Plato's Political Philosophy
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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This book concerns Plato’s political philosophy. Political philosophy is about forms of government and the common good. As Plato makes clear, political philosophy also concerns pleasure, virtue, nobility, goodness, justice, wealth, persuasion, divinity, and the arts. Politics serves human happiness generally, and, therefore, political philosophy studies human happiness generally. Its ...
PART ONE: Politics and Virtue
CHAPTER 1 The World of the Dialogues
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The world of Plato’s dialogues is largely familiar to us. We encounter ambitious young men, political discussion, and war; talk of physicians, trainers, cooks, captains, mathematicians, painters, and poets; exhortations to virtue, piety, love, and education. Whatever the odd details that distinguish Plato’s time from ours, characters usually talk about and do what we talk about and do, with...
CHAPTER 2 Virtue
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If there is one point that orients the world of Socrates and his interlocutors it is that virtue is the proper goal of paternal advice, ambition, and punishment. So, examining Plato’s understanding of virtue is our inquiry’s next natural step. This understanding proves to be subtle and complex, and Plato develops it in many dialogues. I concentrate here on seven, ...
CHAPTER 3 Virtue and Politics: The Laws
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We pursue our study of virtue by considering more fully Plato’s understanding of its place in politics. His thematic discussion of politics occurs in three dialogues, the Laws, the Republic, and the Statesman. As we have seen, moreover, political ambition stimulates many young Athenians and is a prod to inquiry in several ...
PART TWO: Politics and Philosophy
CHAPTER 4 The Roots of Philosophy
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Socrates’ conversations are motivated by the concerns we discussed in the fi rst chapter. These concerns issue in admonitions to continue to deliberate or to be virtuous. What virtue is, however, proves to be elusive. Several of its elements are reasonably clear, of course, and we see that a city governed by virtue will look something like the regime of the Laws. Yet, some of virtue’s elements are hazy, especially ...
CHAPTER 5 Beauty and Nobility
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To develop our understanding of Plato’s view of philosophy and of virtue, we will turn to the question of nobility or beauty. For, virtue is above all noble, and philosophic wonder has the magnificent and fitting among its objects.1 The phenomenon of beauty is a central link between intellectual and ...
CHAPTER 6 Philosophy and Politics: The Republic
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We have now discussed several experiences that are at the root of philosophy, and a phenomenon, beauty, that helps to define both ethical and intellectual virtue.1 It is therefore reasonable to turn next to Plato’s Republic. For, beyond any other work, the Republic explains and defends the philosophic way of life, and charms and attracts...
PART THREE: Politics and Knowledge
CHAPTER 7 Pleasure and the Soul
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We begin our discussion of politics and knowledge by developing our understanding of Plato’s thoughts on the human soul and the human good. Indeed, unearthing the soul as the heart of man and his political life is one of Plato’s emblematic achievements.1...
CHAPTER 8 Knowledge and Illusion
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The Philebus’ concern with knowledge and measure points politically to Plato’s third dialogue about politics, the Statesman, which considers political “science,” or political knowledge, and features an analysis of measuring and precision. It is last in a group that includes the Theatetus and Sophist. To understand it we first must discuss ...
CHAPTER 9 Knowledge and Politics: The Statesman
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The Statesman directly follows the Sophist. Its purpose is to define the politikos, whom we may call the statesman, the political man, the political scientist, or the political knower.1 It means especially to explore the place of knowledge in political life—in human life—and the ways to combine things, politically and more generally.2...
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We examine Plato in order to immerse ourselves in the fi rst, basic articulation of the core elements of human thought and action. This articulation points to the importance of the life devoted to the continuing attempt to understand. Our several explorations in the preceding chapters, therefore, are truer to Plato, and to the phenomena he studies, than any inevitably arbitrary summary ...
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Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2010