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Sophos -- Study of Philosophy and Thought Message Board › Is Plato a totalitarian?

Is Plato a totalitarian?

William J.
user 43274802
Los Angeles, CA
Post #: 4
As those who attended our recent session on the Statesman will recall, during the discussion of whether Plato was a totalitarian I tried to locate a certain passage but could not find it. The text that I was seeking is:

Visitor: And whether they [the statesmen] purge the city for its benefit by putting some people to death or else by exiling them, or whether again they make it smaller by sending out colonies somewhere like swarms of bees, or build it up by introducing people from somewhere outside and making them citizens - so long as they act to preserve it on the basis of expert knowledge and what is just, making it better than it was so far as they can, this is the constitution which alone we must say is correct, under these conditions, and in accordance with criteria of this sort. (Statesman 293 D - E, my red emphasis)

Many reading this passage will find it difficult to recall the history of the last century and not think of Dachau or the Gulag.

By way of advance notice, the topic will arise again in multiple ways as we read the Republic and the Laws.
Gary H
North Hollywood, CA
Post #: 178
This is a question that the modern philosopher Karl Popper has devoted an entire book to. - Gary
William J.
user 43274802
Los Angeles, CA
Post #: 5

Absolutely. You are quite correct. Actually several books have been devoted to or extensively discussed this issue. As I said in my fourth suggested question for our Statesman discussion, this is a controversy that has raged for decades. Among the more prominent volumes are:

Critical of Plato:
R. H. Crossman, Plato Today (1939, 1959)
Karl Popper, The Open Society And Its Enemies, Volume I, "The Spell Of Plato" (1950)

Defender of Plato:
John Wild, Plato's Modern Enemies and The Theory of Natural Law (1953)

If you want a nice short anthology on the subject, you might wish to look at Thomas Thorson's Plato: Totalitarian or Democrat? (1963). Thorson has a good summary essay as well as extracts from each of the above books.

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