The Spicy Lotus

October 24, 2010

Statesman, Plato

Filed under: Uncategorized — pha9 @ 3:57 pm

The Statesman (Greek: Πολιτικός, Politikos), also known by its Latin title, Politicus, is a Socratic dialogue written by Plato. The text describes a conversion among Socrates, the mathematician Theodorus, another person named Socrates (referred to as “Young Socrates”), and an unnamed philosopher from Elea referred to the as “the Stranger” (ξένος, xénos). It is ostensibly an attempt to arrive at a definition of “statesman,” as opposed to “sophist” or “philosopher” and is presented as following the action of the Sophist.

According to John M. Cooper, the dialogue’s intention was to clarify that to rule or have political power called for a specialized knowledge.[1] The statesman was one who possesses this special knowledge of how to rule justly and well and to have the best interests of the citizens at heart. It is presented that politics should be run by this knowledge, or gnosis. This claim runs counter to those who, the Stranger points out, actually did rule. Those that rule merely give the appearance of such knowledge, but in the end are really sophists or imitators. For, as the Stranger maintains, a sophist is one who does not know the right thing to do, but only appears to others as someone who does. The Stranger’s ideal of how one arrives at this knowledge of power is through social divisions. The visitor takes great pains to be very specific about where and why the divisions are needed in order to properly rule the citizenry.




  1. In the beginning of the dialogue, Socrates thanks Theodorus for introducing him to Theaetetus and young Socrates. He says that both are in some way related to him because Theaetetus has his ugly face and young Socrates shares his name. Maybe these are two representations of Socrates as he goes through his life long journey to find the truth and become a philosopher. It will be interesting to see if there is any difference between the way the two act in the two dialogues.

    Comment by pha9 — October 24, 2010 @ 4:01 pm | Reply

  2. To define the statesman, we will go back to the system of divisions. Science can be divided into the practical and the abstract. The practical produces things, e.g. the carpenter, and the abstract is purely intellectual. Also, anyone who has the ability to advise someone in a public position has the same ability as that position. For example, an advisor to the King can be called the King.

    Now he equates the ruler of a household to the position of a King. I think he is just talking about management here, but he uses the term the “royal science”.

    The King can do more with his mind than he can do with his hands.

    One of the arts of knowledge is calculation. The art of calculation is the art of passing judgement on the differences in the numbers.

    There are two divisions in knowledge one that rules and one that judges.

    If you are doing something in common, being of one mind is important.

    So the King is part of that division that needs to rule or command.

    Comment by pha9 — October 24, 2010 @ 4:23 pm | Reply

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