Dialectic of the slave in the Laws of Plato
Keywords:Plato, Laws, slavery, power relations, Ancient Greece
The acceptance of slavery is one of the issues where Antiquity shows a greater lag in relation to the contemporary world; this is often adduced to criticize Greek philosophy. This paper examines the extent to which Plato’s thought in Laws can fall under or escape this imputation. It is suggested that we can find in the author a dialectic of the slave, which consists in maintaining, on the one hand, the function of slavery within the proposed social and political structure, while, on the other hand, the existence of the slave as such is questioned. Thus, it is first made a general presentation of slavery in the Laws and of the role that this institution plays in the philosophical understanding of the dialogue itself, and then a careful examination of the central passage of 6.777d5-7 is carried out. It is concluded that although, in a historical key, Plato fails to avoid the tension of this dialectic, in a philosophical key he offers its resolution in the doings of the truly just person.
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