Platonic dialogues are self-concealing, presenting ideas by indirection or in riddling form, often exploring a difficulty or aporia without arriving at a solution. Since philosophers have begun to see Plato's work as imbued with irony, double meaning, and ambiguity, literary techniques that accommodate such layered meanings become a necessary adjunct to interpretation. The dialogue Politicus explores through an aporetic process a central Platonic concern, the relation between ideal and real. Close analysis of the important section dealing with law and constitutions reveals some of the complexity. By his wayward conduct of the argument, the Eleatic stranger repeatedly forces reevaluation of earlier arguments or conclusions. At the close of the cosmic myth (274e1-275c4), the Stranger warned against confusing the divine monarch, a true shepherd, with his mortal counterpart, the best ruler, whose discovery is the aim of the dialogue. The distinction that was made then is simple in context, but complex in view of the conclusion at 303b8-c5 that the participants in all governments except the ideal monarchy are supreme wizards and fakers. The truly real (ὄντως ὤν) statesman thus recedes into a distance remote from the world of practical politics, while the familiar regimes are marked as irretrievably flawed and inauthentic. The ability of the fake statesmen to deceive by impersonating the true king also means that it may be impossible to make the crucial distinction between king and tyrant, since either may disregard the laws. The strange fable of legalism run wild (300a) confirms the ludicrous and destructive results of rigid obedience to law, but concludes that rigidity is necessary to the false regimes. The corollary is that seekers after truth, like Socrates or even the Stranger himself, must always be rejected by law-based societies.

[Footnotes]

[Footnotes]
1
T. Szlezák, especially 66-78
2
Griswold 1-13
Hyland 96-98
Gonzalez 1-13.
3
Goldschmidt on the contrast between aporetic with "scholastic" dialogues (155-64)
4
Puster (50-52)
Gonzalez 155-56.
5
Dorter, who shows the error-ridden technique of the human/animal divisions (181-98)
Stranger's abandonment of division is as perverse as his previous use of it (211ff.).
Miller 27-28
Scodel 18, 66, 167.
6
Lane 1998, 4.
Skemp (40)
7
Kahn xiv-xv.
8
Annas xvi
Lane rightly points out that expert knowledge is the central theme of the dialogue (1998, 4, 137).
10
Lane's treatment of the first half of the dialogue (1998, 63-66)
11
1995a, 26-27
1996, 166-68, 171-72.
Lane 1998, 156-57.
12
Annas: "The ideal ruler has become a problem, and not just a solution to problems" (xiv)
Lane: the analogy of the myth implies that the arrival of the true king is extremely remote, but "A fierce insistence on the possibility of his advent is combined with an equally fierce insistence on recognition of his current absence" (1998, 111).
note 74 below.
13
1996, 155.
1995a, 14
14
1996, 165
Rowe states (165, nn. 33, 34)
169, n. 40
15
Rowe (1995a, 27
1996, 169
Lane 1998, 158.
16
Lane's useful study of the importance of the ideal ruler's mastery of kairos, so that his decisions will be adapted to changing situations (1998, 132-36).
17
note 39 below.
18
Rowe (1995a, 18, n. 27)
Timaeus 24a3-5
19
Patterson 41-51
Villela-Petit 64.
20
Meier on this problem (309-10)
Ostwald's section on "The Meaning of Paranomos" (111-36)
Ehrenberg (57)
21
Gagarin 57-61.
22
Lane 1998, 197-98
Ostwald 84-86
Clouds 1421-24.
23
Herodotus 1.29.1.
Heraclitus 44B DK
Athena in Aeschylus' Eum. 690-706
Thucydides (1.84.3 [Archidamos], 3.37.3 [Cleon], 6.18.7 [Alcibiades]).
24
Euripides (Phoinissai 196-97).
Handley 171-74.
26
Hirsch 185
27
Ryffel on Herodotus 3.80 (57-73)
de Romilly (81)
Pindar Py. 2, 86-88.
28
Wood and Wood 178-79.
29
Dorter (188, n. 17)
Rowe (1996, 161)
31
1995a nn. 32, 46
1996 n. 24
33
Rosen 1995, 158.
34
note 23 above
note 28 above.
36
Gutzwiller (72-73)
37
Gill (293-94 and n. 11)
39
Gill (294)
Gill 292
1995a, 26 n. 91
40
note 3
42
Phaedo (99c9-d1).
44
Nagy (323)
45
Gill attempts to "explicate" two separate sets of constitutional assumptions for the imaginary state (298-99)
note 61 below.
Lane argues that we are somehow to understand that, as long as the best of the second-best regimes do not ban intellectual investigation, the possibility of the true expert's attaining power remains open (1998, 161-63).
46
Aristotle Politics 1324b22-31
Rosen 1995, 165.
Annas (xvii)
Laws 720a-e
47
Herodotus 8.118
48
Skemp (49)
Annas: "it appeals to our responses in the case of uncontroversial skills to establish something about an expertise whose results would be highly revisionary" (xvii).
49
Clouds 228-30, 360, 1485
Apology 18b6-c1.
52
Laws (875b3, 713c7)
Kahn 1995, 52-53
54
Meno 92e3-6
Prot. 326e8-27a2
56
Kahn (1996, ch. 1).
Skemp (48)
58
Sophist (230a5-231b8)
Rosen 1983, 24.
60
Rosen (1995, 158, 162).
Lane 1998, 5, n. 12.
61
Rowe that the fable gives an account, however "sardonic," of "the origin and evolution of existing legal systems" (1996, 167).
62
Rowe (1996, 168-69 and n. 39)
63
Nightingale 42, 79 n. 58.
65
Derrida 160
Patterson, 19ff., 158-63.
Kahn 1995, 52
Hirsch, who remarks that it is unclear how the laws have come into being (186)
66
Derrida 159
Rosen (1983, 14-15)
IJsseling 17.
Cratylus 431c10-e8
Lassègue 262-63.
68
note 57 above
69
Gill (295-96)
Lane 1995, 289-90.
70
Lane 1995, 290.
71
Lane (1998, 148, n. 25)
72
1995, 155.
73
Kahn 1996, 53-54
74
Lane's acute comment (1998, 6)
75
Rowe does (1996, 172 n. 48).

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