Νόμοι

Νόμοι The Laws, Plato S Longest Dialogue, Has For Centuries Been Recognized As The Most Comprehensive Exposition Of The Practical Consequences Of His Philosophy, A Necessary Corrective To The Visionary And Utopian Republic In This Animated Encounter Between A Foreign Philosopher And A Powerful Statesman, Not Only Do We See Reflected, In Plato S Own Thought, Eternal Questions Of The Relation Between Political Theory And Practice, But We Also Witness The Working Out Of A Detailed Plan For A New Political Order That Embodies The Results Of Plato S Mature Reflection On The Family, The Status Of Women, Property Rights, Criminal Law, And The Role Of Religion And The Fine Arts In A Healthy Republic

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  • 16 December 2017

10 thoughts on “Νόμοι

  1. says:

    And then, as time went on, the poets themselves introduced the reign of vulgar and lawless innovation They were men of genius, but they had no perception of what is just and lawful in music raging like Bacchanals and possessed with inordinate delights mingling lamentations with hymns, and paeans with dithyrambs imitating the sounds of the flute on the lyre, and making one general confusion ignorantly affirming that music has no truth, and, whether good or bad, can only be judged of rightly by the pleasure of the hearer And by composing such licentious works, and adding to them words as licentious, they have inspired the multitude with lawlessness and boldness, and made them fancy that they can judge for themselves about melody and song And in this way the theatres from being mute have become vocal, as though they had understanding of good and bad in music and poetry and instead of an aristocracy, an evil sort of theatrocracy has grown up For if the democracy which judged had only consisted of educated persons, no fatal harm would have been done but in music there first arose the universal conceit of omniscience and general lawlessness freedom came following afterwards, and men, fancying that they knew what they did not know, had no longer any fear, and the absence of fear begets shamelessness For what is this shamelessness, which is so evil a thing, but the insolent refusal to regard the opinion of the better by reason of an over daring sort of liberty Yes, I m talking about you, Goodreads.

  2. says:

