The Laws, Book III Philosophy 190: Plato Fall, 2014 Prof. Peter Hadreas Course website: ses/Plato Platos.

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  • Slide 1
  • The Laws, Book III Philosophy 190: Plato Fall, 2014 Prof. Peter Hadreas Course website: ses/Plato Platos Academy, a mosaic in the Museo Nazionale, Naples, (Photo: Giraudon)
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  • A.E. Taylor introduces his chapter on Platos Laws stating: 1 The Laws is not only the longest of all of Platos writings, it also contains his latest and ripest thought on the subjects which he had all through his life most at heart -- ethics, education and jurisprudence. Platos services to the theory of education, in particular, have usually been grossly underrated, from an inexcusable neglect of the very thorough treatment given to it in what he probably himself regarded as his most important work. His theology, again, has often been misconceived in modern times, because the tenth book of the Laws is the only place where it is systematically expounded. 1. Taylor, A. E, Plato: The Man and His Work, (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., reprinted 1978). p. 463.
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  • A.E. Taylor explains how political significance of Athens politics changed by the time Plato wrote this last work: 1 Meanwhile the very existence of Hellenic civilisation was endangered by the encroachments of Persia in the East and Carthage in the West. It was clear that if civilization of the Hellenic type was to hold its own, none of the older city-states was in a condition to become its centre. We know now that the historical solution was to be provided by the rise of the Macedonian monarchy and the achievement of Philip and Alexander. But the work of Philip was only in the beginning in Platos last years; his appearance south of Thermopylae as the ally of Thebes against Phocis, the first manifest sign that a new power had succeeded to the hegemony of the Hellenic states, did not take place until the year after Platos death. 1. Taylor, A. E, Plato: The Man and His Work, (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., reprinted 1978), p. 465.
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  • PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE 1 The main characters: all three are old men. 1. An Athenian Stranger, always anonymous. He is the main speaker and voices all the main proposals of the work. He has astronomical and mathematical knowledge and its never doubted that he is a highly suitable person for giving advice on matters of jurisprudence and political science. At 711A we learn that he has had personal experience of association with a tyrant. This would suggest he comes, perhaps as close as any of Platos characters to Plato himself 2. Megillus, a Spartan whose a spokesperson the Spartan political traditions. 3. Clinias, a Cretan and a spokesperson for the Cretan (and Minoan) political traditions. 1. adapted from Taylor, A. E, Plato: The Man and His Work, (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., reprinted 1978), p. 469.
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  • The Topic In Book III of the Laws, the Athenian Stranger proposes the genesis of political systems. In the process he diagnoses the intrinsic conditions of their corruption.
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  • The Athenian Stranger proposes that human political organizations have come and gone over an immensely long period of time, much longer surely than would be recorded by historical record Athenian: So surely, during this period, thousands upon thousands of states have come into being, while at least as many, in equally vast numbers, have been destroyed? p. 1365, 676C:
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  • For the sake of beginning at the beginning of some period of human history, the Athenian Stranger assumes a pre- historical starting point: the reconstruction of human society after a a flood that annihilates the previous civilization. In this thought-experiment, he conjectures that those still alive after the flood lived on especially high ground. Athenian: That those who escaped the disaster must have been pretty nearly all hill-shepherds -- a few embers of mankind preserved. I imagine, on the tops of mountains. p. 1365, 677A:
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  • In this pre-historical post-deluge thought experiment, Plato supposes that the few human who managed to survive had lost whatever knowledge of arts and crafts they possessed. From a positive point of view, they also had lost the capacity for intrigue and deceptions that are required for political success in a politically advanced society. Further they had plenty of land available so there was no need for disputes over territory. Athenian: Heres a further point: such men must have been in general unskilled and unsophisticated. In particular, they must have been quite innocent of the crafty devices that city- dwellers use in the rat-race to do each other down; and all the other dirty tricks that men play against one another must have been unknown. (p. 1366, 677B)
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  • Societal Development -- Stage One: Autocracy There are no lawsuits, party strife or military devices and techniques. Nor are there councils for debate. Humans live on the tops of mountains and caves. Patriarchy in the extreme arises. Each man rules his wife and children. There is no consideration of others outside the immediate environs. (p. 1369, 680B) Athenian Stranger says You can find it it many parts of the world today both among Greeks and non-Greeks. I suppose this is what Homer is describing in his account of the Cyclops. He cites Homers Odyssey, Book IX. 112-15) as expression this stage: No laws, no councils for debate have they: They live on the tips of lofty mountains In hollow caves; each man lays down the law To wife and children, with no regard to neighbor.
