Tēn Tou Aristou Doxan: On the Theory and Practice of Punishment in Plato’s Laws

In: Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek and Roman Political Thought
Lewis Trelawny-Cassity
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The penal code of the Laws has attracted scholarly attention because it appears to advance a coherent theory of punishment. The Laws’ suggestion that legislation follow the model of ‘free doctors’, as well as its discussion of the Socratic paradox, leads one to expect a theory of punishment that recommends kolasis and nouthetēsis rather than timōria In practice, however, the Laws makes use of the language of timōria and categorizes some crimes as voluntary. While the Laws provides a searching criticism of contemporary Greek penal practices rooted in anger and retribution, Kleinias’ dramatic participation in the discussion forces the qualified inclusion of these common beliefs.While the Laws provides a philosophic intervention intended to reform the injustices of contemporary penal practices, it ultimately suggests that educated doxa, not theoretical completeness, is the proper standard for establishing a workable penal code.

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