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The Birth of Unlawful Freedom in Plato’s Laws 3

In: Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek and Roman Political Thought
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  • 1 Ph.D. Candidate in Classics and Classical Philosophy, Princeton UniversityPrinceton, NJUSA
  • | 2 École Normale Supérieure – PSL UniversityParisFrance
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Abstract

Plato’s pronouncements about political freedom in the Laws have sparked renewed interest in the literature. The present paper takes a new angle on that vexed question. It focusses on Plato’s account of the birth of unlawful freedom, or ‘theatrocracy’, at the end of book 3. By studying the transition from moderate to excessive freedom, it wishes to shed light on what sets the two apart. The paper provides a causal analysis of the key passage (700a3–701c2), suggesting four compatible and complementary explanations for the process it describes. The first is presented as the main one, but it is made more likely by the addition of the three others.

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