Cloth $63.00 ISBN: 9780226042718 Published February 2001

Plato's "Laws"

The Discovery of Being

Seth Benardete


Seth Benardete

432 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2001
Cloth $63.00 ISBN: 9780226042718 Published February 2001
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 not intended for any actual community, the Laws seems to provide practical guidelines for the establishment and maintenance of political order in the real world. With this book, the distinguished classicist Seth Benardete offers an insightful analysis and commentary on this rich and complex dialogue. Each of the chapters corresponds to one of the twelve books of the Laws, illuminating the major themes and arguments, which have to do with theology, the soul, justice, and education.

The Greek word for law, "nomos," also means musical tune. Bernardete shows how music—in the broadest sense, including drama, epic poetry, and even puppetry—mediates between reason and the city in Plato's philosophy of law. Most broadly, however, Benardete here uncovers the concealed ontological dimension of the Laws, explaining why it is concealed and how it comes to light. In establishing the coherence and underlying organization of Plato's last dialogue, Benardete makes a significant contribution to Platonic studies.
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
Review Quotes
Religious Studies Review
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>
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