Platonism, Moral Nostalgia and the City of Pigs

Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium of Ancient Philosophy 17 (1):207-27 (2001)
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Plato’s depiction of the first city in the Republic (Book II), the so-called ‘city of pigs’, is often read as expressing nostalgia for an earlier, simpler era in which moral norms were secure. This goes naturally with readings of other Platonic texts (including Republic I and the Gorgias) as expressing a sense of moral decline or crisis in Plato’s own time. This image of Plato as a spokesman for ‘moral nostalgia’ is here traced in various nineteenth- and twentieth-century interpretations, and rejected. Plato’s pessimism about human nature in fact precludes any easy assumption that things, or people, were better in the old days.

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Rachel Barney
University of Toronto, St. George


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