Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?



Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.



Help

Have Institutional Access?



Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?



Connect

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

References

An earlier version of this paper is published in German in E. Rudolph (ed.), Polis und Kosmos, (Darmstadt 1996). ^ A@

2 Popper 1962. Cf. also Popper's companion-piece, 1957. 3 On Popper's treatment of Plato, cf. the collection of articles in Bambrough 1967. Different authors offer different assessments, depending on the weight they attribute to Plato's totalitarian ideas. But not much attention is given to the fact that Plato's theory is universalist, not nationalist, and that he aims neither for a world-revolution nor for imperialism in general. In spite of Nazism's general anti-intellectualist bent, some Nazi-ideologues did in fact claim an affinity to Plato; cf. Morrow 1941, 105. 4 The general public's interest was stiired by Stone 1987. For a more scholarly treatment see Kraut 1984; Brickhouse & Smith 1989 and 1994.—For recent literature on Athenian democracy and its critics, cf. Davies 1978; Ostwald 1986; Ober 1989; Cartledge/ Millett/Todd 1990; Roberts 1994. This recent resurgence of interest justifies the concentration of this article on that very issue, in spite of an anonymous reader's complaint about the 'thinness' of

my treatment of Republic viii and ix. The discussion here pretends neither to exhaust Plato's text nor its subject-matter. 5 Levinson 1953 and Popper's 'Reply to a Critic,' 1962: Addenda ill, 323- 343. The dubiousness of most attempts to whitewash Plato is aptly demonstrated by Bambrough 1962. Neither the fact that Plato's mini-state is incomparable with the enormous totalitarian machines that killed millions in Hitler's and Stalin's society nor that Plato had no inkling of history's lessons on the dangers of well-meaning autocracy can make his ideal state more appealing to the modem democrat. 6 For this catalogue cf. Popper's preface to the 7th edition of the German translation in 1992, ix. In spite of his alleged admiration for Plato (98; 343: "the greatest philosopher of all times") Popper clearly never changed his mind on the basic evilness of Plato's political ideas. Since Plato's ethics horrify him and the theory of Forms strikes him as "empty formalism" (146), it is unclear what positive features he sees in Plato. That Plato is to be credited with the foundation of the geometrical theory of the world is a late discovery of Pop per's: 343.

Of the authors collected in Bambrough 1967 only John Plamenatz briefly comments on this question. He denies that Plato should be called a historicist because his views do not warrant predictions about the future: 137-138. For the treatment of this question in the literature on Plato in general, cf. the survey in Hellwig 1980, 1-8; 73 ff.

8 The recommendation of a mixed constitution in the Laws (691c) and the replacement of human authority by the authority of the laws expresses Plato's skepticism about human frailty in the face of power, not any reservation about elitism itself. 9 For Plato and Codrus, cf. Popper 1962, 19; 153. 10 As Popper sees it, Plato's entertainment of such vain hopes actually make him an object of pity: 155. 11 Hopelessly anachronistic is also Popper's claim that Plato witnessed the 'breakdown of tribal life' in his youth in the Peloponnesian War: 18. Tribal distinctions had in fact disappeared early with the unification of Attica, an achievement commonly attributed to the legendary Theseus. The remnants of the old tribal allegiances had been countermanded by the reform of Cleisthenes after 510 B.C.—Since Plato's contemporaries did not mind the fact that tragedy focused on the ancient kingships, they probably did not see Plato's philosopher kings as more of a menace to democracy than they saw in the resurrection of kings in the tragedies of Aeschylus or Sophocles.

12 As Morrow 1941, 106, mentions, Plato in the Seventh Letter (334c-d; 33a; 324a-b) repeatedly claims that he recommended the restoration of the old constitutional order in Syracuse to Dion and Dionysius.

t3 In the Republic, traces of pessimism (529a-b) are counterbalanced by those of a more optimistic bent. As Socrates states at 424a, once a good start has been made the situation is likely to get better and better.

14 For Popper the Spartan state is evil incarnate; he ignores the fact that the Spartans saw their state as a 'society of equals' and that their allegiance with oligarchic states was not based on a natural affinity but resulted from the constraints of the conflict with Athens. 15 For Popper's 'historicists' interpretation of Plato's Forms, cf. 19ff.; 145-6.

16 Plants are not mentioned here, but earlier in the Timaeus Plato explicitly includes plant-souls in his general account of the generation of souls, 76e-77c. 17 The fact that there is no such order implied in the account of the choice of future lives in the myth of Er, Rep. 618d ff., should be regarded as significant evidence that Plato does not presuppose a general deterioration.

18 Popper, 57. He sees the philosopher's function as that of the tribal priest- king with 'claims of supernatural, mystical powers,' close to the Pythagorean shamans with 'their surprisingly naive tribal taboos' (148). 19 For a more favorable response to Popper's view, cf. Robinson 1951. The beginning of Book v, 449a-b, does foreshadow a developmental view, however.

21 Both Socrates and Glaucon make a point of resuming the discussion exactly where they had left off before the digression (543c-544b). Such care in marking out the return to a previous point of departure is quite unusual in Plato. Rep. 544d: "dynasties and bought kingships and other such constitutions, somewhere between these—jnera�u re TO�TWV 7TOV eionv, one finds them no less among Greeks than among barbarians." Popper acknowledges that Plato's sequence contains gaps (43-4), but takes the list of six states in the Poliacus to fill that gap. But there is no connection between the distinction of three proper and three perverted forms in the Politicus and the 'intermediary forms' envisaged in the Republic. The criterion of evaluation in the Politicus is exclusively whether the rulers rule for the benefit of their subjects rather than for their own advantage.

