Plato’s Pragmatism offers the first comprehensive defense of a pragmatist reading of Plato. According to Plato, the ultimate rational goal is not to accumulate knowledge and avoid falsehood but rather to live an excellent human life. The book contends that a pragmatic outlook is present throughout the Platonic corpus. The authors argue that the successful pursuit of a good life requires cultivating certain ethical commitments, and that maintaining these commitments often requires violating epistemic norms. In the course of defending the (...) pragmatist interpretation, the authors present a forceful Platonic argument for the conclusion that the value of truth has its limits, and that what matters most are one’s ethical commitments and the courage to live up to them. Their interpretation has far-reaching consequences in that it reshapes how we understand the relationship between Plato’s ethics and epistemology. Plato’s Pragmatism will appeal to scholars and advanced students of Plato and ancient philosophy. It will also be of interest to those working on current controversies in ethics and epistemology. (shrink)
Contents 1 Introduction / 2 The Timaeus on dignity: the Demiurge’s speech / 3 Justice as a virtue / 4 The content of just actions / 5 Justice of the law and justice of the state / 6 Equality / 7 Some key issues in Plato’s conception of justice / 7.1 What is more excellent—justice of the soul or justice of action? / 7.2 Which activity is best and what is its best object? / 7.2. Just actions over contemplation / (...) 7.2. The Timaeus and Plato’s teaching on justice / 7.2. The elderly Cephalus on justice: foreword as epilogue / 7.3 The sharing of wives: testing the interpretation on a ‘hard case’ / 8 Conclusions. (shrink)
Plato’s Sophist and Statesman stand out from many other Platonic dialogues by at least two features. First, they do not raise a ti esti question about a single virtue or feature of something, but raise the questions what sophist, statesman, and philosopher are, how they differ from each other, and what worth each should be accorded. Second, a visitor from Elea, rather than Socrates, seeks to addressed these questions and does so by employing what is commonly referred to as the (...) method of collection and division. Some scholars have argued that this so-called method is value neutral and therefore unable to address the question how philosophy differs from sophistry and statesmanship according to worth. This article contends that the procedures of collection and division does not preclude the visitor from taking considerations of worth into account, but rather helps establish an objective basis for settling the main questions of the dialogue. (shrink)
I defend the Seventh Letter, traditionally attributed to Plato, against Michael Frede's argument that it presents a political philosophy inconsistent with that found in the Laws. Frede argues that Plato had given up the idea of the philosopher-king in his Laws, but the 7th Letter seems to be still committed to the project. I argue the Laws, particularly with the introduction of the Nocturnal Council, has Philosopher-Rulers in all but name. I consider the education of the Nocturnal Council and how (...) it functions relative to the other constitutional structures of Magnesia. Frede advances several other arguments that the 7th Letter is spurious, but it at least escapes the most damning charge that it is inconsistent with the Laws philosophically. (shrink)
This paper examines the relationship between the political thought of Plato and Xenophon, by positioning both as post-Socratic political theorists. It seeks to show that Xenophon and Plato examine similar themes and participate in a shared discourse in their later political thought, and in particular, that Plato is responding to Xenophon, with the Statesman exploring similar themes to Xenophon’s Cyropaedia, which itself responds to sections of Plato’s Republic. Both writers explore the themes of the shepherd king and the kairos as (...) attributes of the excellent leader, and both use temporality and political ontology to do so. (shrink)
Plato’s references to Empedocles in the myth of the Statesman perform a crucial role in the overarching political argument of the dialogue. Empedocles conceives of the cosmos as structured like a democracy, where the constituent powers ‘rule in turn’, sharing the offices of rulership equally via a cyclical exchange of power. In a complex act of philosophical appropriation, Plato takes up Empedocles’ cosmic cycles of rule in order to ‘correct’ them: instead of a democracy in which rule is shared cyclically (...) amongst equal constituents, Plato’s cosmos undergoes cycles of the presence and absence of a single cosmic monarch who possesses ‘kingly epistēmē’. By means of a revision of Empedocles’ democratic cosmology, Plato’s richly woven myth is designed precisely to reject the appropriateness of democracy as a form of human political association and legitimate monarchy in its stead. (shrink)
Plato's Republic presents the characters of the philosopher and the tyrant as similar. Strongly focused by indiscriminate erotic motivation, both defy convention and lack familiar emotional responses, which make them appear to be mad. This essay argues that Plato put forward these parallels partly in order to defend Socrates from the charge of corrupting the young, partly to present a possible way to overthrow the current regime and partly to show the ineffectiveness of democracy. The very best leaders may look (...) like tyrants; it is only through proper philosophical education that their true natures can be discerned. (shrink)
In this book, Mary Townsend proposes that, contrary to the current scholarship on Plato's Republic, Socrates does not in fact set out to prove the weakness of women. Rather, she argues that close attention to the drama of the Republic reveals that Plato dramatizes the reluctance of men to allow women into the public sphere and offers a deeply aporetic vision of women’s nature and political position—a vision full of concern not only for the human community, but for the desires (...) of women themselves. (shrink)
