Plato's Theology for Adolescents: An Interpretation of the Tenth Book of Plato's Laws

Dissertation, Boston College (1997)

Book X of Plato's Laws treats the subject of theology. The discussion of this subject becomes necessary when the Athenian Stranger raises the political problem of crimes against the gods, in particular of the impious speech and action of insolent or hubristic young people. According to the Athenian, the criminal speech and actions of the impious are due to their holding one of three mistaken opinions about the gods: they believe either that the gods do not exist, that the gods exist but do not think about human affairs, or that the gods can be easily persuaded by the unjust if they are given gifts in the form of sacrifices and prayers. The theology of the Laws is the result of the Athenian Stranger's attempt to refute these mistaken opinions, or to provide arguments that will dispose the impious young and others to a correct understanding of the divine. ;The refutations of the three opinions constitute a didactic introduction to the problem of the city and its gods. The refutation of the opinion that the gods do not exist suggests the importance of religious belief to political life at the same time that it attempts to answer the question as to what the gods truly are. The refutation of the opinion that the gods do not think about human affairs demonstrates the intimate link between the concern with justice and the concern with divine providence. The refutation of the belief that the gods can be persuaded by the unjust portrays the absurdity of the belief in gods who overlook injustice if they are properly propitiated, a belief which is elsewhere said to belong to the "greatest cities" . ;It is the didactic character of these refutations that makes them of permanent value to students of the Laws, and to those who turn to Plato for guidance in thinking about the relation between politics and religion
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