Force and persuasion in Plato's Republic.




Pearson, Lewis Takashi.

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Plato’s Republic begins with an act of force (327b) and ends with an act of persuasion (621c). Between these two bookends, force and persuasion appear well over one hundred more times, permeating the dialogue as recurring themes. Force and persuasion are present in the dialogue primarily as a means for Socrates to provide his interlocutors a proper understanding of human nature, which when fully explicated includes an account of the nature of reality and the good. For the reader, the presence of force and persuasion throughout the dialogue is a constant reminder of its importance as a hermeneutical key for properly interpreting the content and purpose of Socrates’ speech. By focusing on the use and discussion of force and persuasion throughout Plato’s Republic, I argue that Socrates attempts "truly to persuade" his interlocutors "that it is in every way better to be just rather than unjust" (357b), primarily by correcting their misconceptions of human nature. To persuade his interlocutors, Socrates makes visible the invisible soul through the extensive use of images and analogies. I show that one can use Socrates’ definitions of force, persuasion, and wizardry as a hermeneutical key for interpreting all of the major themes, images, and analogies of the Republic.


Includes bibliographical references (p. 166-176).