This paper concerns the role of examples (paradeigmata) as propaedeutic to philosophical inquiry, in light of the methodological digression of Plato’s Statesman. Consistent with scholarship on Aristotle’s view of example, scholars of Plato’s work have privileged the logic of example over their rhetorical appeal to the soul of the learner. Following a small but significant trend in recent rhetorical scholarship that emphasizes the affective nature of examples, this essay assesses the psychagogic potential of paradeigmata, following the discussion of example in (...) Plato’s Statesman. I argue that, by creating an expectation for finding similarities, the use of examples in philosophical pedagogy cultivates in the soul of the learner a desire to discern the intelligible principles the ground experiential knowledge. Thus, examples not only serve as practice at the dialectician’s method of abstraction, but also cultivate a dialectical ethos, characterized by the desire to know the logoi of all things. (shrink)
Question: How do you turn a democracy into a tyranny? Answer (as those familiar with Plato's Republic will know): Do nothing. It will become a tyranny all by itself. My essay argues that for democracy to function it must inculcate in its citizens something of the moral and intellectual virtues of Plato’s Philosopher-Kings, who identify their own personal good with the good of society as a whole. Only thereby can Kant’s ideal of the ‘Kingdom of Ends’ - a society in (...) which each citizen willingly affirms a duty to respect the freedom and dignity of every other - be realized. The alternative to this, as Plato understood, is a society of appetitively driven individuals competing each with the other for dominance, in which those most skilled at the arts of grasping and manipulation will eventually seize power. In this way, as Plato foresaw, democracy will degenerate into tyranny. (shrink)
In this article, we examine, in the light of Arendt s categories, the fundamental structure of traditional claims on moral life. In other words, we evaluate the spirit in which traditional morality relates to the human world, especially, to the human condition of plurality. In this way, we shall be led to a perceptive reading of Arendt s groundbreaking view on morality and its borderline possibility of assuming a paradoxically significant role in the worldly affairs.
As is well known, the rule of the philosophers is what ultimately completes the political project in Plato's Republic. Only if the philosophers accept to rule, may the city see the light of day. Yet, as is equally well known, the philosophers are reluctant to rule. But ruling is what they are designed to do. Their entire education was constructed to prepare them for this task. And therefore, as Plato's repeatedly puts it, they will need to be compelled. How? As (...) this paper sets out to argue, it is what Plato calls the noble lie that does the job. Established in the philosophers' souls during their childhood, and tested like "gold in the fire", it is only the city-love established by the noble lie that can counteract their otherworldly desire for truth and knowledge. Designed to imbue their souls with a sense of responsibility and care, the noble can outweigh their political reluctance, and turn their eyes back to the city. (shrink)
Plato's Republic critiques Athenian democracy as practised during the Peloponnesian War years. The diseased city Socrates attempts to purge mirrors Athens in crucial particulars, and his proposals should be evaluated as counter-weights to existing institutions and practices, not as absolutes to be instantiated. Plato's assessment of the Athenian polity incorporates two strategies -- one rhetorical, the other argumentative -- both of which I address. Failure to consider Athens a catalyst for Socrates' arguments has led to the misconception that Plato was (...) dogmatically committed to a single political doctrine for all and for all time. (shrink)
This chapter examines Plato's moral psychology in the Phaedrus. It argues against interpreters such as Burnyeat and Nussbaum that Plato's treatment of the soul is increasingly pessimistic: reason's desire to contemplate is at odds with its obligation to rule the soul, and psychic harmony can only be secured by violently suppressing the lower parts of the soul.
In this paper, I explore parallels between philosophical and tyrannical eros in Plato's Republic. I argue that in arguing that reason experiences eros for the forms, Plato introduces significant tensions into his moral psychology.
Plato's political thought gave rise to a number of concepts and issues - such as the idea of a normative theory, the philosophical foundation of politics, the philosopher-kings, the standard of utopian theory - which have played a significant role on Western political and philosophical thought. -/- This volume aspires to bring out Plato's concept of efficacy in a normative theory. -/- By efficacy, the author means the way in which the theory conceives of its practical realization. If in the (...) Republic this issue is particularly problematic, in the Laws, instead, the claim of realizability becomes the main concern. -/- By defining the concept of efficacy and going through the main works of Plato, this conceptual and textual analysis aims to shed a new light on Plato's political thought, which is neither a utopia, nor a short term political program, but the first normative theory encompassing a theory of efficacy. (shrink)
On why Plato's arguments against democracy are against Athenian conceptions, not modern forms of democracy where a civil service and bureaucracy play critically important roles as experts supporting elected decision-makers.
