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Some Central Elements of Socratic Political Theory

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image of Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought

The fundamental concepts of Socratic political theory are statesmanship or the art of politics, and the good of the city. Important scholars have denied that, on Socrates’ view, statesmanship as such is possible. But Socratic intellectualism does not commit him to the view that the methods of politics, such as legislation and punishment, are useless. The Socratic tradition in political theory is rich and varied. Among the dimensions of variation are: the relationship between statesmanship and other arts of rule; what are the limits of reasonable human ambition; and the relationship between the well-being of the city and the well-being of its parts. At the core of Socratic moral and political theory is a commitment to choose what is truly good. Varieties of Socratic value theory arise from the different ways in which this commitment is interpreted, and the range of realms to which it is applied.


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