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Plato's Political Philosophy

Mark Blitz

Publication Year: 2010

This comprehensive, yet compact, introduction examines Plato's understanding of law, justice, virtue, and the connection between politics and philosophy. Focusing on three of Plato's dialogues—The Laws, The Republic, and The Statesman—Mark Blitz lays out the philosopher's principal interests in government and the strength and limit of the law, the connection between law and piety, the importance of founding, and the status and limits of political knowledge. He examines all of Plato's discussions of politics and virtues, comments on specific dialogues, and discusses the philosopher's explorations of beauty, pleasure, good, and the relations between politics and reason. Throughout, Blitz reinforces Plato's emphasis on clear and rigorous reasoning in ethics and political life and explains in straightforward language the valuable lessons one can draw from examining Plato's writings. The only introduction to Plato that both gathers his separate discussions of politically relevant topics and pays close attention to the context and structure of his dialogues, this volume directly contrasts the modern view of politics with that of the ancient master. It is an excellent companion to Plato's Dialogues.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

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pp. 1-6 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.2722

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

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CHAPTER 1 The World of the Dialogues

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pp. 9-33 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.2724

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...

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CHAPTER 2 Virtue

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pp. 34-81 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.2725

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, ...

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CHAPTER 3 Virtue and Politics: The Laws

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pp. 82-112 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.2726

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

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CHAPTER 4 The Roots of Philosophy

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pp. 115-142 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.2728

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 ...

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CHAPTER 5 Beauty and Nobility

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pp. 143-165 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.5634

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 ...

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CHAPTER 6 Philosophy and Politics: The Republic

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pp. 166-187 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.5635

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

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CHAPTER 7 Pleasure and the Soul

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pp. 191-214 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.5637

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...

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CHAPTER 8 Knowledge and Illusion

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pp. 215-240 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.5638

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 ...

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CHAPTER 9 Knowledge and Politics: The Statesman

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pp. 241-267 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.5639

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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pp. 269-274 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.5640

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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pp. 275-319 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.5641


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pp. 321-326 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.5642

E-ISBN-13: 9780801899188
E-ISBN-10: 0801899184
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801897658
Print-ISBN-10: 0801897653

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2010