November, 2018

Justice in the Laws, a Restatement

Why Plato Endorses Public Reason
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In the Laws, Plato argues that the legislator should attempt to persuade people to voluntarily obey the laws. This persuasion is accomplished through use of legislative preludes. Preludes (also called preambles) are short arguments written into the legal code, which precede laws and give reasons to follow them. In this paper, I argue that Plato’s use of persuasive preludes shows that he endorses the core features of a public reason theory of political justification. Many philosophers argue that Plato’s political philosophy is deeply at odds with contemporary liberal political philosophy. While Plato certainly does not affirm (and even rejects) some of the main features of liberalism, if it could be shown that he endorses some account of public reason (which is a liberal idea to its core), this would suggest that there is more in common between Plato and liberalism than many philosophers think. Furthermore, if combined with the work of philosophers, like C.C.W. Taylor, this could form a cumulative case against those who argue that there is little in common between Plato’s political philosophy and liberalism. In short, by showing that Plato endorses the core features of public reason, I endeavor to show that there is more in common between Plato and liberalism than is often thought.