Sleepless in Syracuse: Plato and the Nocturnal Council

In Heather Reid & Mark Ralkowski (eds.), Plato at Syracuse: Essays on Plato in Western Greece with a new translation of the Seventh Letter by Jonah Radding. Parnassos Press- Fonte Aretusa. pp. 121-129 (2019)
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I defend the Seventh Letter, traditionally attributed to Plato, against Michael Frede's argument that it presents a political philosophy inconsistent with that found in the Laws. Frede argues that Plato had given up the idea of the philosopher-king in his Laws, but the 7th Letter seems to be still committed to the project. I argue the Laws, particularly with the introduction of the Nocturnal Council, has Philosopher-Rulers in all but name. I consider the education of the Nocturnal Council and how it functions relative to the other constitutional structures of Magnesia. Frede advances several other arguments that the 7th Letter is spurious, but it at least escapes the most damning charge that it is inconsistent with the Laws philosophically.

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Andrew Hull
Northwestern University


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