Plato's Fable

Plato's Fable: On the Mortal Condition in Shadowy Times

Joshua Mitchell
Series: New Forum Books
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 226
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  • Book Info
    Plato's Fable
    Book Description:

    This book is an exploration of Plato'sRepublicthat bypasses arcane scholarly debates.Plato's Fableprovides refreshing insight into what, in Plato's view, is the central problem of life: the mortal propensity to adopt defective ways of answering the question of how to live well.

    How, in light of these tendencies, can humankind be saved? Joshua Mitchell discusses the question in unprecedented depth by examining one of the great books of Western civilization.

    He draws us beyond the ancients/moderns debate, and beyond the notion that Plato'sRepublicis best understood as shedding light on the promise of discursive democracy. Instead, Mitchell argues, the question that ought to preoccupy us today is neither "reason" nor "discourse," but rather "imitation." To what extent is man first and foremost an "imitative" being? This, Mitchell asserts, is the subtext of the great political and foreign policy debates of our times.

    Plato's Fableis not simply a work of textual exegesis. It is an attempt to move debates within political theory beyond their current location. Mitchell recovers insights about the depth of the problem of mortal imitation from Plato's magnificent work, and seeks to explicate the meaning of Plato's central claim--that "only philosophy can save us."

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2717-6
    Subjects: Political Science, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-20)

    The prevailing opinion about the character of reason renders this Platonic paradox quite unthinkable today. Philosophers, we learn in Plato’s fable, are ruled by reason; yet in what sense could it possibly be true that reason is necessary tosave us? As a fantastic arti-fice we may perhaps be entertained by this bald assertion, but to understand it as something more useful requires resources that we scarcely possess. Why this is so, and what those resources might be, is the question that concerns me here.

    Wishing to defer for a time even more vexing problems, and in order to begin...

  6. Chapter 2 PLATO’S FABLE
    (pp. 21-166)

    Near the beginning of theRepublic, we are told, justice entails paying what is owed² or, less obliquely, “rendering each [its] due.” This formulation, abstruse and deficient though it might be at the outset, is deepened rather than rejected as the discussion proceeds; and at the end of Plato’s luminous expositionwe—the readers—are left with the hypothesis that only the philosopher, illuminated by the Good, can render what is due to each part of the soul, and so live well.³ Plato’s fable about the nature of justice begins and ends with a stipulation about ‘rendering each its due,’...

  7. Chapter 3 CONCLUSION
    (pp. 167-194)

    In order to begin educating our young, Socrates informs us, we must “tell tales and recount fables.”³ Let us rehearse, here, the fable of liberalism, or at least the more generous rendition of its ascent that began to emerge in the eighteenth century and that was brought to completion in the nineteenth century by Tocqueville.⁴ We do so not with a view to corroborating it as factually accurate—for the facts bear only a shadowy resemblance to Truth⁵—but rather with a view to establishingwhatrules in the souls that are depicted by this fable and whether the typography...

    (pp. 195-202)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 203-206)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 207-208)