The Laws (Penguin Classics)
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In The Laws, Plato describes in fascinating detail a comprehensive system of legislation in a small agricultural utopia he named Magnesia. His laws not only govern crime and punishment, but also form a code of conduct for all aspects of life in his ideal state—from education, sport and religion to sexual behaviour, marriage and drinking parties. Plato sets out a plan for the day-to-day rule of Magnesia, administered by citizens and elected officials, with supreme power held by a Council. Although Plato's views that citizens should act in complete obedience to the law have been read as totalitarian, The Laws nonetheless constitutes a highly impressive programme for the reform of society and provides a crucial insight into the mind of one of Classical Greece's foremost thinkers.
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enjoy to the full whatever concessions the state grants him. (g) Children of resident aliens must be craftsmen, and (h) their period of residence must be deemed to have started when they reach the age of fifteen. On these conditions they may stay for twenty years, after which they must depart to whatever destination they like. If they wish to stay longer, they may do so provided they obtain permission as already specified. (i) Before a departing alien leaves he must cancel the entries that he
Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies, vol. 1, The Spell of Plato (5th edn, London, 1966). The most detailed and penetrating reply is by R. B. Levinson, In Defense of Plato (Cambridge, Mass., 1953). 33. See 777b-778a. 34. E.g. law no. 47ABDF. Sometimes, however, it is the free man who comes off worse than the slave; but I cannot here go into the fascinating complexities of Plato’s penology. 35. Cf. Republic 431; Letter VII, 331, and Aristotle, Politics I, 3–7. 36. Which is another way of
then, how am I to make my own arguments consistent? Suppose the two of you, Cleinias and Megillus, were to ask me, ‘If that’s so, sir, what advice have you for us about laying down laws for the city of the Magnesians? Do we legislate, or don’t we?’ ‘Of course we legislate,’ I’d say, and you’d ask: ‘Are you going to make a distinction for the Magnesians between voluntary and involuntary acts of injustice? Shall we impose stiffer penalties on voluntary wrong-doing and acts of injustice, and smaller
that is convinced of his own wisdom, believing that he has a thorough knowledge of matters of which, in fact, his ignorance is total. When such ignorance is backed up by strength and power, the lawgiver will treat it as the source of [d] serious and barbarous wrong-doing; but when it lacks power, he will treat the resultant faults as the peccadilloes of children and old men. He will of course regard these deeds as offences, and will legislate against these people as offenders, but the laws will
at the crowd. 2. one chorus: See introductory note to §3. 3. ‘Cadmeian education’: Compare our expression ‘Pyrrhic victory’, i.e. one which is more disastrous for the victors than the vanquished. Cadmus, founder of Thebes, sowed the teeth of a dragon; armed men sprang up and killed each other. For ‘seeds’ of character, see 777e and 792e. 4. proxeni: A proxenos looked after the interests of a foreign state in his own country. 5. Epimenides… go to Athens: Cleinias’ chronology is a trifle