Prudence in Plato's Political Philosophy

Dissertation, Harvard University (1989)

Plato is generally thought to be a political idealist who lacked any understanding of phronesis . The Republic and the Laws are both thought to demonstrate Plato's failure to formulate an account of phronesis in the Aristotelian sense. It is argued in this thesis that Plato was not a political idealist. By means of textual analyses of the most important parts of the Republic and the Laws, it is argued that Plato's ethical and political philosophy is founded on an understanding of phronesis comparable to the account of it given by Aristotle. ;The thesis is in three Parts. Part One is an analysis of the various ways in which Plato is presented as a political idealist by modern scholars. Part Two is a study of the Republic. In particular, it is an exegesis of Socrates' discussion of the good and the education of the guardians with Glaucon. Part Three is a study of the Laws. In particular, it is an examination of those features of the dialogue that reveal its substantive and dramatic continuity with the Republic. The greatest substantive continuity of the two dialogues is the account of phronesis begun in the Republic and completed in the Laws. ;The Socratic practice of politics is the art of caring for souls. Caring for souls begins in caring for one's own soul, and the Socratic way of caring for one's own soul leads to the acquisition of phronesis. The Republic and the Laws together describe the nature of Socratic phronesis and the two aspects of the Socratic art of politics: justice and lawgiving. The substantive and dramatic continuity of the two dialogues demonstrates that Plato understood the Socratic art of caring for souls to be a practical activity guided by phronesis
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