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Does Plato’s Account of Politeiai in Republic 8 Merit Our Attention?

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image of Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought

Several commentators since Aristotle have sought to convince us that Plato’s discussion of political constitutions or politeiai in Republic 8 is full of problems. In effect, such commentators argue that Plato’s account is not all that helpful in our efforts to understand political life. This paper argues that, despite several objections to Plato’s discussion of political constitutions in Republic 8, there is much that is helpful for thinking about political life. The following issues are taken up in an effort to clarify Plato’s account of regimes: the role of such an account in the main ethical argument of the dialogue (that justice is better than injustice); whether Plato’s discussion has both an a priori perspective and one based on experience; the analogy of the city and the soul and whether this holds together in Republic 8; Plato’s depiction of regime change in temporal/historical terms; and the fact that the account of political regimes seems incomplete because each regime is presented in the manner of a sketch.


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