Plato's Laws: Force and Truth in Politics

Plato's Laws: Force and Truth in Politics

Plato's Laws: Force and Truth in Politics

Plato's Laws: Force and Truth in Politics

Synopsis

Readers of Plato have often neglected the Laws because of its length and density. In this set of interpretive essays, notable scholars of the Laws from the fields of classics, history, philosophy, and political science offer a collective close reading of the dialogue "book by book" and reflect on the work as a whole. In their introduction, editors Gregory Recco and Eric Sanday explore the connections among the essays and the dramatic and productive exchanges between the contributors. This volume fills a major gap in studies on Plato’s dialogues by addressing the cultural and historical context of the Laws and highlighting their importance to contemporary scholarship.

Excerpt

This volume embodies a cooperative, intensive, and comprehensive interpretation of Plato’s Laws, a single, massive dialogue that challenges even the hardiest reader. in general, it is useful to focus on a single dialogue because of the sort of thing a Platonic dialogue is. While Plato’s works certainly deal with common themes in common ways, each dialogue also has something like the integrity of a work of art; it has, so to speak, its own rules. An elaborate dramatic conceit, unique and well-drawn characters, novel images and arguments, all contribute to making the individual dialogue an appropriate object for study. It seemed to us especially appropriate in the case of the Laws—whose mere length sets it apart, as do its unique setting, principal speaker, and fresh take on politics— to undertake a reading in common calculated to bring out what is distinctive about the dialogue.

Sharing the end of reading in common, our essays cover the whole dialogue book by book, and several reflect on it as a whole. Forgoing the aim of complete commentary, the authors were invited to highlight whatever aspects of the text they judged most salient and fruitful. Finally, before final versions were due, authors had access to draft copies of one another’s essays and, to greater or lesser degrees, incorporated responses to one another’s work. All these features, we think, lend the volume an even higher degree of cohesiveness than would come from merely working from a common text. the authors come from diverse backgrounds and even disciplines: philosophy, political science, classics, history, each charting a different path through the vast wilderness of the Laws. While their essays are at least as diverse as their backgrounds, there is nonetheless a theme common to most if not all that can serve as a starting point for introducing the material in this volume.

Partly by comparing other dialogues of Plato (most notably the Republic, of course), and partly through thinking about our own times, the reader of the Laws is bound to consider the idea of a free, rational, non-coercive politics in . . .

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