Tyrant and Philosopher: Two Fundamental Lives in Plato's Myth of Er

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Abstract

What is the significance of the recurring link between tyranny and philosophy in Plato? Often, Plato's treatment of tyranny is discussed either in the context of moral psychology-as a problem of agency, moral choice and akrasia - or political science, where it is the limit case of political decline. It is suggested, however, that a close inspection of the myth of Er and an elucidation of its neglected links, not just with the rest of the Republic but also with dialogues such as the Philebus and the Symposium, shows that Socrates' fascination with tyrannical characters points to a deeper theme - nature, and specifically the problem of its benevolence to our purposes and its very ambiguous relation to human excellence and degradation. Philosopher and tyrant, for all the radical differences between them, both illuminate the internal instability of the human being in Plato's thought.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-61
Number of pages20
JournalPolis
Volume29
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Classics
  • History
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science

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