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By J. S. McClelland

It is a nice publication to realize a greater knowing of a few of the innovations of western politcal thought...its sparknotes for any poli sci significant, yet on an highbrow level...its an exceptional publication.

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The most pleasing image we have is of Socrates stopping people in the Athenian agora (the public square)—a famous Sophist, a politician, a noted humbug—and asking them about their beliefs about how men should live, dominating them by his questions, and cornering them in self-confessed absurdity. What made the whole business maddening, and may have led to his trial and execution, is that Socrates always claimed that he himself knew nothing. We can only guess that the historical Socrates was really like that, but we can easily see why, if the invention of Socrates the gadfly is an invention of Plato’s, it is a necessary invention.

The law would not tell you, but the fact that a Guardian class existed would tell you that certain things were permitted and certain things forbidden. You would in fact be in the position of someone in a country whose manners and morals were not your own. You would tend to be cautious, and the only way to proceed would be to imitate the people around you in much the same way that people at a service in a strange church tend to stand at the back; to stand right at the front with no-one to imitate would be to risk solecism.

The other great advantage of the absence of a legal system is that it would make the lower class much easier to rule. We have become so used to the idea that law is the obvious way to regulate behaviour that we have come to associate behaviour in the A history of western political thought 36 absence of law with anarchy. Plato’s Republic points to a very different conclusion. Imagine yourself in the position of one of the ruled class in Plato’s state. How would you know how you were supposed to behave?

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