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date: 17 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter presents a an overview of the themes and topics of Plato’s Laws and then focusses on the grand hierarchy of divine and human goods identified in book I (631b-d) as the reference point of all proper legislation. The hierarchy rests on a conception of virtue distinct from what we find in other Platonic dialogues. It ranks courage last among the virtues and describes justice as a blend of moderation with wisdom and courage. This chapter argues that courage is ranked last because it is a natural or non-rational trait of fearlessness, analogous to the “ordinary” trait of moderation (self-restraint in the face of pleasure) that is presented as a trifling virtue in books III and IV. Justice, as conceived of in the Laws, requires combining these two traits and informing them with wisdom. The chapter concludes by noting that the leading role played by wisdom in Plato’s hierarchy of goods prefigures Aristotle’s conception of the highest good.

Keywords: Plato, Laws, virtue, courage, Aristotle

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