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Chapter 10 - The Laws’ Two Projects

from Part IV - Projects, Paradoxes, and Literary Registers in the Laws

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 July 2023

Malcolm Schofield
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
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Summary

Aristotle complained that though the original intention of the Laws was to institute a form of political system ‘more common’ to cities (presumably ‘more capable of being shared in’ by political communities generally), the social and political system Plato actually worked out in the dialogue turned out in the end not very different from the ideal articulated in the Republic. This chapter agrees with Aristotle’s identification of two projects in the Laws. But it argues that Plato makes it clear that the dialogue needs to develop (in relatively idealizing mode) a scheme for producing a citizenry educated for virtue as its primary aim, but that as a subordinate task it must also provide a constitutional framework that has sound empirical and historical credentials and a system of law providing for coercion as well as persuasion. There is just not much supply of persons eager to be as good as possible as fast as possible, and for the ‘tough eggs’ among them an elaborate penal system has to be devised. How Plato delivers on these two projects is then explored in some detail. The chapter concludes by sketching in summary the way both are fitted into a single plan.

Type
Chapter
Information
How Plato Writes
Perspectives and Problems
, pp. 202 - 218
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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