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Revisiting the Controversial Nature of Persuasion in Plato’s Laws

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image of Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought

This paper revisits the scholarly controversy about the nature of persuasion in Plato’s Laws. So far scholars have identified the nature of this persuasion in often conflicting ways, e.g. from ‘lying propaganda’ (Popper 1945) and ‘enchantment’ (Morrow 1953) to ‘sermon preaching’ (Stalley 1983 and 1994; and Yunis 1996, respectively), or even as ‘rational persuasion’ (Bobonich, 1991 and 2002). Rather than proposing yet another identification, this paper shows that the nature of the persuasion envisioned by the Athenian lawgiver becomes evident once the divergent scholarly views are brought together into one idea. The seed to this reconciliation was contained in the debate all along but has not been sufficiently fore-grounded. A close examination makes evident why such persuasion appears to different readers to be of a vastly different nature. It employs, indeed, a variety of linguistic means geared towards a variety of different people at different times in their lives.


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