    Despite having been assigned it in my Classical Political Thought class, I only in the past few days finished reading Plato s Laws apologies to Dr Walsh Which is a bit unfortunate, since it s bloody fantastic.I confess to having had a bit of a meh relationship with Plato in the past I mean, the number of his dialogues that I ve actually enjoyed as opposed to just kind of thinking they re okay is pretty small basically the Ion and maybe bits of Epistle VII Sure, I ve read and discussed what are usually counted as his greatest works Gorgias, Meno, Apology, and of course The Republic and even taught them in class I prefer teaching the Crito, since it s short and a quick read for the students But this was the first book where Plato and I really clicked It was the first one of his that I ve read where I found myself wanting to read , to find out where the argument was going, and to see what the next step in his argument would be Part of the reason for this may have been a translation issue I read the Penguin Classics translation of The Laws done by Trevor Saunders an excellently done work with good footnotes and introductory summaries , and part of it may have been the fact that all the other times I ve read Plato it was for class I can t say for sure what the reason is, just that this has ended up being a book that I truly enjoyed reading and look forward to someday exposing to students.The way I ve regularly had The Laws explained to me is that it s Plato s admission of failure In undergrad, it was covered in a Greek civilization course where the prof for whom I have the deepest respect suggested that Plato had given up on trying to get anyone to care about the virtuous philosophical life and turned his final hopes on getting them at least to be good because the law said they had to In the aforementioned graduate course, the professor for whom I also have the deepest respect suggested that The Laws is of an appendix to The Republic, wherein the Philosopher Kings who exist at the center of the ideal state in The Republic have withdrawn from society, leaving behind only the laws they crafted I suspect this view is traceable back to a philosopher named Eric Voegelin, for whom I have slightly less respect but whom I occasionally enjoy reading Having finally read the book myself, I think I disagree bit with both of these position Certainly it s true that Plato is issuing some kind of passionate call here after all this was his last and longest work But I think a better way to read The Laws is as a second shot at The Republic In The Republic, Plato had argued that people ought to live virtuous lives within virtuous states The same argument is at work here But In The Republic, when asked how such a state could ever come about, Plato gives a mix of reasons including but not limited to education, hard work, divine intervention, leadership by a philosophical elite, some form of natural selection, and a life of continually increasing and unrestrained virtue In other words, all of the ways in which people expressly do not want to live How does Plato argue his state will come about in The Laws By playing games, drinking, a life free from all but the most moderate work load, and enough sex to keep the state populated Same goals, different means It s true that there are differences between The Republic and The Laws perhaps most noticeable is the presence of families in The Laws which had been outlawed in The Republic in lieu of communal wives and children , but these differences are very much organizational differences rather than differences in the philosophical goal of virtue.Such, at least, is my read on the relationship between The Republic and The Laws they re not really two radically different books, they ve just got two different audiences In a sense, I think it could be argued that the former was written as a guide for the Philosopher Kings, while the latter was written for at least the Guardian class, if not for the rest of the citizen bodyThe biggest major modern issue with The Laws at least as of the writing of the translator s Introduction in 1970 is the question of whether or not Plato was a totalitarian This goes back to a book by Karl Popper written in the 1930s called The Open Society and Its Enemies Popper argued that any philosophy that teaches moral absolutism will eventually lead to totalitarianism, since moral absolutes are non negotiables As someone who clearly believes in moral absolutes, Plato must therefore be a totalitarian Variations on this theme have followed Popper, but all are loosely tied back into his original thesis The translator takes a fairly middle path through the book, pointing out places where Plato seems to be totalitarian, and places where he is fairly liberal in his outlook the absolute equality of women, for example I think the problem is we re asking an anachronistic question Were we to say to Plato are you a totalitarian or not His reply would be huh That is to say, no such category existed in the Ancient World In one sense, all ancient societies were totalitarian There was no distinction between the individual and the state After all, an ancient would argue, states are made up of bodies of individuals So when you do something wicked, that makes the state that much worse And when you do something virtuous, that makes the state that much better With that being the case, why wouldn t the state have the authority to regulate even the most minute details of daily life, should it be necessary for preserving the virtue and dignity of the society This would not be seen as either repressive or intolerable Really, the only two political categories of major concern to ancients in any meaningful sense were 1 who was allowed to participate and 2 what was the goal of the government Any combination of answers to these questions could be or less totalitarian by modern standards, that simply wasn t something they were interested in And, this reflection is going on probably longer than it should After all, I haven t even said much about the book itself I think this might have to turn into at least one post, if only to keep the length of things manageableSo, the short version is this is an excellent book that raises all kinds of great questions and gives great answers to questions like what is the role of education in society and individual life What should be the goal of legislation Who watches the watchmen seriously, that s one of them What is the role of the elderly in society And so onHighly recommended.

  3. says:

    The one Plato work that makes for accessible, organised, readingI have the greatest respect for Plato s work and what it has meant for Western thought and Western culture To my chagrin, Plato and the Socratic dialogues have proven hard to go through, if you are like me the sort who sees an argument that looks strange picks it apart, because believes character is flippant works on refuting it for 5 minutes realises author is dead and can t answer does a Tasmanian Devil impersonationHowever, here we are dealing with a lecture, rather than a debate, which will hopefully make it easier to digest the ideas If not, this book might still be for you, as a coherent, comprehensive layout for main governance issues or for the mental exercise of coding a fictional Polis from scratch It is very rewarding.

  4. says:

    This mammoth work is one of Plato s most important, and not very widely read books There s good reason for this, while there are important passages in this, the work is ultimately like reading an Ancient Greek version of Leviticus In other words, it s really really boring.

  5. says:

    There is a popular saying in the film world, that directors spend their whole careers making the same film over and over again Plato spent his whole career working out the ideas laid out in Laws Some of it is in the Republic, most of it can be found in other dialogues Stray observation why couldn t he just ask Athenian stranger what his name is, and give him a bit of dignity rather than be forever nameless

  6. says:

