What is it about?

Plato's ideal city includes some people who aren't interested in philosophy. In this paper, I show how Plato justifies the city to these people, making an effort to persuade them to accept it. Plato secures their support not by enslaving these people or by lying to them, but by meeting them where they're at, ensuring that the city accommodates some of their desires.

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Why is it important?

Plato tends to get dismissed as a utopian thinker. But I show that Plato does make a real effort to bring many different kinds of people together, even though he thinks some of those people are living better lives than others. Liberal political theorists - like John Rawls - argue that everyone is capable of developing a conception of the good life. But Plato finds ways to include people even when he thinks those people live in an inferior way or have inferior kinds of souls. His tolerance is remarkable and much deeper than is generally acknowledged.


I feel very honored that my interpretation of the Republic and the Phaedrus was deemed worthy of inclusion in the International Journal of the Platonic Tradition. I hope my article shows that Plato has a lot to say about how we can live alongside people we think are profoundly mistaken about important life questions. I also hope it invites readers to question whether we are giving our citizens enough education to develop conceptions of the good. Plato has very high standards for what counts as philosophical education. He knows this education is not available to all, and this forces him to make a sincere effort to justify his city to the citizens who are unable to understand the idea of the good on its own terms.

Benjamin Studebaker

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This page is a summary of: Plato as a Theorist of Legitimacy, The International Journal of the Platonic Tradition, January 2023, Brill, DOI: 10.1163/18725473-bja10030.
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