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3. The Long and Winding Road Impediments to Inquiry in Book 1 of the Laws

Edited by Gregory Recco and Eric Sanday Indiana University Press ePub

3    The Long and Winding Road: Impediments to Inquiry in Book 1 of the Laws

Eric Salem

It is dawn or perhaps just before dawn—a good time, we later learn, for discussing regime change, nation building, and legal reform (722c; 951d; 961b). The day promises to be hot and sunny, and since it is, as we also later learn, just around the summer solstice, the day will certainly be very long—long enough, say, for a very long conversation (625b; 683b). Three old men, a Cretan, a Spartan and an Athenian, stand outside the walls of Knossos and ponder the day ahead of them. They will hike together to the cave of Zeus—the well-spring of Cretan laws—and as they hike (and rest, as needed) they will pass the time talking and listening to talk about “regime and laws” (625a–b). Three grand old men, representatives of three great Greek powers, have already taken their stand together outside the walls of the city. And they will now make their way, in speech as well as deed, into the dawning light. They will ascend together from Knossos to the source of Knossos, from effect to cause, from convention to nature.

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8. On the Human and the Divine Reading the Prelude in Plato’s Laws 5

Edited by Gregory Recco and Eric Sanday Indiana University Press ePub

8    On the Human and the Divine: Reading the Prelude in Plato’s Laws 5

Robert Metcalf

In the opening pages of Plato’s Laws, Cleinias advances the thought that all human beings are “enemies” [] one to another, and each human being to himself, so that, within each of us, there is a war [] being waged of the self against itself [] (626d–e). This thought determines the discussion that follows, insofar as is understood in terms of attaining “victory over oneself” [] (626e) after fighting off [] fears, pains, longings, and pleasures (633c–d), and thus, after “withstanding” [] pleasures rather than being enslaved or compelled by what is shameful [] (635c–d).1 Victory within this of the soul amounts, therefore, to what is superior within us exercising control over what is inferior, and , accordingly, is understood as being able to rule over oneself—the Athenian specifies “those who are good” [] as the ones able to “rule themselves” [] (644b). This polemical orientation toward , and particularly with respect to pleasures and pains, is a theme for which the Athenian has recourse to the lines from Hesiod, quoted also by Adeimantus in Plato’s Republic: “Vice in abundance is easy to get; / The road is smooth and begins beside you, / But the gods have put sweat between us and .”2

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14. Property and Impiety in Plato’s Laws Books 11 and 12

Edited by Gregory Recco and Eric Sanday Indiana University Press ePub

14  Property and Impiety in Plato’s Laws: Books 11 and 12

Eric Sanday

At the end of the project traced out in Plato’s Laws, the Athenian Stranger asks what it would take to arrive at an end of the lawgiving.1 In this essay I focus on the way in which the problem of ending relates to the ongoing incompleteness of political community in the so-called “second-best” city that is the subject of the dialogue. I propose in this chapter that the character of the city as second best implies that its very incompleteness is necessarily constitutive of its health, and that the success of the lawgiver will hinge on the city’s ability to live with and allow for the ongoing breakdown of its project. It is my contention that the problem of incompleteness governs the concluding books of the Laws, and that interpreting these books in light of this problem allows us to understand the function of the Assembly () introduced in Book 12, which the Athenian refers to as the “perfect and permanent safeguard” of the city they have generated. Key to the reading I will offer is the recognition that impiety extends beyond the limits of personal belief, as identified in the Book 10 reference to the young, and is rooted in the material foundations of life in the city, especially in property, contracts (), and other institutions first introduced in Book 11.

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7. “He Saw the Cities and He Knew the Minds of Many Men” Landscape and Character in the Odyssey and the Laws

Edited by Gregory Recco and Eric Sanday Indiana University Press ePub

7    “He Saw the Cities and He Knew the Minds of Many Men”: Landscape and Character in the Odyssey and the Laws

Patricia Fagan

The opening discussion of the constitutions of Crete and Sparta in Laws 1 (624a–626b) reveals two features central to the creation of laws, constitutions, and education: they are received from a god through a human intermediary (Zeus through Minos in the case of Crete, Apollo through Lycurgus in the case of Laconia). Second, aspects of the constitution develop out of the interactions of human groups with the terrain they inhabit. The Athenian stranger asks Cleinias, why does your law demand the common messes and the and weapons you employ (625c)? Cleinias replies that their has emerged from the landscape of Crete: it is not flat, so the Cretans do not use horses, but run. When running, light arms like bows and arrows are necessary. So, because of the landscape they inhabit, the Cretans have developed a particular set of military practices and a that supports that military practice. This paper traces a part of the working-out of these two themes, the relation between terrain and political character and the role of the divine in a , in the earlier and central books of the Laws. My discussion begins from the point about the relationship between constitution and terrain. I will examine here the opening of Book 4, where the stranger explains the significance for the development of virtue in the new city, of the city’s having a proper location and the right type of productive land; the new city’s virtue will depend upon her being isolated from other cities and agriculturally self-sufficient. I will discuss this analysis in light of the Cyclopes of the Odyssey, another isolated and agriculturally self-sufficient group, whom the stranger invokes in Book 3 as an example of the most just type of rule. The landscape the Cyclopes inhabit and the landscape the new city will inhabit, I will argue, indicate that the citizens of the new city will, like the Cyclopes, be characterized by hostile and closed-minded stances toward what comes to them from outside. I will turn next to a discussion of how the very opening of the Laws (as I have noted above) points to the crucial necessity of openness to the strange for the creation of laws and constitutions through its mention of the divine and mortal lawgivers of Crete and Sparta. Openness to the strange reveals itself here as openness to the divine, a theme that the Laws pursues through the figure of Dionysus. In the final section of the paper I will examine what I take to be the key features of Dionysus for the Laws: his ability to drive humans to madness in his rites and his violent punishment of cities that refuse to be open to the divine. Plato’s use of the Odyssey and of Dionysus-myth, then, invite us to challenge some of the claims that the Stranger so authoritatively makes about the sources and nature of virtue in a city.

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4. Education in Plato’s Laws

Edited by Gregory Recco and Eric Sanday Indiana University Press ePub

4    Education in Plato’s Laws

John Russon

The basic story of Book 2 of Plato’s Laws is easy enough to tell. The Athenian Stranger, who is discussing the establishment of a good state with Cleinias the Knossian and Megillus the Spartan, argues for the primary importance of education and discusses the importance of song and dance in this context.1 Specifically, he maintains that children will have their adult perspectives formed through their early experiences of pleasure and pain, and that good education primarily involves training children to align their experiences of pleasure and pain with what wise adults would in fact recognize to be noble and ignoble behaviors respectively. Since children are playful by nature, it is through controlling their play that this education will be accomplished. Games, songs, and dances in particular are the structured forms of play in which children will participate in order to become educated into good citizenship (2.659e).2 The communal experience of song and dance, which is the focus of Book 2, will primarily be enacted through three choruses—a children’s chorus, led by the muses, a young men’s chorus led by Apollo, and a Dionysian chorus of adults, including especially old men (2.664c–d). It is the oldest men who, being wisest, will appreciate what the children should learn, and it is their insights—which should be the equivalent of the needs of virtue—that will determine the implicit content of the songs, dances, and games learned by the children (2.659d; 7.797a). The message being communicated will mostly express the importance of maintaining the existing social order, and its central message (its “noble lie,” so to speak—2.663d–e) will be the unity of justice and happiness (2.664b; also, 660e).

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