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Divine Law and Political Philosophy in Plato's Law

Mark J. Lutz

Publication Year: 2012

All over the world secular rationalist governments and judicial authorities have been challenged by increasingly forceful claims made on behalf of divine law. For those who believe that reason—not faith—should be the basis of politics and the law, proponents of divine law raise theoretical and practical concerns that must be addressed seriously and respectfully. As Mark J. Lutz makes plain in this illuminating book, they have an important ally in Plato, whose long neglected Laws provides an eye-opening analysis of the relation between political philosophy and religion and a powerful defense of political rationalism. Plato mounts his case, Lutz reveals, through a productive dialogue between his Athenian Stranger and various devout citizens that begins by exploring the common ground between them, but ultimately establishes the authority of rational political philosophy to guide the law. The result will fascinate not only political theorists but also scholars at all levels with an interest in the intersection of religion and politics or in the questions that surround ethics and civic education.

Published by: Northern Illinois University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 1-6


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

I am grateful to the College of Liberal Arts of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas for its generous financial support as I completed this book. I am pleased to thank my colleagues at UNLV Ken Fernandez, Tiffiany Howard, Michelle Kuenzi, and Rebecca Gill for their helpful consultations about this book. ...

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pp. 3-11

For many years, scholars have regarded the Laws as Plato’s final proposal for practical political reform. While there is much to be learned from such an approach, it has failed to do justice to the dialogue’s central concern. What leading interpretations of the dialogue fail to appreciate is that Plato’s Laws is, first and foremost, an inquiry into divine law. ...

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One—The Minos and the Socratic Examination of Law

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pp. 12-32

According to the classical tradition, Socrates transformed philosophy by compelling it to turn away from “the heavens” and directing it toward those things that human beings take most seriously—politics, morality, and providential gods (Cicero Tusculan Disputations 5.10–11; also Aristotle Metaphysics 987b1–2; Xenophon Memorabilia 1.1.11–16).1 ...

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Two—The Rational Interpretation of Divine Law

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pp. 33-53

No one is more closely associated with the birth and growth of rationalism than Plato. Across two millennia, he has been credited with lending dignity and legitimacy to many sciences including astronomy, theology, and philosophy itself.1. Contemporary thinkers regard him as the “iconic rationalist” (Nelson 2005, xv). ...

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Three—The Examination of the Laws of Sparta

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pp. 54-89

After the Athenian Stranger describes the goals of correct law and the tasks of the legislator, he says that he wants to revisit the questions that he has just discussed with Kleinias. He says that he wants Kleinias and Megillus to say how the laws that Zeus gave to Minos and that Apollo gave to Lycurgus in fact aim at the goals of divine law ...

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Four—Divine Law and Moral Education

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pp. 90-115

In the Minos, Socrates asks his Athenian companion what law is and how we come to know or recognize that it is authoritative. In the course of their conversation, Socrates points to the inherent limits of law, showing that even though law presents itself as just and therefore good for everyone, ...

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Five—The Problem of Erotic Love and Practical Reason under Divine Law

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pp. 116-133

In Book VII, the Athenian Stranger describes the best education that could be established under the rule of divine law. While we can anticipate some of the results of that education on the citizen, it remains to be seen how well-educated citizens will spend their days and how the virtues will emerge and work together in their lives. ...

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Six—Perfect Justice and Divine Providence

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pp. 134-164

At the start of the dialogue, the Athenian Stranger and Kleinias agree that divine law is the law that aims at the highest end. They say that correct law must aim at the whole of virtue and at the human goods that together with virtue bring happiness to individual citizens and harmony to the city as a whole. ...

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Seven—The Savior of Divine Law

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pp. 165-182

In the Minos, Socrates wants to know what law is and whether it can be known through reason or through some extra-rational faculty such as divination. While exploring these questions with a nameless Athenian citizen, Socrates argues that law wishes to be the discovery of what is. ...


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pp. 183-192

Modern Works Cited

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pp. 193-196


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pp. 197-200

E-ISBN-13: 9781609090487
Print-ISBN-13: 9780875804453

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2012