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Plato’s Philosophical Politics

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image of Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy

This paper suggests an alternative account of the political character of Plato’s political philosophy. After pointing toward some problems of the common developmental paradigm, which emphasizes discontinuities between Plato’s Socratic early writings, the mature utopianism of the Republic, and the late pessimism of the Laws, it proposes that Plato’s two large constructive works, the Republic and Laws, are related to two actual historical events in which Plato played a role, the trial of Socrates and Plato’s failed intervention in Sicilian politics. On this view, the Republic is to the Apology of Socrates as the Laws is to the Seventh Letter. The Republic is an imaginative reconstruction of the sort of defense of philosophy under more favorable conditions than obtained in the actual trial; the Laws is an imaginative reconstruction of the sort of political reform that Plato advocated under more favorable conditions than obtained in Syracuse under Dionysius II. The paper suggests this as the basis of a unified interpretation of Plato’s political philosophy. 

Affiliations: 1: The Catholic University of America


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