Plato's "Laws" has long stood in the shadow of its more celebrated predecessor, the "Republic." In recent years, however, scholarly interest in the work has been surging. While taking recent scholarship into account, this seminar will focus on making sense of the "Laws" in its own terms as well as in relation to the "Republic." What did Plato seek to achieve in writing this later work? Who is he writing for? Is the work a utopia? A practical guide? A blend of the two? Is it a meditation on law and law-giving? On social control of culture more generally? If it is all of these things and more, how are its themes connected?
Themes will include performance culture (chorality, the symposium); the presence and absence of Socrates; persuasion vs. compulsion; checks and balances and the mixed constitution; and religion as a foundation for society. The seminar aims to be of interest to a broad audience of classicists and students in political and legal theory. Our common text for the class will be in English (Griffith translation), but students who are able to do so are encouraged to integrate reference to the Greek text into our discussions. Students who have not read the "Republic" will find it useful to do so before the seminar begins.
Also listed as POL SCI 214