In his comments, N. Pappas offers a long list of positive invocations of the Muses in Plato. Such appeals usually turn to the philosophic Muses, however, not to Muses who speak with a poetic tongue and may not be entirely in earnest (545e). Scholars disagree both about the meaning and the exact result of the Muses' calculation, cf. Hellwig, (1980) 92-104. There are good reasons for assuming that Plato intends to illustrate how difficult is the philosopher king's task of preserving the equilibrium of their society to make plausible that they will fail eventually.

Cf. the change from muthos to logos in Protagoras' great speech, Prot 324d. In the Laws, Plato rules out the predictability of history (676c; 709a-c). Plato obviously shares Aristotle's conviction of the `unphilosophical' nature of history due to its inherent disorderliness, rather than Popper's (1954) more optimistic tenet that history is unpredictable because the growth of human knowledge is incalculable.

At 557e Socrates mentions several possible factors that might lead to the destruction of oligarchies.

Chapters 4 and 5 deal with 'Plato's Descriptive Sociology.' Popper states that "Plato was one of the first social scientists and undoubtedly by far the most influential." Whatever his influence on sociology may have been, Plato's aim was neither conceptual nor descriptive sociology.

29 "They dispossess some, expel others, and establish a democratic rule where all offices are distributed by lot. Complete liberty is the hallmark of democracy: there is freedom of speech and freedom of office and freedom to do whatever you please" (557a). This account fits much better the violent establishment of some democracies during the Peloponnesian War under Athenian influence than the rise of democracy at Athens itself. Public questioning ensured that the injunctions were observed. Even Glaucon's agreement that he has seen 'many' criminals walking around scot- free (558a) does not show that this was the general practice in Athens or that Plato thought so.

3t In the Archarni, Aristophanes lets Dicaeopolis sign a private peace- agreement with Sparta. The Ecclesiazousae is a satire on women running the state. Neither of the two comedies make any pretense to realism. It would be the first time that Plato would take comedy as true evidence about reality. 32 For a short account, cf. Davies 1987, 87-91. 33 There was ample precedence that Plato could have imitated, cf. Davies 1987, 106. For Plato's views on the weakness and virtues of democratic institutions and his intentions of adopting some of democracy's devices of public control in the Laws, cf. Morrow 1941, 109 ff.

Popper even claims that Plato views timocracy as an almost perfect constitution. He does not see any problem in attributing the view to Plato that the warrior with a secret craving for gold is almost as good as his philosopher- king.

35 The further subdivision of desires is foreshadowed, however, already in Book iv with the distinction between the simple and moderate desires (431b-e) and the inexhaustible desires of the many (442a).

On isonomia as the democratic ideal, cf. Vlastos 1953.

Popper manages to bridge the gap by claiming that Plato had himself in mind when he suggests an able young tyrant assisting a great law-giver (44). For a more comprehensive discussion of the literature on the cycle of constitutions, cf. Hellwig 1980, 52. Cf. v. Fritz 1954, 67. I have discussed the difficulties of this view in Frede 1989.

39 553d: "... he will not allow to reason about or examine anything else than how little money can be made into much: while he does not allow the other part to honor or admire anything but wealth and wealthy men, or to have any other ambition than the acquisition of wealth or of anything which may contribute to this." For the new oligarchic man's criminal appetites and his fear for his reputation, cf. 554c-d. 41 This concentration on the elite explains why in Plato's democracy 'the people' do not much engage in politics (565a). He thereby deliberately omits the hallmark of Athenian democracy, namely the broad participation of the people made possible by public payment for holding office.

42 Socrates explains there why philosophers are not held in high repute and are treated as either useless or evil. 491e: "Tas 'If¡vXà<; Tà<; CZ-�VEG-T6TaT ... biafp6vTU)s mails yiyve�Aa�."

a3 He deals rather cautiously with the 'law of opposites' that the pendulum swings from one extreme to the other (563a-564a). 44 The explanation of Socrates' midwifery in the Theaetetus gives a rather humorous explanation of the various careers of those apostates, 150b-151d.

45 It must remain forever unclear whether it was Plato's intention to provoke the kind of amusement that his calculation meets with nowadays that the tyrant is exactly 729 times (93) less happy than the philosopher-king. But whether this calculation is a piece of voluntary or involuntary comic pedantry, it clinches the case against Thrasymachus. Cf. Popper, ch. x, 6 on Plato's betrayal of Socrates and the moral struggle and suffering that it allegedly cost him.

47 On Socrates and his 'loving correction of Athenian shortcomings,' cf. Popper 189 ff. " Cf. Ap. 25a-G Crit. 46b-47a and Callicles' irritation with Socrates, Gorg. 491 a. 49 Our own 'democratic' states are not democracies by Athenian standards. We would not dream of electing candidates for any office by lot. No matter how much cynicism we express about 'bureaucracy,' a mass society cannot do without it, and our politicians would be quite lost without the preparatory work of able administrators. It is one of the marvels how Athenian democracy managed to work without any such structure-even given its small size. Popper acknowledges Socrates' intellectualism but denies that it had anti- democratic consequences, ch. x, 4. The same is true for Vlastos 1983. That Socrates was concerned with the well-being of Athens and the morality of its citizens does not make him a democrat, however.

Index Card

Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 19 19 11
Full Text Views 5 5 5
PDF Downloads 2 2 2
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0