Political Science

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Conference Proceeding

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Scholars have mostly neglected Plato’s Epinomis. To my knowledge no one has attempted an interpretation of the dialogue as a whole in recent memory. In part this is because some scholars have argued that the Epinomis was not written by Plato. However, this is not the opinion of many prominent Plato scholars of the last century and a half. For example, George Grote, Paul Friedlander, A.E. Taylor, and Paul Shorey all considered it an authentic Platonic dialogue. Additionally, its authenticity was hardly doubted by ancient commentators. The main argument made for its not being authentic is not interpretational but alleged stylistic and philological differences with other, well established platonic dialogues, must notably the Laws. To these criticism Taylor responds, who himself translated the dialogue, “I can detect no linguistic difference whatever between the style of the Epinomis and the Laws, and the very fact that the Laws have manifestly not received even the trifling editorial revision which would have removed small verbal inaccuracies and contradictions makes it incredible to me that Plato’s immediate disciples should have issued as his the work of one of themselves. Hence I am confident that the current suspicion of the dialogue is no more than a prejudice really due to the now exploded early nineteenth century attacks on the genuineness of the Laws themselves.”1 Nonetheless, the prolix style and perplexing arguments have no doubt deterred many from attempting to explain it who consider it a genuine work. I believe that the prolixity is a key to understanding the work. I will argue that it is the culmination of the discussion started in Plato’s Laws, as it appears to be, because it explains two topics mentioned briefly in the Laws but left inadequately explained: the purpose or study of the “nocturnal council”, and the civil theodicy of the city outlined in the Laws the foundation of which was established in book ten.

Publication Title

Southwest Political Science Conference

Publisher Statement

This paper was presented at the Southwest Political Science Conference, Las Vegas, in March 2011.