Plato's Pragmatic Project

A Reading of Plato's "Laws"

Hermes – Einzelschriften
Band 111

1. Edition
251 Pages
ISBN 978-3-515-11800-2 (Print)
ISBN 978-3-515-11805-7 (eBook)

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When we think about Plato's philosophy, his Laws is usually not the first work that comes to mind. Plato's final magnum opus is a perplexing text in many ways, even apart from the fact that its very existence forces us to reflect on the question of how it relates to Plato's other major political work, Republic. The debate about Plato's Laws usually disregards its composition and the way in which the legislation takes shape in the dialogue. This e-book offers a fresh reading of Plato's Laws that treats its form as an integral part of its philosophy, and asks what the way in which Plato's legislative project is given shape in the text suggests about the status of that project. It argues that the legislative project is strikingly pragmatic for a work of Platonic philosophy and should therefore be understood in its own terms. Rather than laying down a definitive law code for a new colony (Magnesia) that is based on, or at least in some way presupposes, a metaphysical norm, Plato's last work creates its own moral framework, in which lawgiving provides a convenient practical test for a notion of virtue understood as social conditioning.

Keywords: Altphilologie, Ancient Greek Philosophy, Ancient Greek Political Thought, Classical Studies, Laws, Nomoi, Plato, philology

Myrthe Bartels
Myrthe L. Bartels is currently International Fellow at the New Europe College in Bucharest, Romania. She specializes in ancient Greek philosophy, especially ethics and political thought. She received her PhD in Classical Studies from Leiden University, the Netherlands. Subsequently, she was Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities in Edinburgh, United Kingdom, and Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Erfurt, Germany.

  • CONTENTS7-11
  • CHAPTER ONE11-39
    • Introduction: Laws in Dialectic11-36
      • 1.1 Status quaestionis and principles of charity17-25
      • 1.2 Is Plato’s Laws unfinished?25-31
      • 1.3 The structure of Laws31-33
      • 1.4 The diminished prominence of δικαιοσύνη in Laws33-36
      • 1.5 Plan of the book36-39
  • CHAPTER TWO39-77
    • Platonic Preliminaries39-76
      • 2.1 Part I: Τέχνη and authority40-50
        • 2.1.1 Structuring principles of the τέχνη analogy in Plato40-46
        • 2.1.2 ‘Stochastic’ τέχνη46-50
      • 2.2 Part II: Three texts on Platonic justice50-65
        • 2.2.1 Apology: Socrates unjustly accused50-59
        • 2.2.2 Crito: Socrates unjustly convicted59-65
        • 2.2.3 Republic: the just polis65-76
      • 2.3 Concluding remarks76-77
    • Setting the Scene: ἀρετή in Laws I–II77-112
      • 3.1 Setting the scene I78-103
        • 3.1.1 The Cretan notion of virtue: ἀνδρεία78-82
        • 3.1.2 The weak spot of Spartan law82-86
        • 3.1.3 A ‘myth of virtue’: the ‘puppet’86-92
        • 3.1.4 The symposion as a training in αἰδώς92-100
        • 3.1.5 Synopsis: what the argument of the symposion implies about ἀρετή100-103
      • 3.2 Setting the scene II: the four virtues and the phases of paideia103-108
        • 3.2.1 The earliest paideia103-108
        • 3.2.2 The four citizen groups108-112
      • 3.3 Conclusion112-115
  • CHAPTER FOUR115-152
    • Lawgiving Logôi: Formal Features of the Legislation115-150
      • 4.1 Legislating λόγῳ116-128
        • 4.1.1 A test for the opening discussion116-124
        • 4.1.2 The suggestion of consistency between the laws and Books I–II124-126
        • 4.1.3 The characteristics of legislation λόγῳ126-128
      • 4.2 Embedding laws in dialogue128-140
        • 4.2.1 Formal observations128-134
        • 4.2.2 The so-called ‘preambles’ (προοίμια)134-140
      • 4.3 Lawgivers or not? The position of the interlocutors140-145
        • 4.3.1 The interlocutors as lawgivers140-145
        • 4.3.2 Not lawgivers yet145-150
      • 4.4 Conclusion150-152
  • CHAPTER FIVE152-189
    • Outline and Amendment: an Inevitable Lack of Accuracy152-187
      • 5.1 The legislation as an outline: the painter analogy, Laws VI153-166
      • 5.2 Instructing the successors166-171
      • 5.3 Lawgiving in consultation with reality171-185
        • 5.3.1 The gaps in the outline171-185
      • 5.4 Choosing laws from other cities185-187
      • 5.5 Conclusion187-189
  • CHAPTER SIX189-204
    • Outside the Law Code: the Nocturnal Council and the Athenian Stranger189-202
      • 6.1 The identity and function of the nocturnal council190-197
        • 6.1.1 The σκοπός of the nocturnal council190-194
        • 6.1.2 The qualifications of the nocturnal council194-197
      • 6.2 The Athenian stranger197-202
      • 6.3 Conclusion202-204
  • CHAPTER SEVEN204-211
    • Conclusion: Plato’s Pragmatic Project204-211
    • GENERAL213-227
  • GENERAL INDEX227-233