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  • "Odysseus in the Cave of Polyphemus." Painting by Jacob Jordaens, first half of the 17th century.
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  • Societal Development -- Stage One: Autocracy What Plato seems to leave out in associating this age with the Cyclops is that although the Cyclops were in a sense innocent and ingenuous -- Polyphemus could not detect the deception of Odysseus pun as Odysseuss says he is No one -- Polyphemus was also cannibalistic. He ate six of Odysseus men. Maybe in some sense, Plato is suggesting this is the nature of the pre-historic mind, devoid even of a pre-legal taboo of cannibalism and incest.
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  • Societal Development -- Stage Two, Transitional Aristocracy The next stage is when several families amalgamate and form larger communities. They turn their attention to agriculture, initially in the foothills, and build rings of dry stones to serve as walls to protect themselves from wild animals. The result now is a single large unit, a common homestead. (p. 1369, 681A)
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  • Societal Development Stage Three, Cities of the Plain With Various Constitutions Athenian: So we can now go on to describe the birth of a third type of political system, one which in fact admits all systems and all their modifications and exhibits equal variety and change in the actual states as well. (p. 1370 681D) Athenian Stranger continues to use Homer to illustrate the prototype. He cites Troy as a city of the plain, which was conquered, by the Achaians and in so doing changed their name indicating a further political development a stage four: When the exiles came back again, [i. e. Odysseus, Agamemnon, and others] they adopted a new name, and were now known as the Dorians instead of Achaeans, in honor of Dorieus, who had rallied them while they were in exile.
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  • Societal Development Stage Four: A League of Cities Athenian Stranger: We have had a rather random discussion about various foundation and political systems, but we have achieved at least this much: we have watched the first, second and third type of state being founded in succession over a vast period of time, and now we discover this fourth state (or 'nation, if you like) whose historical foundation and development we are tracing down to its maturity today. (p. 1372, 683A)
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  • Societal Development Stage Four: A League of Cities The league of cities, which the Athenian Stranger names as Argos, Messene and Sparta (p. 1372, 683D), swore oaths to act according to mutually binding laws which they adopted to regulate the exercise of authority and obedience to it, (p. 1373, 684B). Further the threefold balance of power provides a check, they thought, if one power attempted to overreach the others: Whenever a given state broke the established laws, an alliance of the other two would always be there to take the field against it. (p. 1373, 684C) Then why did the alliance fail? Or as the Athenian Stranger says: Then why on earth, my friends, did this foundation and its legislation turn out such a dismal failure? (p. 1374, 684E
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  • Why Was The League of Cities A Dismal Failure: The Basic Human Flaw: Belief in the Righteousness of Wish Fulfillment Athenian: Now then, this shows that there is one specific desire common to all mankind. Isnt this the upshot of our discussion Megillus: What desire? Athenian: That events should obey whatever orders one feels like giving -- invariably, if possible, but failing that, at least where human affair are concerned. Megillus: Very true. p. 1376, 687C This principle does not serve humankind. Many times our prayers should not be answered. Good deal in the son's prayers that the father will beg the gods never to grant. Same is true of an impulsive father. He suffers from a second childhood.
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  • The Basic Human Flaw: Belief in the Righteousness of Wish Fulfillment is Further the Cause of Civil Strife in that Right is extended over seven incompatible claims: 1. Belief in right of parents over children and their descendants. 2. Belief in high birth over low birth. 3. Belief that elders should rule over younger. 4. Belief that masters should rule over slaves. 5. Belief that stronger should rule over weaker as among animals 6. Belief that wise should rule over ignorant. 7. Belief what is chosen by lots enjoys the favors of the gods and is blessed by fortune.
