Matar a Sócrates: los pensamientos tardíos de Platón acerca de la democracia
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//// Abstract: This paper conceives itself as part of a larger effort that sets out to mediate among the opposed visions of Plato as a dogmatic thinker and as a sceptic. In particular, the paper is a challenge to, and a refutation of, a particular interpretation on the late Plato. The interpretation opposed implies that, in his later years, Plato did without much of what he himself considered true and valuable earlier, and that he would have ultimately rejected that particular concern with human happiness and virtue that we associate with his name, and that of his teacher, Socrates. Rowe objects also to undiscriminating recourse to the kind of developmentalist approach that underlies the interpretation, stressing the importance of sticking to Plato’s arguments and resorting to developmental considerations only if, and when, all else fails. The object under scrutiny here is the standard version of the Statesman (constructed from the text of 297c up to 302b, and particularly 300a-301a). The basic interpretive aspect challenged is the idea that at some point, Plato’s perspective of politics was drastically altered, this shift (from the ruling of philosopher-kings to an impersonal set of laws) being marked by the Statesman, and seen thus as a revaluation, non Plato’s part, of the merits of democracy. The paradigm of the standard view on that dialogue, as stated by G. H. Sabine, argues that, if the best form of government (the exclusive rule of philosophers) is impossible, and we should be content with the second-best (absolute obedience to any existing laws including democratic ones), then any research that could cause disregard for these laws should be utterly proscribed. But in this case, Plato would be impliying that Athenian democracy would have been justified in putting Socrates to death. And this claim is one that Rowe is prepared to firmly reject. Analysis and discussion of the most relevant passage (reproduced first in J. B. Skemp’s translation, then in Rowe’s own) lead to: 1) rejection of the [wrong] reading that ‘existing laws’ are alluded to as “imitations or copies of the truth” by the Eleatic Stranger, and 2) recognition that that the reference is to the ideal laws or ideal constitution produced by someone knowledgeable (and so, in fact exclude not just anyone, but all the recognised forms of constitution, including democracy). Another point discussed involves the distinction between the “second best” in the Statesman and the Laws. Rowe shows how developmentalism can be a dangerous instrument of interpretation (especially if employed with exclusion of other approaches) and so there are no grounds either for legitimately attributing Plato any justification of Athenian democracy for killing Socrates. The last section closes firstly by dealing with a Popperian objection (that even if Plato did not come finally to approve of Socrates’ execution by Athenian democracy, he nevertheless betrayed him in the end), by insisting in Socrates’ (the ‘familiar’, ‘ignorant’ Socrates) comebacks throughout Plato’s last dialogues (up to the Philebus), and by pointing to the characterization of philosophy as search, a partial rather than a perfect knowledge, and to the fact that philosophy, as accomplished knowledge, appears only in utopian contexts.
Palabras clave: Filosofía; Theoría. Revista del Colegio de Filosofía; estadista; democracia; gobierno; filósofo;
Rowe, Christopher. “Matar a Sócrates: los pensamientos tardíos de Platón acerca de la democracia.” Theoría: Revista del Colegio de Filosofía 6 (1998): 53-74.
Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
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