The Laws of Plato

The Laws of Plato

The Laws of Plato

The Laws of Plato

Synopsis

"In The Laws, Plato describes in detail a comprehensive system of legislation in a small agricultural utopia he named Magnesia. His laws not only govern crime and punishment, but also form a code of conduct for all aspects of life in his ideal state - from education, sport and religion to sexual behaviour, marriage and drinking parties. Plato sets out a plan for the day-to-day rule of Magnesia, administered by citizens and elected officials, with supreme power held by a Council."

Excerpt

This translation aims at the greatest literalness attainable within the confines of sound and comprehensible English. It has been my aspiration to come as close as a translator can to providing direct and undistorted access to Plato's thought, exactly as Plato expressed it. Underlying this effort is the conviction that we can no longer remain satisfied with the loose, if polished and graceful, translations of Plato executed under the influence of traditional classical scholarship. We live in an age when reading knowledge of Greek cannot be presumed to be part of the intellectual equipment of thoughtful citizens, students, and scholars; yet at the same time we find ourselves in the grip of increasingly serious doubts about the meaning and validity of the fundamental political principles we have inherited from the Enlightenment, principles that have gone largely unchallenged for generations. These doubts, if thought through, urgently impel us to recover a detailed and unbiased understanding of the alternative, classical conception of man and political life. In this unprecedented situation the precise translation of Greek philosophic texts takes on an importance, and the responsibility of the translator assumes a gravity, that has rarely before been equaled. The time is past when the translator could look upon himself as an elegant paraphraser, offering popularized and lively versions of classical culture to readers who are too young or too disadvantaged to have acquired a gentleman's education. What is more, the translator alive to his responsibilities ought no longer to feel confident that he is contributing to a "clarification" of Platonic thought when he employs easily assimilated modern categories and terminology to rephrase Plato's baffling oddities, obscurities, and apparent confusions or contradictions; for our distrust of the certainty of all modern philosophic categories, our willingness to question once-unquestionable givens of our modern Western culture, has opened us to the suspicion that it is precisely the most peculiar-sounding Platonic passages that have the potential of revealing to us the limitations of our own intellectual horizon.

It is in this spirit, and with this conception of my task, that I have undertaken the present translation. I have not had in view the reader who wishes to get a hasty, easy, and superficial impression of Plato . . .

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