Like-Mindedness: Plato’s Solution to the Problem of Faction

In Gerasimos Santas & Georgios Anagnostopoulos (eds.), Democracy, Justice, and Equality in Ancient Greece: Historical and Philosophical Perspectives. Cham: Springer Verlag. pp. 139-159 (2018)
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Plato recognizes faction as a serious threat to any political community. The Republic’s proposed solution to faction relies on bringing citizens into a relation of ὁμόνοια. On the dominant line of interpretation, ὁμόνοια is understood along the lines of “explicit agreement” or “consensus.” Commentators have consequently thought that the καλλίπολις becomes resistant to faction when all or most of its members explicitly agree with one another about certain fundamentals of their political association—for example, they agree regarding who should govern in the καλλίπολις.We argue that ὁμόνοια in Plato’s political philosophy has been under-analyzed and misunderstood. We show that, in Alcibiades I, rendering ὁμόνοια simply as agreement results in confusion about how expertise, political friendship, and civic unity are compossible in a well-ordered political community. In our view, Plato refines and adds philosophical depth to the concept of ὁμόνοια in the Republic. We claim that ὁμόνοια is a relation of psychological “like-mindedness” that obtains among members of different occupational classes in a political community. A community is rendered resistant to faction, then, when its members are, in some significant way, psychologically alike. Additionally, while Platonic ὁμόνοια can naturally be expected to result in substantive agreement among citizens, we argue that Platonic ὁμόνοια does not consist solely in agreement.

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