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Discuss The Action, The Characters And The Dramatic Setting Of "The Laws" By Plato

554 words - 3 pages

The Laws is Plato's last and longest dialogue. The book begins not with the question "What is law?" as one would expect, but rather, "Who is given the credit for laying down your laws?" (624a) It is generally agreed that Plato wrote this dialogue as an old man, having failed in his effort in Syracuse on the island of Sicily to guide a tyrant's rule, instead having been thrown in prison.We have in the dialogue, The Athenian Stranger and two other old men, an ordinary Spartan citizen (Megillus) and a Cretan politician and lawgiver (Kleinias) from Knossos. The Athenian Stranger, who is much like Socrates but whose name is never given, joins the other two on their religious pilgrimage to the cave of Zeus. The entire dialogue takes place during this ...view middle of the document...

The Laws seems to be divided into more or less four unequal parts. The first three books comprise of a critical-theoretical introduction to the problem of legislation: what legislation is and on what basis it should be undertaken. At its conclusion Kleinias, a Cretan, reveals that he has been charged with leading a commission established by his native Knossos and drafting legislation for a prospective colony. He asks his interlocutors, Megillus, a Spartan, and a nameless Athenian "stranger" to help him do this as a kind of test of the theoretical principles articulated in their initial discussion. Books four through seven comprise of the basic constructive discussion in which the particulars of the settlement project are discussed and a basic set of laws and institutions is proposed. Where the theoretical principles governing the goals of the regime, its form as a regime, and the education it will promote are discussed abstractly in the first three books, those themes are taken up again constructively in books five, six and seven, with book four providing initial information about the proposed settlement. Books eight, nine and ten treat sources of resistance to law grounded in the human soul as divided into parts: eros, thumos, and logos, and the law's response to those psychic challenges. This reflects without precisely repeating the so-called tripartite psychology of the Republic. Finally, book twelve constitutes a conclusion that returns to the basic Platonic question of the compatibility of the city with the highest human possibility, philosophy, through the Athenian stranger's proposal of that novel institution, the nightly meeting.

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