Plato: Totalitarian or Democrat?

Plato: Totalitarian or Democrat?

Plato: Totalitarian or Democrat?

Plato: Totalitarian or Democrat?

Excerpt

Thomas Landon Thorson

There are perhaps no writings in the history of Western thought which deserve the adjective "classic" more than those of Plato. If the test of a classic is its continuing relevance to contemporary problems, Plato's work, and especially the Republic, must be given a very high score indeed. The pages following are ample testimony to the significance of Plato for twentieth-century politics.

But Plato has by no means simply been given the reverence due a notable figure long since dead. For the past twenty-five years or so his writings have been the subject of vigorous, even virulent, controversy. The fact of this controversy is perhaps the prime evidence of the timelessness of his thought. The point at issue, precipitated undoubtedly by the emergence of totalitarianism alongside liberal democracy in the Western tradition, is whether Plato is to be understood as the forefather of totalitarianism or of democracy. Prior to the development of the full power of Hitler and Stalin the latter interpretation rather clearly held sway, but in recent years the former view has become almost orthodox.

The details of the dispute have hitherto been concealed from the general reader and the general, but not professional, student of Plato . . .

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