Happy City, Happy Citizens? The Private Good and the Common Good in Plato's Republic

to be presented August 28, 2014 at the annual convention of the American Political Science Association

35 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2014

Date Written: July 24, 2014

Abstract

Several times in the Republic, Socrates declares that he and his interlocutors are making a city that is happy as a whole, but he never defines what it means for a city to be happy as a whole. This statement has been interpreted in two basically competing ways: either the happiness of the city is ultimately reducible to the happiness of its citizens (reductionism), or else the city's happiness is other than and perhaps even independent of the happiness of its citizens (holism). In this paper, I argue that the text itself is ambiguous, but that all existing reductionist interpretations are inconsistent with the text. At the same time, there is reason to doubt that holism is a plausible alternative. I conclude that Socrates is deliberately ambiguous on this topic, and that the Republic exhibits a persistent and deliberately unbridged gap between the private good and the common good, even in the best regime. I also conclude that Socrates' ambiguity can only be recognized and accounted for if one reads the Republic as a dramatic dialogue where characterization matters, and not as a dramatized philosophical treatise (as the reductionists read it).

Keywords: Common Good, Kallipolis, Plato, Republic

Suggested Citation

Culp, Jonathan, Happy City, Happy Citizens? The Private Good and the Common Good in Plato's Republic (July 24, 2014). to be presented August 28, 2014 at the annual convention of the American Political Science Association. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2125391 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2125391

Jonathan Culp (Contact Author)

University of Dallas ( email )

1845 E. Northgate Dr.
Irving, TX 75026
United States

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