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Plato’s "Laws"

The Discovery of Being

An insightful commentary on Plato’s Laws, his complex final work.

The Laws was Plato’s last work, his longest, and one of his most difficult. In contrast to the Republic, which presents an abstract ideal, the Laws appears to provide practical guidelines for the establishment and maintenance of political order in the real world. Classicist Seth Benardete offers a rich analysis of each of the twelve books of the Laws, which illuminates Plato’s major themes and arguments concerning theology, the soul, justice, and education.

Most importantly, Benardete shows how music in a broad sense, including drama, epic poetry, and even puppetry, mediates between reason and the city in Plato’s philosophy of law. Benardete also uncovers the work’s concealed ontological dimension, explaining why it is hidden and how it can be brought to light. In establishing the coherence and underlying organization of Plato’s last dialogue, Benardete makes a significant contribution to Platonic studies.

432 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2001

Ancient Studies

Philosophy: History and Classic Works


Seth Benardete
Plato’s Laws
“Plato’s Laws is, in proportion to its size, the most neglected of his works. It is dauntingly massive and complex, but it must contain Plato’s final views on a large range of issues, political social, ethical, metaphysical, and especially religious. Benardete brought to the task the skills of a classicist, a synoptic vision of Plato’s goals and methodology, and a lifetime of writing challenging books on many of the other dialogues. Of the remarkably original ideas in his work, we may note at the start Benardete’s attention to the word “nomoi,” meaning both “laws” and “songs”; he shows that Plato plays with ambiguity, making music a pathway to the understanding of the legal structure of the state. Book ten of the <I>Laws<I> is often called ‘Plato’s Theology,’ and it deserves that title, but Benardete shows how all twelve books of the dialogue are permeated with Plato’s theological understanding of being and the state.”--<I>Religious Studies Review<I>

Religious Studies Review

Table of Contents

I. The Eidetic and the Genetic
1. War and Peace
2. Courage and Moderation
3. Drunkenness
4. The Puppet Masters
II. Education and Imitation
1. The Beautiful
2. Kinds of Pleasure
3. The Just
4. The Chorus of Dionysus
III. History
1. Homer
2. The Dorians
3. Persia and Athens
IV. Law and Prelude
1. People and Place
2. Regimes and Law
3. Double Law and Prelude
V. Prescriptions
1. Knowledge and Ignorance
2. The Real and the Imaginary
VI. On Getting Started
1. Beginnings and Magistrates
2. Succession
3. Marriage
VII. Education
1. Unwritten Law
2. Consecration
3. The Laws
4. Imitation
5. False Impressions
6. Hunting
VIII. The First End of the Laws
1. War Games
2. Eros
3. Agricultural and Commercial Law
IX. Criminal Law
1. Hard Cases
2. The Beautiful, the Just, and the Good
3. Socratic Ignorance
4. Violence
X. Theology
1. Atheism
2. Soul and Body
3. Providence
XI. Private Law
1. Making Good
2. Estrangements
3. Comedy
XII. Public Law
1. Heroic Virtue
2. Reviewers and Observers
3. The Nocturnal Council
Text Problems in Laws

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