El ateísmo considerado como delito extremo en las Leyes de Platón
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//// Abstract: This article focuses on Plato’s conception of atheism in the tenth book of the Laws. The Laws themselves are seen as Plato’s last great effort to propose a written codification, a project that involves major theorizing. In contrast, the treatment of atheism as a capital crime appears merely as the working out of questions of detail (which feature prevention, a subtle typological analysis of atheists, and the means of eventual repression). Punishment of atheism is an estrategical principle, closely associated to a new conception of punishment that includes the possibility of long-term imprisonment for offenders that commit serious crimes. The set of the relevant legislative dispositions against religious offenders is thus put in context (of which the broad outlines are the civil and penal codes), paying special attention to ‘unspeakable crimes’. The paper puts in perspective the significance of Plato’s last written work (particularly its pioneering character in the history of formal codification of law) and stresses how he restates his thoughts on what political life and its rules should be, thus substantially (and valuably) revising the utopia of the Republic. The main point of contrast between these works can be said to consist in a shift from the philosopher-king to the embodiment of values in the laws, the promotion of a complex sistem of internalization of rules and values in all citizens and by all citizens, the establishment of numerous means to achieve the conditions and social atmosphere in which the laws can actually come to live inside each and every one. This represents a considerable change, if we compare it to the absolute trust put upon philosopher kings in the earlier work. It is, then, against this general background that Plato’s notion of atheism as “the worst of crimes” should be understood. The strong bond between religion and public morality is the basis supporting the set of social policies, measures of detection and strategies of repression of atheism that Plato proposes (described and briefly discussed by Rossetti). So, considering all that Plato carefully prescribes in the tenth book of the Laws, if atheism and impiety appear as the worst sort of crimes, punishable in a few extreme cases by death, this suggests, on the one hand, that the level of cruelty known in classical times was quite low by modern standards, and secondly, that Plato shows a rather admirable moderation for his time. Making atheism punishable by death and so perhaps the only really unspeakable crime is then only an “extreme prophilactic measure”, not “a vengeance of the state”.
Palabras clave: Filosofía; Theoría. Revista del Colegio de Filosofía; legislación; castigo; religiosa; crimen;
Rosetti, Livio. “El ateísmo considerado como delito extremo en las Leyes de Platón.” Theoría: Revista del Colegio de Filosofía 6 (1998): 75-86.
Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
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