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Persuasion and Compulsion in Plato’s Laws 10

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image of Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought

There is a greater use of the language of persuasion in Plato’s Laws than there is in the Republic. Christopher Bobonich has recently offered powerful arguments (against the claims of Popper, Morrow and others) for the view that this difference is a sign that the Laws is less authoritarian than the Republic, and that Plato in the Laws is more concerned with the freedom of the individual. In the present paper, it is demonstrated that this interpretation of the Laws cannot account for what Plato says in Book 10 (which discusses the nature of the gods, and impiety). This article first examines four passages from Laws 10 that reveal a different picture than the one Bobonich champions, and then argues that the context for Plato’s statements on persuasion — the political philosophy of the Laws generally—actually makes genuine rational persuasion impossible, whatever Plato actually says about its nature and value.


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