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  • Causes of Civil Strife in that Right as Extended to Seven incompatible claims: Athenian Stranger: 'So you see, O legislator (as we might jocularly address someone who sets about legislation with undue optimism), 'you see how many titles to authority there are, and how they naturally conflict with each other. Now heres a source of civil strife weve discovered for you, which you must put to rights. (p. 1379, 690D) Typical source of clash of belief in righteousness: Athenian: So where do we suppose this destructive process invariably starts? Among kings or people? Clinias: Most instances suggest that this is probably a disease of kings whose life of luxury has made them arrogant. Athenian: So it is clear that it was the kings of that era who were first infected by the acquisitive spirit in defiance of the law of the land. (p. 1380, 691A)
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  • Attempts to Work Out Beliefs in Righteous Have Led to Two Mother Constitutions from whose mix come all Constitutions Athenian: Listen to me then. There are two mother-constitutions, so to speak, which you could fairly say have given birth to all the others. Monarchy is the proper name for the first, and democracy for the second. The former has been taken to extreme lengths by the Persians, the latter by my country [Athens]; virtually all others, as I said, are varieties of these two. It is absolutely vital for a political system to combine them, if (and this is of course the point of our advice, when we insist that no state formed without these two elements can be constituted properly) -- if it is to enjoy freedom and friendship applied with good judgment. (p. 1382, 693D) NOTE: Platos thought has departed from the doctrine in the Republic regarding the fall of the Ideal State: the first degeneration is Timocracy, then Oligarchy (plutocracy), and finally Democracy and Despotism.
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  • Illustration of two Mother Constitutions: The Persian Story Under the Persian king, Cyrus Persian life was a judicious blend of liberty and subjection. Problem was that Cyrus never considered the problem of correct education. (p. 1383, 694C) He [Cyrus] just didnt notice that women and eunuchs had given his sons the education of a Mede [education of extreme luxury] and that it had been debased by their so-called blessed status. One son Cambyses was an unbridled tyrant. According to Herodotus he killed his brother and sister. Cambyses himself was then killed and his throne was seized a man posing as his brother, most likely a magus, or a Zoroastrian priest named Gaumata. The Persian throne was regained by Darius who was a lance-bearer for Cambyses: Athenian:... His [Darius] generosity in money and gifts rallied all the Persians to his side, and stimulated a feeling of community and friendship among them; consequently his armies regarded him with such affection that they added to the territory Cyrus had bequeathed as least as much again.... But Darius was succeeded by Xerxes, whose education had reverted to the royal pampering of old. (p. 1384, 695D)
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  • Cambyses II 530 BC 522 BC Kills The Apis, The Sacred Bull Of The Egyptians
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  • Illustration of two Mother Constitutions: the Athenian Story: An Excess of Freedom Athenian:... Consequently they [musicians who performed as if there was no right and wrong in the compassion/performance of music] they gave the ordinary man not only a taste for breaking the laws of music but the arrogance to set himself up as a capable judge.... But if this democracy had been limited to gentlemen and had applied only to music, no great harm would have been done; in the event, however, music proved to be the starting point of everyones conviction that he was authority on everything, and of a general disregard for the law. Complete license was not far behind. The conviction that they knew made them unafraid, and assurance engendered effrontery. You see, a reckless lack of respect for ones betters is effrontery of a peculiar viciousness, which springs from a freedom from inhibitions that has gone much too far. Clinias: Youre absolutely right. Athenian: This freedom will then take other forms. First people grow unwilling to submit to authorities, then they refuse to obey the admonitions of their fathers and mothers and elders. As they hurtle along to the end of this primrose path, they try to escape the authority of the laws; and the very end of the road comes when they cease to care about oaths and promises and religion in general. pp. 1389-90, 701A-C
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  • Response to the Flaw in Human Nature and Problem of Righteousness in Political Rule lies in the Blending of Moderate Authoritarianism and Moderate Freedom. Athenian:... We reviewed a moderate authoritarianism and a moderate freedom and saw the result: tremendous progress in each case. But when either the Persians or the Athenians pushed things to extremes (of subjection in one case and its opposite in the other), it did neither of them any good at all. p. 1390, 701E.
  • Slide 24
  • A Very Short Overview of the Political State That Plato Describes in The Laws Plato foregoes some of the more radical ideas of the Republic: the communism of women and children, the surrender of private property and the rule of the philosopher-king. In the succeeding books of The Laws, Plato proposes a state council modeled on Pythagorean councils, who serve as the guardians of the laws. The council watches over households and marriages and the upkeep of a definite number of allotments of land. Plato speculate that land is best divided up into 5040 allotments of equivalent size. Transferrable property up to four times on which a family can live is given for free. But even in his last work, as suggested by the myth in the Republic, Plato holds to the idea that ultimately the political state is an institution for preparing the soul for its eternal life.
  • Slide 25
  • slide #9, Odysseus in the cave of Polyphemus: "Odysseus in the Cave of Polyphemus." Painting by Jacob Jordaens, first half of the 17th century. Public domain. slide #21, Cambyses II kills the Sacred Bull of the Egyptians: apis-the-sacred-bull-of-the-egyptians-news-photo/455692687


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