I examine Plato's claim in the Republic that philosophers must rule in a good city and Aristotle's attitude towards this claim in his early, and little discussed, work, the Protrepticus. I argue that in the Republic, Plato's main reason for having philosophers rule is that they alone understand the role of philosophical knowledge in a good life and how to produce characters that love such knowledge. He does not think that philosophic knowledge is necessary for getting right the vast majority (...) of judgments about actions open to assessment as virtuous or vicious. I argue that in the Protrepticus Aristotle accepts similar reasons for the rule of philosophers, but goes beyond the Republic and seems to suggest that philosophic knowledge is required for getting right ethical and political judgments in general. I close by noting some connections with Aristotle's later views in the Eudemian Ethics, the Nicomachean Ethics, and the Politics. Footnotesa For comments on an earlier draft of this paper, I thank the other contributors to this volume, as well as Aditi Iyer and Rachana Kamtekar. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
Plato justifies the concentration and exercise of power for persons endowed with expertise in political governance. This article argues that this justification takes two distinctly different sets of arguments. The first is what I shall call his 'ideal political philosophy' described primarily in the Republic as rule by philosopher-kings wielding absolute authority over their subjects. Their authority stems solely from their comprehension of justice, from which they make political judgements on behalf of their city-state. I call the second set of (...) arguments Plato's 'practical political philosophy' underlying his later thought, where absolute rule by philosopher-kings is undermined by the impure character of all political knowledge. Whereas the complete comprehension of justice sanctions the absolute political power of those with this expertise, partial knowledge of justice disallows for such a large investment of power. Plato's practical political philosophy argues for a mixed theory of governance fusing the institutions of monarchy with democracy in the best practical city-state. Thus, Plato comes to realize the insurmountable difficulties of his ideal political thought, preferring a more practical political philosophy instead. (shrink)
We will investigate the relation between the notion of the craft of ruling in the "Euthydemus" and in the "Republic". In the "Euthydemus", Socrates' search for an account of wisdom leads to his identifying it as the craft of ruling in the city. In the "Republic", the craft of ruling in the city is the virtue of wisdom in the city and the analogue of wisdom in the soul. Still, the craft of ruling leads to aporia in the former dialogue (...) while in the latter it is a central feature of Socrates' account of justice -- both in the city and in the soul. Some commentators hold that the aporia at the end of the second protreptic interlude of the "Euthydemus" shows that Socrates' account of wisdom is fatally flawed and must be rejected. However, the difficulty for this position is that the craft of ruling from the "Euthydemus" is a hardy notion that plays an extremely important role in the "Republic". Indeed, reflecting this fact, other commentators hold that the aporia is solved in the "Republic". Still, what is so far missing is an analysis that clearly shows the way to this solution in the "Republic". In what follows, we will analyze the two protreptic inter-ludes in the "Euthydemus" in order to see how the aporia arises. As we shall see, Socrates presents the aporia as a labyrinth. Indeed, it is a labyrinth with a little noticed step that -- once it is noticed -- shows the way out. The result will be that the aporia of the "Euthydemus" points to a solution in which ruling in the soul implies a command of one's appetites and emotions. (shrink)
By considering carefully Socrates' invocations of 'compulsion' in Plato's Republic, I seek to explain how both justice and compulsion are crucial to the philosophers' decision to rule in Kallipolis, so that this decision does not contradict Socrates' central thesis that it is always in one's interests to act justly. On my account, the compulsion is provided by a law, made by the city's lawgivers, that requires people raised to be philosophers take turns ruling. Justice by itself does not require the (...) philosophers to rule, but it does require them to obey just laws. I also consider the implications of this view for Plato's politics. (shrink)
