The Laws by Plato Essay

The Laws by Plato Essay

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From its very outset The Laws is immediately different from the other Platonic dialogues. Although Socrates’ role had become gradually less important in the perceived chronology of the dialogues, The Laws is the only Platonic dialogue in which he does not appear . The un-named Athenian stranger, who is widely believed to represent Plato himself , takes his place. The Athenian stranger is joined by Megillus of Sparta and Cleinias of Crete who spend a long day’s walk discussing laws. This is the setting, and as usual Plato’s choice of characters is symbolic; Megillus represents Spartan political principles, while Cleinias represents the Athenian principles. The theoretical city that Plato has in mind will combine Spartan and Athenian elements with his own ideas; hence the cast. The Laws is a sprawling work based on extensive historical and empirical research and displays a remarkably vast knowledge of the political institutions, social structures and constitutions of many peoples and States. Although it is known as a dialogue, for the most part the Athenian stranger speaks without much engagement with his companions. For example, book V is an uninterrupted discourse while book VI is almost the same . This structure is different from the other dialogues (which have much more dialectical interchange) and perhaps says something about Plato’s mood while writing the work. After all Plato is now an old man believed to be at least seventy-four at the time of writing .


The title of the work indicates the first big difference to the Republic. Plato has turned from the rule of Philosophers (Philosopher Kings) to the rule of law. Indeed if I sketch a brief outline of the second best state, it is evident that it is designed in part to st...


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...l person because being moral, being reasonable, being happy, being sane, being free, and being fully human are all the same thing. One whose soul is not well-ordered, not ruled by reason, is psychically disintegrated, unhappy, immoral, a slave to passion and less than human. The psychically disintegrated soul is sick; it is afflicted with akrasia (the state of acting against ones better judgement, i.e. reason). Plato, in the Republic, holds that all individuals have rational faculties and thus the capacity to reason and for correct harmony in the soul ; the rational, allied with the spirited ruling over the appetitive. Plato at this point in his life believes that through education, and crucially early education (before the age of ten), if people can be thought the importance of moderation and harmony then the rational part of the soul will govern the appetitive .

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