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The Socratic Thesis Applied

The Socratic Thesis Applied


(p.212) Five The Socratic Thesis Applied
Virtue Is Knowledge
Lorraine Smith Pangle
University of Chicago Press

In Plato’s most practical work, the Laws, he combines an extremely frank statement of the radical Socratic thesis that virtue is knowledge and vice is involuntary with a prudential acceptance of the political community’s need for anger and retributive punishment. This chapter examines the complicated and indeed contradictory statements of principle regarding responsibility and punishment in the Laws and compares these with the actual criminal code proposed in Book 9. The result is to show how a radical philosophic insight can be adapted to make ordinary citizens more gentle, thoughtful, and humane without sapping their moral commitments. The chapter ends with reflections on Plato’s suggestions about strength of soul (eupsuchia) as an essential support to and component of active wisdom.

Keywords:   Athenian Stranger, Plato’s Laws, law, punishment, retribution, moral responsibility, virtue, strength of soul, wisdom

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