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Liberty, Democracy, and the Temptations to Tyranny in the Dialogues of Plato

Edited by: Charlotte C.S. Thomas
Product Code: P623
ISBN: 9780881467857
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In this volume of essays, based on the 2019 A.V. Elliott Conference on Great Books and Ideas at Mercer University, eleven scholars take up some of the complex questions that emerge when one considers carefully how Plato presents democracy and liberty in the dialogues, particularly in terms of the threats they seem to pose to justice and philosophy. The democratic context of the Platonic Dialogues is extraordinarily complicated. When Athens lost the Peloponnesian War, the Athenian people also lost their democratic constitution for a brief but brutal time. Plato wrote his dialogues and founded his Academy in the early days of Athens's newly restored democratic regime, the regime that executed Socrates. But, he set most of the dialogues in the days leading up to Athens's downfall. Plato presents Socrates as so deeply committed to Athens that he would not consider living anywhere else, even when the Athenians intend to execute him. But, the critiques of democracy Socrates voices in the dialogues are almost as sharp as his critiques of tyranny, which he sets up clearly as the worst of all regimes. How does one reconcile Socrates’s love of democratic Athens with his open hostility for democracy? The answer may lie at least as much in democracy's vulnerabilities to corruption as in its inherent flaws. The democratic soul and state are not oriented to one focused end. Instead, they are beautiful, unpredictable, free, and often chaotic. Such chaos may make a democracy the regime least likely to kill a philosopher, but it also appears to be the regime most likely to foster the development of a tyrant. The authors whose essays are collected in this volume explore these tensions deeply and with great attention to the subtleties and complexities of Plato’s texts.
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