<i>Akrasia</i> And Self‐Rule In Plato's <i>Laws</i>

Joshua Wilburn

in Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, Volume 43

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199666164
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191751936 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy

Akrasia And Self‐Rule In Plato's Laws

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This paper challenges the commonly held view that Plato acknowledges and accepts the possibility of akrasia in the Laws. It offers a new interpretation of the image of the divine puppet in Book 1 - the passage often read as an account of akratic action -- and shows that it is not intended as an illustration of akrasia at all. Rather, it provides the moral psychological background for the text by illustrating a broader notion of self-rule as a virtuous condition of the soul (and lack of self-rule as a vicious condition). The paper examines key discussions in the Laws in order to show how Plato makes use of this broader notion of self-rule throughout the dialogue, and argues that nothing Plato says in the Laws commits him to the possibility of akrasia. One significant consequence of this interpretation of the puppet passage is that it avoids the need to posit developmentalism in Plato's late views about the embodied human soul, as some recent commentators have done: the moral psychology of the Laws, on this reading, is not incompatible with the Republic's tripartite theory of the soul.

Keywords: Plato; akrasia; Laws; soul; tripartition; moral psychology; rule; puppet; education; golden cord

Chapter.  13954 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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