Knowledge and Law in Plato’s Statesman and Laws: A Response to Klosko
Political Studies, Vol. 59, No, 1, pp. 188-203, 2011
29 Pages Posted: 24 Nov 2009 Last revised: 11 Feb 2011
Date Written: November 24, 2009
Ever since Morrow’s seminal contribution to the study of Plato’s Laws, the Nocturnal Council described in book XII of the Laws has been generally agreed to be consistent with the rest of the work. In a recent piece in Political Studies, however, George Klosko (Klosko 2008) revives the older argument against Morrow’s interpretation, arguing that the Nocturnal Council really is inconsistent with the overall project of the Laws, and that the best explanation for this inconsistence is that Plato changed his mind in the course of writing the Laws but was unable to fully “work out” the “philosophical implications” of this change before he died. I argue in this paper that Klosko’s arguments do not succeed, and that Morrow’s interpretation of the Nocturnal Council is still the best account of its role that we possess. But beyond the narrow point concerning the interpretation of the role of the Nocturnal Council in the Laws, I argue that Klosko misinterprets Plato’s arguments for the rule of law. A proper interpretation of these arguments shows that Plato’s defense of the rule of law never rules out the possibility of improving the law through the accumulation of new experience, and hence is nowhere incompatible with a commitment to institutions like the Nocturnal Council.
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