Category Archives: 1. Platonic World

2020 | Articulations of Nature and Politics in Plato and Hegel

Vicky Roupa

Blurbs: ““Hegel and Plato are towering figures in the history of philosophy, but often readers puzzle over what they are saying. There are very few books that deal with them clearly and intelligently. Hardly any that do so jointly.  This book is exceptional in offering a clear, scholarly and intelligent guide to their work. It focuses upon how Plato and Hegel deal with nature. While recognising the subtlety of Plato and Hegel on nature, Vicky Roupa establishes a nuanced yet clear exposition of their thought. The bonus is that the books is written in a highly readable style. This is a great book!”

– Gary Browning, Professor of Political Thought, Oxford Brookes University

This book examines nature as a foundational concept for political and constitutional theory, drawing on readings from Plato and Hegel to counter the view that optimal political arrangements are determined by nature. Focusing on the dialectical implications of the word ‘nature’, i.e. how it encompasses a range of meanings stretching up to the opposites of sensuousness and ideality, the book explores the various junctures at which nature and politics interlock in the philosophies of Plato and Hegel. Appearance and essence, inner life and public realm, the psychical and the political are all shown to be parts of a conflictual structure that requires both infinite proximity and irreducible distance. The book offers innovative interpretations of a number of key texts by Plato and Hegel to highlight the metaphysical and political implications of nature’s dialectical structure, and re-appraises their thinking of nature in a way that both respects and goes beyond their intentions.”

Plato of Athens: A Life in Philosophy (2023)

Waterfield, Robin
Oxford University Press
Pages: 255

Plato of Athens is the first-ever biography of the world-famous philosopher. Born into a well-to-do family, Plato grew up in the gloom of wartime Athens at the end of the fifth century BCE. In his teens he honed his intellect by attending lectures by the many thinkers who passed through Athens and toyed with the idea of writing poetry. He decided to go into politics but became disillusioned, especially after the Athenians condemned his teacher, Socrates, to death. Instead he turned to writing and teaching, focusing especially on political theory, metaphysics, and ethics. In 383 he founded the Academy, the world’s first higher-educational research and teaching establishment. He also returned after a while to practical politics and spent a considerable amount of time trying to create a constitution for Syracuse in Sicily that would reflect his political ideals. The attempt failed, and Plato’s disappointment can be traced in his later political works. In his lifetime and after, Plato was considered almost divine. This led to the invention of tall tales about him, by both those who adored him and those who wanted to dethrone him. Plato of Athens steers a judicious course among these stories, debunking some but accepting a kernel of truth in others. As well as tracking the events of his life, considerable attention is paid to his written works—his “dialogues,” as they are called: they are summarized and discussed. Clearly and engagingly written throughout, Plato of Athens is the perfect introduction to the man and his work.

Of Rule and Office: Plato’s Ideas of the Political (2023)

Lane, Melissa
Princeton University Press
Pages: 480

Plato famously defends the rule of knowledge. Knowledge, for him, is of the good. But what is rule? In this study, Melissa Lane reveals how political office and rule were woven together in Greek vocabulary and practices that both connected and distinguished between rule in general and office as a constitutionally limited kind of rule in particular. In doing so, Lane shows Plato to have been deeply concerned with the roles and relationships between rulers and ruled. Adopting a longstanding Greek expectation that a ruler should serve the good of the ruled, Plato’s major political dialogues—the Republic, the Statesman, and Laws—explore how different kinds of rule might best serve that good. With this book, Lane offers the first account of the clearly marked vocabulary of offices at the heart of all three of these dialogues, explaining how such offices fit within the broader organization and theorizing of rule.

Lane argues that taking Plato’s interest in rule and office seriously reveals tyranny as ultimately a kind of anarchy, lacking the order as well as the purpose of rule. When we think of tyranny in this way, we see how Plato invokes rule and office as underpinning freedom and friendship as political values, and how Greek slavery shaped Plato’s account of freedom. Reading Plato both in the Greek context and in dialogue with contemporary thinkers, Lane argues that rule and office belong at the center of Platonic, Greek, and contemporary political thought.

Plato on the Unity of the Virtues: A Dialectic Reading (2022)

Jenks, Rod
Rowman & Littlefield
Pages: 128

Cover Image

Plato, in the Protagoras, suggests that the virtues are profoundly unified yet also distinct. In Plato on the Unity of the Virtues: A Dialectic Reading, Rod Jenks argues that the way in which virtues are both one and many is finally ineffable. He shows how Plato countenances ineffability throughout his corpus. Jenks’s interpretation of Protagoras accounts for the otherwise-inexplicable inability of both Socrates and Protagoras to identify the bone of contention between them. Not only can the thesis not be argued for; it can’t even be properly stated. In this book, Jenks shows how the long exegesis on the Simonides poem is philosophically relevant. Further, he shows that both the parts-of-the-face analogy and the gold analogy are inadequate, arguing that Plato intends them to be so. Jenks explains why the unity thesis is supported by what most scholars agree are terrible arguments: that the virtues are both one and many. He explains why, despite the unity claim being profoundly elusive, Plato believes it to be crucial that we come to appreciate how virtue, which really does have parts, can also be profoundly one.

The Tragedy of the Athenian Ideal in Thucydides and Plato (2020)

Hogan, John T.
Lexington Books
Pages: 374

This book assesses the roles of Pericles, Alcbiades, and Nicias in Athen’s defeat in Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War. Comparing Thucydides’ presentation of political leadership with ideas in Plato’s Statesman as well as Laches, Charmides, Meno, Symposium, Republic, Phaedo, Sophist, and Laws, it concludes that Plato and Thucydides reveal Pericles as lacking the political discipline (sophrosune) to plan a successful war against Sparta. Hogan argues that in his presentation of the collapse in the Corcyraean revolution of moral standards in political discourse, Thucydides shows how revolution destroys the morality implied in basic personal and political language. This reveals a general collapse in underlying prudential measurements needed for sound moral judgment. Furthermore, Hogan argues that the Statesman’s outline of the political leader serves as a paradigm for understanding the weaknesses of Pericles, Alcibiades, and Nicias in terms that parallel Thucydides’ direct and implied conclusions, which in Pericles’ case he highlights with dramatic irony. Hogan shows that Pericles failed both to develop a sufficiently robust practice of Athenian democratic rule and to set up a viable system for succession.