The Form of Freedom in Plato's Laws

An Interpretation

in Theoria
Author:
Diego von Vacano

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The article argues that Plato's Laws contain an implicit conception of freedom, particularly in Book III. It proposes that, while the concept is not treated systematically by Plato, it merits attention due to its presence in the text. I argue that there is a Form of Freedom in the book. It is comprised of two dimensions: an organic and a civic component. They are mediated by human agency. However, freedom in its ideal form is only possible for a select intellectual elite that can grasp these two dimensions. This elite is composed of a few wise elder men who take up the task of lawmaking as a ludic or playful enterprise. I also argue that degeneration away from true freedom is possible when political elites mislead a community away from Plato's ideal, such as with Cyrus in Persia. Ultimately, Plato's idea of freedom tells us that liberty is only truly available to a select few, not to a broad citizenry. Thus, freedom and democracy are not tied intimately but are opposed to each other.

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Theoria

A Journal of Social and Political Theory

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