Education, Conflict and Harmony in Book 1 of Plato’s Laws
Keywords:Plato, Leges, education, conflict
Book 1 of Plato’s Laws, and particularly the image of the puppet introduced near its end, has been traditionally interpreted as presenting the moral psychology model that underlies the educational system delineated by the Athenian Stranger, which construes virtue as consonance between the non–rational and the rational elements of the soul. But a different and competing conception of virtue looms large in Laws 1, virtue as victory of the best part of the soul in psychic conflict. This paper argues that the Athenian’s conception of education as the correct conformation of originally conflicting psychic forces requires the simultaneous presence of the harmony and the conflict models of virtue in Laws 1. Education is in turn defined by calculation, the rational activity which persuasively leads the conflicting non–rational forces towards a consonant reciprocal rapport. By strategically developing his understanding of education and calculation in Laws 1, the Athenian shows how the harmony model of virtue overcomes the conflict model, while at the same time recognising that there is some truth to the conflict model after all and integrating it within the harmony model.
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