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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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5. On Beginning after the Beginning

Edited by Gregory Recco and Eric Sanday Indiana University Press ePub

5    On Beginning after the Beginning

John Sallis

Almost always, it seems, one begins after the beginning. So it is with Socrates when, in the Phaedo, he tells of launching a second sailing, as sailors, in the absence of wind to fill their sails, take to the oars. What prompted Socrates was the recurrent failure of his efforts to grasp things directly and the consequent entanglement in intractable aporias. Thus finally, as he explains, he turned away from things, forsook immediate vision of them, and, instead, had recourse to , seeking to discover therein the truth of things.

Today, too, it is difficult to begin otherwise than after the beginning and in such a way that this posteriority is decisive. For, despite all efforts and claims to the contrary, we continue—we cannot but continue—to draw on linguistic and conceptual resources that originated in the Platonic texts. Even when what is sought is another beginning that would divert thinking from the first beginning, there is no escaping the necessity of reanimating and interrogating the Platonic beginning. Even in the present instance, in which a discourse focused otherwise than on the beginning of a dialogue is inserted into a sequence of discourses, the beginning—in whatever way it is launched—will be made after the beginning. The discourse will not only take as its theme beginning after the beginning but also will enact beginning in such a manner.

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11. No Country for Young Men Eros as Outlaw in Plato’s Laws

Edited by Gregory Recco and Eric Sanday Indiana University Press ePub

11  No Country for Young Men: Eros as Outlaw in Plato’s Laws

Francisco J. Gonzalez

The topic of this essay is a part of Book 8 consisting of little more than six pages of the Greek text (835b5–842a10) often treated by interpreters as a digression (“una digresión” [Lisi 2001, 38]) and therefore passed over without much comment.1 Sandwiched between legislation concerning sacred festivals and a discussion of the economic organization of the state, this treatment of how the law is to impose proper measure on erotic desires is indeed technically a digression. Yet even if we did not already know that digressions in Plato are often much more important than what they digress from, an attentive reading reveals that the content of this particular digression so threatens, and in such fundamental ways, the overall project of legislation carried out in the dialogue as a whole that it resembles more a derailment than a digression. Indeed that the discussion should need to digress in order to address the problem of erotic desire is no accident. By the time we reach the end of this short discussion of how to master erotic desire in the citizens, the preferred law is abandoned in favor of a fatally flawed “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, persuasion gives way to force, and the founder of the new colony of Magnesia withholds his assent. Indeed throughout this text things seem just not right, out of joint, even rather absurd. My aim in this essay is simply to survey the landscape of this text and draw attention to its many odd features with the ultimate aim of showing how it leaves outside of the law and thus leaves the law itself looking rather ineffectual. The project of legislation will of course need to continue, but now with a disturbing awareness of its limits.

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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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9. Being True to Equality Human Allotment and the Judgment of Zeus

Edited by Gregory Recco and Eric Sanday Indiana University Press ePub

9    Being True to Equality: Human Allotment and the Judgment of Zeus

Gregory Recco

At the beginning of Laws Book 6, the Stranger turns to the establishment of the administrative apparatus of the new city, identifying the number and kinds of official positions that are required, as well as the procedures for filling them. While the lawmakers still have as their primary goal to make the citizens good, they must also strive to ensure that the city should be free of faction. Accordingly, after detailing the procedure for selecting the 360 citizens who are to make up the council, the Stranger concludes that “the selection made in this way would achieve a mean between a monarchic and a democratic constitution” (756e9–10). There follows a digression concerning two kinds of equality, already alluded to in Book 5 when the class system of property qualifications was introduced. The thought about proportional equality, giving all their due rather than the same amount, is familiar enough from its various articulations in Plato and Aristotle and elsewhere, but the Stranger’s treatment of the distinction is nuanced and in some ways unclear, and his way of weaving the concerns that motivate it into nearly every corner of the web of official regulations attests to the complexity of the issue. In what follows, I will present the discussion of the distinction; follow out its use in the establishment of the various offices, in the enumeration of their duties, and in the procedures for selecting them; and investigate how the treatment of equality in the city responds to the imperative to keep the constitution to a mean between monarchy and democracy as a means of avoiding faction. The way that these issues are handled raises questions about the meaning of civic friendship, particularly, about whether it is to be understood in the end as a stabilizing necessity or a substantial good.

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