'Law and Justice among the Socratics: Contexts for Plato’s Republic'

Polis 38 (3):399-419 (2021)
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Abstract

At the beginning of Republic 2 (358e–359b), Plato has Glaucon ascribe a social contract theory to Thrasymachus and ‘countless others’. This paper takes Glaucon’s description to refer both within the text to Thrasymachus’ views, and outside the text to a series of works, most of which have been lost, On Justice or On Law. It examines what is likely to be the earliest surviving work that presents a philosophical defence of law and justice against those who would prefer their opposites, On Excellence by an anonymous author usually referred to as ‘Anonymus Iamblichi’; the views on these topics among the Socratics, including Crito, Simon the Cobbler, Aristippus of Cyrene, and Antisthenes; and Socrates’ debate with Hippias ‘On Justice’ in Xenophon’s Memorabilia (4.4.5–25). Its main contention is that the ‘countless others’ referred to by Glaucon points chiefly, but not solely, to the members of the circle of Socrates, who themselves espoused a range of views on justice and law, and their relations.

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Phillip Sidney Horky
Durham University

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