"Authoritarian Rule in Plato's Statesman."
Catherine A. McKeen

May 19, 2021, 4:30pm - 6:00pm
The New England Symposium for Ancient Philosophy

Amherst Center
United States


Amherst College

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The next meeting of The New England Symposium on Ancient Philosophy will occur on Wednesday, May 19 at 4:30 EDT.  We will discuss Catherine McKeen's "Authoritarian Rule in Plato's Statesman."   Here is Catherine's description of her paper:  

  • Readers will be forgiven if they struggle to discern any political philosophy or political theory in Plato’s Statesman. The Statesman sets out to develop a satisfactory definitional account of the genuine political expert, the politicos of the dialogue’s title. But the dialogue does not explicitly elucidate the nature of justice, carefully construct a model political community, detail a system of laws, or offer concrete advice about how to improve real-world political communities. In these respects, the Statesman is markedly different from other Platonic works focused on political philosophy, such as the Republic and Laws. There is a temptation, then, to read the Statesman as having little to do with politics. Some readers have understood the Statesman as a piece of abstract theorizing divorced from political application. Others have read the dialogue as a set piece to demonstrate the method of collection and division.
  • This paper argues, however, that politics is never far from the surface of the Statesman. On my reading, the Statesman defends a certain view about political power. This view of political power is authoritarian in three key ways: First, the expert statesman is invested with total control over all aspects of life, work, and procreation in the model political community. Second, the statesman is justified in using a variety of harsh methods to enforce political control. Third, the statesman is unaccountable to the rule of law. Furthermore, I argue that the Statesman justifies this authoritarian view of political power based on an understanding of the statesman as the “expert weaver of the community’s social fabric.” 

  At the meeting, Catherine will give a short introduction to her paper at the beginning of the meeting, and then we will turn to discussion.   The discussion will presuppose that participants have read Catherine's paper in advance of the session. The paper and Zoom link will be distributed to participants via email in a couple weeks.  To allow yourself time to complete the readings, please register at least 48 hours prior to the event.    

You can register for this and other events on our website at https://www.newenglandsymposiumonancientphilosophy.com/.

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May 17, 2021, 11:00pm EST

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