Plato on Democracy and Political technē


In Plato on Democracy and Political technē Sørensen argues that the question of democracy’s ‘epistemic potential’ was one that Plato took more seriously than is usually assumed. While he famously rejected democracy on the basis of its inherent inability to accommodate political expertise ( technē), he did not think that this failure on democracy’s part was necessarily inevitable but a concept that required further examination. Sørensen shows that in a number of his most important dialogues ( Republic, Gorgias, Statesman, Protagoras, Theaetetus), Plato was ready to take up the question of democracy’s epistemic potential and to enter into strikingly technical and sophisticated discussions of what both rule by technē and rule by the people would have to look like in order for the two things to be compatible.

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Anders Dahl Sørensen, Ph.D. (2014), Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, currently holds a Post-doctoral position at the SAXO-institute, University of Copenhagen. He works on ancient Greek political and legal thought.
“This book represents an important contribution to the study of Plato’s political thought and its relationship to its Athenian context, and its careful readings of both Plato’s dialogues and previous scholarship provide helpful additions to current debates.” - Carol Atack, University of Oxford, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2017.05.25

Note on Editions, Translations and Abbreviations


1 Thrasymachus’ Challenge: Political Sociology and Expert Rule in Republic 1
Thrasymachus’ Political Account of Justice
Rulers in the Strict Sense
Real Existing Expert Rulers
Democratic Expert Rule? 8
Towards an Epistemic Analysis of Democracy

2 Scientific Politics and the Power of the People: Rhetoric and technē in the Gorgias
Why is Rhetoric not Scientific?
Who Rules Who?
Rhetoric as kolakeia
Democracy and technē
Scientific Politics and the Power of the People

3 Democracy as Imitator: Expertise and Democratic Conservatism in the Statesman
Lawfulness and Imitation
Expertise and Its Discontents
Democratic Expertise
The Laws and Democratic Ideology
Statesmanship and the Ancestral Laws

4 Athenian Measurement: Democracy and Expert Authority in the Protagoras
The Athenian Premise
Protagoras’ ‘Great Speech’
Protagoras’ Social Pragmatism
Problems with Appearance
Towards the Theaetetus
5 Self-Refuting Wisdom: Turning the Tables on Protagoras in the Theaetetus
Minding the Gap
Prelude to the Self-Refutation Argument (169d3–170a5)
Protagoras’ Defense (166c9–167d5)
Who is the Measure?
The Self-Refutation Argument (170a3–171c7)


Index Locorum
General Index
Scholars and students of Greek political thought, and anyone interested in Athenian democracy or in the intersection between epistemology and democratic politics.