Plato and Athenian Justice

History of Political Thought XXXVI, No. 4 (Winter 2015), pp. 611-642

32 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2013 Last revised: 17 May 2018

Date Written: November 7, 2015


Plato’s interest in justice is pronounced and familiar. So too are his criticisms of Athenian democracy. This article suggests that Plato’s conceptualization of justice constituted a direct and conscious confrontation with the highly democratic mode of justice pursued in Athens’ popular courts. Yet Plato did not resist all Athenian judicial norms. His approach recalls Athenian homicide trials, which operated quite differently from the ordinary kind. Plato’s signal contribution to the history of political thought may be characterized as having taken the conception of justice associated with homicide to be paradigmatic, with remarkably enduring effects.

Keywords: Plato, Athenian democracy, justice, to dikaion, dikaiosyne

Suggested Citation

Cammack, Daniela, Plato and Athenian Justice (November 7, 2015). History of Political Thought XXXVI, No. 4 (Winter 2015), pp. 611-642. Available at SSRN: or

Daniela Cammack (Contact Author)

Yale University ( email )

New Haven, CT 06520
United States

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