chapter  4
11 Pages

PLATO ON THE ECONOMY

We begin with one of Plato’s more famous ruses. At any rate, the passage is well known and I take it to constitute a rather unstraightforward manoeuvre. I am referring to Rep. II.368C-369A, where Socrates suggests that the inquiry into justice will make better progress if the interlocutors study its place in the city before tackling the justice of one man or individual. He argues the point by analogy. If something written in small letters is hard to make out, the situation can be retrieved if one finds the same message written in larger letters on a larger surface. Armed with his grasp of the large version the reader is equipped to return to the small letters and check whether they are the same. So with justice. A city can be characterised by justice no less than an individual-but it is larger, and so perhaps there is more justice in it than in the individual, and easier to make out.