    I ll open myself up for criticism and confess that I did not actually finish Plato s Laws I made it all the way through Book VIII, then I started skimming, and when that proved just as boring, I went and looked at the secondary literature about the work There s a great summary at Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy in an entry titled Plato on Utopia, available HERE.Plato s Laws is a work written by Plato in his later years, when he s an old man Interestingly, Plato had been, prior to writing The Laws, an advisor to a tyrant in Sicily whose rule Plato was supposed to guide Instead, Plato landed in prison Before the problem with the tyrant, Plato had written in his younger days The Republic, where he had imagined a just society to be the mirror of the just soul, where wise kings rule spirited soldiers and pleasure seeking working classes just as people justly control their souls by having their wisdom control their motivations and desires.There is nothing in The Laws approximating this tripartite division of the soul or of the just society like that in The Republic Nor is there a robust sense of the ideas commonly associated with Plato, like his view that knowledge is a soul s recollection of what was already imprinted on it before the time of birth, although some views, like his view that what we tend to experience of reality are crude approximations of eternal forms, is retained, even if expressed a bit differently The later Plato is concerned with how the human condition came to be as it is today, and how we can recover that earlier sense For the later Plato, then, there is a perfect and eternal order but it might have been, for all he or anyone knows, a really existing condition.The later Plato believes that once upon a time God governed the world and human beings lived a harmonious life, without need or strong desire People lived and shared everything in common Then as people began to control of their own affairs, they began to create inequality and need and be ruled by their strong desires Plato writes in The Laws, contra The Republic, that the most perfect society was like this society where people live in harmony and share everything in common But Plato does not think we can recover that society and so proposes the second most ideal society, the details of which are about as enjoyable as eavesdropping on a city planner.I invite you to read the following passage and see if you have the patience for reading pages and pages of the following sorts of descriptions The temples are to be placed all round the agora, and the whole city built on the heights in a circle, for the sake of defence and for the sake of purity Near the temples are to be placed buildings for the magistrates and the courts of law in these plaintiff and defendant will receive their due, and the places will be regarded as most holy, partly because they have to do with the holy things and partly because they are the dwelling places of holy Gods and in them will be held the courts in which cases of homicide and other trials of capital offenses may fitly take place As to the walls, Megillus, I agree with Sparta in thinking that they should be allowed to sleep in the earth, and that we should not attempt to disinter them there is a poetical saying, which is finely expressed, that walls ought to be of steel and iron, and not of earth besides, how ridiculous of us to be sending out our young men annually into the country to dig and to trench, and to keep off the enemy by fortifications, under the idea that they are not to be allowed to set foot in our territory, and then, that we should surround ourselves with a wall, which, in the first place, is by no means conducive to the health of cities, and is also apt to produce a certain effeminacy in the minds of the inhabitants, inviting men to run thither instead of repelling their enemies, and leading them to imagine that their safety is due not to their keeping guard day and night, but that when they are protected by walls and gates, then they may sleep in safety as if they were not meant to labour, and did not know that true repose comes from labour, and that disgraceful indolence and a careless temper of mind is only the renewal of trouble But if men must have walls, the private houses ought to be so arranged from the first that the whole city may be one wall, having all the houses capable of defence by reason of their uniformity and equality towards the streets The form of the city being that of a single dwelling will have an agreeable aspect, and being easily guarded will be infinitely better for security Until the original building is completed, these should be the principal objects of the inhabitants and the wardens of the city should superintend the work, and should impose a fine on him who is negligent and in all that relates to the city they should have a care of cleanliness, and not allow a private person to encroach upon any public property either by buildings or excavations Further, they ought to take care that the rains from heaven flow off easily, and of any other matters which may have to be administered either within or without the city The guardians of the law shall pass any further enactments which their experience may show to be necessary, and supply any other points in which the law may be deficientI quoted such a full passage to give you a sense for the sheer tedium of reading this dialogue This dialogue, incidentally, reads the list like a dialogue of any of Plato s dialogues I have read There are lengthy passages like this that go on for passages with hardly any of the interlocutors asking questions or making comments.It is clear what the message of Plato s Laws is The purpose of this just society Plato is creating has the sole purpose of being as most near to what it was like in the early days when people were ruled by God and when the people were the most virtuous The aim of this society is to cultivate the highest virtue in people The citizens are to learn through gymnastics, music, persuasion about life matters, and a strong education how to be virtuous, and to have their virtue maintained Unfortunately, so much of the trivia of the dialogue do not seem to be necessarily related to this It is hard to, for example, see how the placement of temples with respect to the marketplace will make a society less just, or the people less capable of virtue At the very least it s difficult to see why such things need to be spelled out Maybe they do Could be my lack of imagination.

  7. says:

    Particularly interesting to anyone interested in legislation and ethics Very unlike other works from Plato, with little focus on metaphysics.

