The Development of Plato's Political Theory

The Development of Plato's Political Theory

The Development of Plato's Political Theory

The Development of Plato's Political Theory

Excerpt

For this edition, I have gone through all chapters, editing and rewriting as needed, and incorporating what I view as significant, new scholarly findings. This has been more necessary in some chapters than others. In particular, because of important recent studies, I have gained a fuller appreciation of the Statesman and thoroughly reworked my discussion, though this has not substantially altered my view of its place in the development of Plato's political theory. My account of the Laws has been significantly revised in places, in part through the influence of Christopher Bobonich's Plato's Utopia Recast (2002). In spite of the evident brilliance of much of Bobonich's account, I disagree with his central claims concerning the movement of Plato's moral and political thought, and have not felt the need significantly to revise my overall interpretation of the Laws. Although my basic understanding of the Platonic Socrates and the Republic has not changed, I have expanded discussion in various ways, in particular of questions concerning Plato's alleged racism and totalitarianism, and addressed other matters more briefly, for example, the so-called 'Straussian' interpretation of the Republic, which has received much attention in the American political theory community. Other subjects I have discussed in more detail include the status of the nocturnal council in the Laws. But on the whole, this edition, although improved and expanded in important ways and addressing the last two decades of Plato scholarship, is faithful to the first edition.

In many ways, I view this as a traditional work. In my original preface, I note my desire to be 'reliable rather than new'. That desire has not changed, although with the passage of twenty years, it may be more difficult to realize. As in the first edition, I provide a generally literal reading of Plato's main political texts. Because of the prominence questions of interpretation have assumed in recent years, I have expanded my discussion in Chapter 2 to provide a fuller defence of literal interpretation. However out of fashion this view may be at the present time, I believe Plato is a pre-eminent political theorist, whose ideas should be taken on their own terms. Tracing out the implications of his basic assumptions allows us to recognize the deeply political nature of his political theory—Plato's deep concern with the actual politics of the Greek world of his time. As argued in Chapter 1, Plato essentially turned his back on existing political systems, in favour of overall reform and wrote his dialogues with this end in mind. As I say in my initial preface, on these issues, Plato has much of interest to say to modern readers.

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