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The unity of virtue and the limitations of magnesia: an essay in memory of Arthur Adkins

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In the Republic Plato describes the best city; in the Laws, he describes what he calls the ’second-best city’. I argue that Magnesia, the city of the Laws, is second-best because she fails to promulgate a single concept of human virtue that transcends the allegedly separate virtues of men and women. Magnesia institutionalizes philosophy in the Nocturnal Council to mitigate the consequent ethical flaws, but excludes women from the Council and thus from philosophic inquiry. I show that this exclusion of women is itself a consequence of Magnesia's moral failings. In imperfect cities, of which Magnesia is supposedly the best, reform of women's status is thus only possible within limits, and those limits on the improvement of women's status are limits on the goodness of political life.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dept of Political Science, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Ave, Tel Aviv, Israel.

Publication date: February 1, 1998

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