  8. says:

    The Laws of Plato is not entirely laws It is not entirely anything, really It seems to be a nice collection of aphoristic sayings, wise and pithy truths, and overall a collection of legal requirements for a city whose regulation is the main focus of this work Designing a city can be difficult, and whereas The Republic was largely metaphorical and none too practical, pragmatism is the design for this book In addition to designing laws, Plato goes step by step and designs the arguments one should have to devise said laws, and even to devise said arguments to devise said laws this may seem recursive on first glance, but in some cases the justification was indeed the punishment, as in the justification for the law itself would most likely have been the appropriate logical foundation of the purification rites, in addition to incarceration It is dry It is bland But so was the Old Testament, and at times, this can seem very reminiscent of that old law based text as well With very key differences and very key similarities one major key difference was the lack of enforcement of principal on loans Another key difference was the allowance for anger for expiation of crimes If committed in anger, it is curious to note, this hypothetical Cretan utopia would NEVER punish with death, unless a matricide or patricide The Judaic law of course, would have had this individual pay for his crimes through the avenger in blood Talion Likewise, the former point, regarding the principal on loans is something enforceable in the Old Testament as well as many other lawbooks throughout the ages, whereas in Plato s Laws it is simply relegated to the lender As if to say that the lender is the one who has the responsibility to make sure he is lending to a responsible individual And if the borrower doesn t repay, it is the lender s fault This wouldn t work obviously unless you had a society which was religious based The overall banishment of usury from both books simply makes this sort of mentality apparent greed, fundamentally, is not compatible with an ideal utopia, and is therefore a sin Overall, Laws hearkens back to a time when expansion through Greek colonies was rampant, and reminds one even of the incipient days of America, when the Constitution had to be constructed for the benefit of civil society This magnificent work of art deals with ideas and philosophies that are in every other Platonic book it deals with the very argument of the existence of God And Genesis, is the one key similarity with the Old Testament that strikes me, believe it or not It is thought, says the Athenian stranger, that the core idea of the immortality of the soul precedes all material things Because of this fact, there is a prime force from which springs all life In the union of soul and body, proceed all sorts of sinful things, and from which spring ideas which are harmful to humanity Plato makes the argument for predestination as well through this, by simply stating that God s have placed things where they will for their pleasure, seeing that in the end virtue Good triumphs over vice Evil Because of this, the struggle is made entertaining, even though there is bad than good Because of an eventuality The strange capricious, chaotic, and overall aphoristic argument of the Nietzscheans regarding will and exertion on reality is even dealt with here Simply the fact that we can create ourselves or in part create reality is completely denied and shot down with Chapter X of this beautiful work of art Everything is well placed, everything divine, and if everything is followed a utopia will proceed Clearly even this ridiculously dry, litigious work is not the exact outline for a city, however it is the backbone from which a utopia springs And whereas The Republic is a way for a man to live his life, it could be said The Laws are the way for a republic to live its life.

  9. says:

    The 3 star rating is an average of the ratings I would have given each of the twelve Books of the Laws if they were read separately Some flaws in the text The Athenian Stranger leaves open very important facets of legislation, while thoroughly legislating much less pertinent ones Heavy burden placed on assumptions of many kinds to do with human nature Inherent counter productive legislation ie legislation with a view to friendship, but allowing nay, promoting citizens to denounce one another However, I think these flaws are needed, as they represent the great difficulty in embarking on man s greatest journey creating an entirely new political order Plato s Laws is an essential read for lovers of political theory and philosophy, as it is one of the few books that deals with the aforementioned task.On a side note, I especially loved the Book on punishments and the Book on gods, even as an atheist.

  10. says:

    When starting a new nation, the founding laws are key to that nation s long term survival Written well, and your nation will flourish Written poorly and your nation will not last for long In that spirit, when given the theoretical chance to found a new city state in Ancient Greece, Plato attacks the issue with relish in this dialogue that may also have been one of his last written works In some ways, it is a sequel to The Republic, but, unlike that classic book of philosophy, this one is not very interesting Indeed, this book was mostly tedious There were a few interesting sections, like his sections on education and religion, but most were dull Also, I m sure glad Plato isn t founding anything in reality today as few of the laws he writes down would fly in modern society Truly, this book is only for those who have a serious interest in ancient philosophy For those with a passing interest, you can stick with The Republic and be satisfied.

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