on the basis that the former are preferable to the latter when we consider the pleasures and pains in each. This essay offers an interpretation of the argument which does not attribute to the Athenian an exclusively hedonist axiology. It argues for a new reading of the division of ‘types of life’ at 733c-d and suggests that the Athenian relies on the conclusion established earlier in the Laws (...) that we humans take pleasure in harmony and order. Virtuous lives exhibit just such harmony and order and are therefore always more pleasant than and preferable to vicious lives. (shrink)
The merit of Plato’s Laws remains largely untapped by those seeking genuinely collaborative models of the doctor–patient tie as alternatives to paternalism and autonomy. A persistent difficulty confronting proposed alternatives has been surpassing the notion of pronounced intellectual and values asymmetry favoring the doctor. Having discussed two prominent proposals, both of which evince marked paternalism, I argue that reflection on Plato yields four criteria that a genuinely collaborative model must meet and suggest how the Laws addresses them. In the process, (...) the Laws’ doctor–patient tie is shown to be far more nuanced than interpreters have previously observed. Although Plato’s account will not solve our own quandaries, it illustrates how one might retain asymmetry of a kind without capitulating to familiar oppositional modalities. Through this account, I hope to show that the Laws merits fuller inclusion in contemporary discussions than it has heretofore received. (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.
A passage in Plato’s Laws (719c) offers a fresh look at Plato’s theory of poetry and art. Only here does Plato call poetry both mimêsis “imitation, representation,” and the product of enthousiasmos “inspiration, possession.” The Republic and Sophist examine poetic imitation; the Ion and Phaedrus (with passages in Apology and Meno) develop a theory of artistic inspiration; but Plato does not confront the two descriptions together outside this paragraph. After all, mimêsis fuels an attack on poetry, while enthousiasmos is sometimes (...) used to attack it, sometimes to praise it. The explanation evidently lies in Plato’s understanding of drama, which in the Laws has grown more precise, from simply the presentation of characters to the presentation of multiple characters engaged in dramatic conflict. (shrink)
Readers of Plato have often neglected the Laws because of its length and density. In this set of interpretive essays, notable scholars of the Laws from the fields of classics, history, philosophy, and political science offer a collective close reading of the dialogue "book by book" and reflect on the work as a whole. In their introduction, editors Gregory Recco and Eric Sanday explore the connections among the essays and the dramatic and productive exchanges between the contributors. This volume fills (...) a major gap in studies on Plato’s dialogues by addressing the cultural and historical context of the Laws and highlighting their importance to contemporary scholarship. (shrink)
Long understudied, Plato's Laws has been the object of renewed attention in the past decade and is now considered to be his major work of political philosophy besides the Republic. In his last dialogue, Plato returns to the project of describing the foundation of a just city and sketches in considerable detail its constitution, laws and other social institutions. Written by leading Platonists, the essays in this volume cover a wide range of topics central for understanding the Laws, such as (...) the aim of the Laws as a whole, the ethical psychology of the Laws, especially its views of pleasure and non-rational motivations, and whether and, if so, how the strict law code of the Laws can encourage genuine virtue. They make an important contribution to ongoing debates and will open up fresh lines of inquiry for further research. (shrink)
The penal code of the Laws has attracted scholarly attention because it appears to advance a coherent theory of punishment. The Laws' suggestion that legislation follow the model of 'free doctors', as well as its discussion of the Socratic paradox, leads one to expect a theory of punishment that recommends kolasis and nouthetesis rather than timoria. In practice, however, the Laws makes use of the language of timoria and categorizes some crimes as voluntary. While the Laws provides a searching criticism (...) of contemporary Greek penal practices rooted in anger and retribution, Kleinias' dramatic participation in the discussion forces the qualified inclusion of these common beliefs. While the Laws provides a philosophic intervention intended to reform the injustices of contemporary penal practices, it ultimately suggests that educated doxa, not theoretical completeness, is the proper standard for establishing a workable penal code. (shrink)
This article challenges the widespread assumption that Plato’s valuation of medicine remains steady across the corpus. While Plato’s opposition to poetry and sophistry/rhetoric endures, in the Laws he no longer views medicine as a rival concerning phusis and eudaimonia. Why is this dispute laid to rest, even as the others continue? This article argues that the Laws’ developments with a bearing onmedicine stem ultimately from the philosopher-ruler’s disappearance. The deeper appreciation of good medical practice that ensues, combined with an array (...) of sociopolitical mechanisms for detecting injustice, means that the health care setting is no longer—as in the Republic—the crossroads where judgments of the whole person must be made. For the first time, by Plato’s lights, medicine may be a truly self-standing technē. (shrink)