Zoals bekend is de verhouding tussen filosofie en politiek problematisch. De veroordeling van Socrates door de polis maakte diepe indruk op zijn leerling Plato. Mede om dit soort misstappen te voorkomen ontwierp deze een ideale staat waarin filosofen koningen moesten worden. Vanuit dit idee probeerde hij ook Dionysus, de heerser van Syracus, tot een wijsgerig verantwoorde politiek te brengen. De mislukking van dit Siciliaans avontuur heeft velen na hem ervan overtuigd dat filosofen zich beter niet in kunnen laten met politieke (...) besluitvorming. Immers, Plato’s poging om Dionysus tot een wijsgerig verantwoorde politiek te brengen strandde jammerlijk. Maar, filosofen zijn natuurlijk hardleers en de aantrekkingskracht van het rijk der mensen en dingen op hen, die zich zo thuisvoelen in het rijk der ideeën valt niet altijd te loochenen. Hoewel voor Plato de politieke arena van alledag wezenlijk ongeschikt bleek te zijn voor filosofische uiteenzettingen, heeft toch zijn leerling en collega Aristoteles zich nog korte tijd met het onderwijs aan de jonge Alexander de Grote bemoeid – hoewel Aristoteles’ ambities al bescheidener waren dan van Plato. Het verhaal wil zelfs, dat Alexander op diens veldtochten een exemplaar van het werk van Homerus met aantekeningen van Aristoteles erin bij zich droeg. Na de dood van Alexander werd de anti-Macedonische atmosfeer in Athene voor Aristoteles zodanig bedreigend dat hij de stad verliet, om te voorkomen ‘dat de polis zich ten tweede male aan de filosofie bezondigde.’ Wie wel in het lot van Sokrates heeft moeten delen, is Thomas More, de auteur van het in 1516 verschenen ‘Utopia’. More weigerde Henry VIII als hoofd van de kerk te erkennen en moest dat met zijn dood bekopen. Dit vonnis vloeide dus niet direct voort uit het boek waarmee More zo bekend zou worden. Wellicht had More geleerd van de eerdere moeizame betrekkingen tussen filosofie en politiek en had hij daarom besloten om zich over ‘Ou-topia’ of ‘Nus-quama’ te buigen: over niet-plaats of nergens. Het in dialoogvorm opgetekende reisverhaal gaf op indirecte wijze kritiek op het Engeland van zijn tijd. Waarschijnlijk nog belangrijker dan het vermijden van risico’s door het schrijven over een niet reëel bestaande samenleving was het voordeel dat More op die manier een geheel ander beeld van een samenleving kon opstellen en beschrijven – ongehinderd door contingente omstandigheden, praktische bezwaren of politieke obstakels. More sloot de dialoog in ‘Utopia’ af met een korte overweging, waarin de auteur zegt zich nauwelijks te kunnen voorstellen dat deze samenleving ergens gerealiseerd zou kunnen worden. Vele lezers hebben deze overweging echter niet gezien of serieus genomen, zodat er al snel een ernstig meningsverschil over het genre van de utopie ontstond: vormde een utopie een blauwdruk voor een ideale samenleving die zonder meer ingevoerd zou moeten worden, of moest de utopie veeleer gelezen worden als een mengvorm van kritiek en ideaal – kritiek op de bestaande samenleving en richtinggevend ideaal voor nastrevenswaardige veranderingen van de huidige samenleving? (shrink)
One of the major themes of Plato's Republic is unity, and it has seemed anomalous to many that a work devoted to advocating unity should itself be read as lacking that very feature. Yet much appears to tell against the unity of the Republic and to thwart attempts to find a synthetic whole amidst the rich complexity of the dialogue. Hence, it is not surprising that in this book Reeve tries to demonstrate the unity of the Republic; what is surprising (...) is that he succeeds so well. Written with clarity, thoroughness, philosophical subtlety, and yet with a certain boldness, Philosopher-Kings meets challenge after challenge as it builds its four-fold structural interpretation of a unified Republic. In the end Reeve's effort may not persuade the reader, but it will surely provoke and instruct, with new readings of familiar passages, novel uses of neglected ones, interesting philosophical analyses, and an innovative overall integration of the dialogue's various strands. (shrink)
In this paper we explore plato's paradoxical remarks about the philosophical rulers' use of dishonesty in the "republic"--Rulers who, On the one hand, Are said to love truth above all else, But on the other hand are encouraged to make frequent use of "medicinal lies." we establish first that plato's remarks are in fact consistent, According to the relevant platonic theories too often forgotten by both critics and defenders of plato. Finally, We reformulate the underlying moral issue of the purported (...) right not to be lied to, And its alternative in platonic political philosophy: paternalism. (shrink)
As the title indicates, Sprague’s book is concerned with the "theoretical background" of Plato’s conception of the philosopher-king. This theoretical intention is explained in the preface to consist in focusing on the philosopher-king "as man of art or science, rather than as head of state". It is never quite clear in her account, however, how such a distinction between a theoretical and a political framework is justified. As Sprague’s own discussion in the later portions of the book testifies, the philosophical (...) statesman’s art cannot really be separated from his function as the head of a state. (shrink)
The idea of the philosopher-statesman finds its first literary expression in Plato's Republic, where Socrates, facing the ‘third wave’ of criticism of his ideal State, how it can be realized in practice, declares2 that it will be sufficient ‘to indicate the least change that would affect a transformation into this type of government. There is one change’, he claims, ‘not a small change certainly, nor an easy one, but possible.’ ‘Unless either philosophers become kings in their countries, or those who (...) are now called kings and rulers come to be sufficiendy inspired with a genuine desire for wisdom; unless, that is to say, political power and philosophy meet together, … there can be no rest from troubles for states.’. (shrink)