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The nocturnal council and Platonic political philosophy

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Many interpreters of Plato's Laws have seen the introduction of the ‘nocturnal council’ towards the end of that dialogue as a return to the sort of philosophic dictatorship allegedly recommended in the Republic and thus as a betrayal of the principle of the rule of law evinced in most of the Laws. This paper defends the consistency of the council with the larger programme of the Laws by showing that its function is philosophic discussion and not rule. Its influence will be the influence of philosophy on its members, who already occupy political offices in the city, and not direct rule as a body. In this way, the council provides a point of entry for the transpolitical good of philosophy into the city and thus offers an essentially legal regime the means of transcending some of its characteristic limitations. It also points to larger themes in Plato's political philosophy.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Philosophy, The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC 20064, USA.

Publication date: 1998-01-01

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