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8: Psychology for Legislators

Sara Brill Indiana University Press ePub

IN THE FIRST book of the Laws, the Athenian Stranger and his interlocutors turn to discuss the best form of civic education, one that would provide for the well-being of citizens. They conceive of education in terms that merit comparison with Republic: education is a matter of becoming good (634e, 644a), and requires a training in pleasures and desire (643c) that includes the turning of one's erotic impulses toward that which one is studying (643e). In the Republic, as we have seen, it is the plasticity of young souls that is taken to recommend the supervision of poets and the determination of which tales are suitable to tell. In the Laws the first detailed account of psychic plasticity, that is, of the factors that shape the soul and give character to a human life, occurs in the form of an image introduced in order to clarify the Athenian's assertion that those capable of ruling themselves are good, while those incapable of so ruling are bad (644b): the infamous image of the living being as a puppet of the gods (644d–645c). What unfolds in the course of this image-making is an account of the legislative subject, the being for whom laws are enacted.1 This being is constituted by the tense interaction between an array of demands and capacities, figured in the image as sinews or cords. Several of the most powerful of these cords are described as follows: pleasure and pain, two “foolish and antagonistic counselors” (644c); opinions () about the future, hopes, which, when they anticipate pain are called “fear” and when they anticipate pleasure, “confidence”; and calculation (), capable of determining which opinions are good and which are bad (644c–d). Populated by a plurality of competing affections, the human being is a loose and tenuous conglomerate whose actions are the result of a tense mechanics of pulling and pushing. One such cord—calculation—is capable of adjudicating between the competing demands of the others and directing action on the basis of the good. However, this particular cord exerts its attraction and influence in a gentler manner than the others, and thus requires aid. When calculation becomes the shared opinion of the city, it is called law (644d, 645a).2

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9: Psychology for the Legislated

Sara Brill Indiana University Press ePub

THE ATHENIAN'S TURN to penal law begins with a lament that such legislation is necessary in Magnesia (853b). However, he quickly acknowledges that they are humans legislating for humans, and that the account of human nature and the human soul they have been developing reveals the necessity for laws of the sort they are about to create. The structure of these laws is informed by another early agreement, namely, that the account of the soul that informs the legislators’ approach to legislating is to be shared with the legislated (645b–c). As we have seen, the preludes that are appended to laws are treated as a powerful vehicle for conveying this civically salutary conception and attitude toward soul. This chapter will argue that the preludes attached to penal law are particularly vivid instantiations of this psychology for the legislated. We will begin with the prelude to temple robbing, a piece of legislation which directly precedes and motivates the distinction between injury and injustice that so shapes Magnesian homicide law, and which promotes precisely the attitude toward violent action that is encapsulated by the religious language of pollution. From there we will move on to discuss the legislation pertaining to homicide and the impiety of the young in order to analyze the implicit accounts of soul contained therein.

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3: Psychic Geography

Sara Brill Indiana University Press ePub

WHEN SOCRATES CONCLUDES the four logoi about immortality with the observation that it is to the care of the soul that they must turn, “not only for this time in which we call ‘being alive’ goes on, but for time as a whole” (107c), it would seem as though he simply passes over the need to give an account of “being alive.” Socrates does not go on to offer a logos of living being in the same manner in which he has discussed the immortality of the soul. And yet, if his subsequent account is indeed of time as a whole, it is the place in which such time unfolds that is given the greatest attention. The myth about the earth that Socrates offers provides an image of the scene of duration, an image of what we might call “doing time,” in which the site of the “doing” is the subject of description. Socrates returns to the mythic context in which the four logoi began by first offering a preliminary description of the soul's journey to Hades (107c–108c), followed by an extended myth of the earth (108d–114c) in which he describes the whole earth (108d–109b) and its various regions (109b–113c), and concluding with an account of the experiences of the souls of the dead under and upon its surface (113d–114c). Thus, Socrates follows the fourth logos about soul's immortality—a logos whose failure to provide an adequate account of living being we have charted in some detail—by recounting a description of the earth in which death is presented as the soul's migration to a region on the earth appropriate to it. Justice is enacted by the soul's dwelling therein.

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10: Psychic Excess

Sara Brill Indiana University Press ePub

EARLY ON IN the lengthy prelude addressed to the would-be atheist, the Athenian makes a statement about soul whose ambiguity and profundity beg comparison with that fateful description of the good from Republic 6 as “beyond being” ( ) (509b). If, observes the Athenian, soul can be shown to be generated prior to things like fire and air, then “it would be most correct to say it to be ” (892c).1 As the adverbial form of means primarily “differently from.” It is often used (in conjunction with a genitive) to indicate “above,” and this specification to its kind of “difference from” recommends the adverb's use to indicate “especially,” “pre-eminently,” or, as Bury renders it, “superlatively.” To claim that psuchē is is to suggest that psuchē has being as both surpassingly and superlatively natural, which is to attribute to soul a deeply ambiguous relationship to nature.

This is a fruitful ambiguity, one in keeping with the general tenor of the discussion of soul in book 10. The Athenian's characterization of the soul as exceedingly natural is contingent upon both a conception of phusis and a demonstration of soul's generation, a showing of its priority with respect to genesis. In fact, genesis and phusis are brought into an intimate relationship in this passage because the atheist's conception of phusis, as the Athenian describes it, is precisely as (generation or coming-to-be of things primary) (892c). As we have seen, the Athenian does not expressly challenge this general formulation of phusis; instead, as the prelude develops, he attempts to reconfigure the atheist's conception of the relationship between phusis and psuchē by asserting that soul is the primary cause of all motion. In doing so, the Athenian attributes to soul generative capacities whose magnitude and scope blur the distinction between psychology and cosmology.

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1: Socratic Prothumia

Sara Brill Indiana University Press ePub

SOCRATES'S DEFENSE OF the calmness with which he confronts his death unfolds within a theological framework with which he has a vital, if also uneasy, relationship. Indeed, he is granted the opportunity of giving this defense because of a delay in his execution due to a religious observation: the citywide observance of a vow to Apollo, involving a ritual mission to Delos in memory of Theseus, prohibits the civic pollution that accompanies executions. Further, Socrates's attempts to give both an account of himself and of the “true” philosopher are shaped by the need to determine both of these entities’ stances toward the theology he outlines very early on in the dialogue. With respect to the dialogue's psychology, this theological framework provides a number of the dominant conceptual and linguistic tools through which soul is investigated; consequently it will be necessary to outline this framework in detail. At the same time, Plato's depiction of the uneasiness Socrates feels about certain elements of this theology provides an important orientation toward this framework that neither rejects it nor uncritically appropriates it.1 Instead, the Phaedo illustrates that for Plato it is incumbent upon the investigator of the soul to make apparent the conceptual and linguistic apparatus through which soul is interrogated. Insofar as theology provides one such lens, this theology must be made explicit and subject to scrutiny, and this is precisely what Plato has Socrates do.

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