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Otfried Höffe on Plato - Dictionary of Arguments

I 42
Plato/Höffe: A few questions come to mind:
I. Justice: Plato, on the other hand, derives from his idea of specialization, the idiopragy formula, an understanding of justice according to which every part, be it the soul, be it the community, has to fulfil its peculiar task(1).
Question:Does Plato want to clarify the usual understanding of justice about himself or introduce a new, "revisionist" understanding?
a) The idioprague formula does indeed speak for a revisionist understanding.
b) Plato, however, starts with a traditional principle ("to each his own") and "only" expands the meaning of the term as he sees fit. The unspoken assertion in this connection is (...) [one] must (...) make a partial revision and understand justice as harmony, as a harmony both in the individual and in the state.
II. Can Platonic justice bring about one's own well-being
I 43
or does it not need that addition that Plato himself introduces in the outlook of the Politeia, the view into the (balancing) beyond? >Justice/Plato.
Governance: Above all Plato's philosopher-king theorem raises questions: Thanks to their knowledge of the whole and their readiness to serve the community, philosophers should be decisive for the common good and because of their authoritativeness also responsible. This assumption contains two questionable equations.
a) On the one hand, it can be argued that Plato confuses the genuine philosophical knowledge of the whole, a mere knowledge of principles, with a more substantial knowledge of the whole, the insight into elementary conditions of just living together.
b) On the other hand, he equates the knowledge of principles with the competence required for politics to concretize and apply knowledge in the respective situation. A knowledge of principles includes at least the ability to judge, experience and persuasiveness necessary for politics, not least a sense of power not necessary.
PlatonVsVs/Höffe: However, Plato cannot be criticised so easily. In the Politeia he demands far more competences for the ruler. They start with those preconditions that are already fulfilled by the guardians, i.e. bravery, perceptiveness, good memory, curiosity and righteousness(2).
Moreover, the rulers must have proved themselves the best in war(3). In addition, they are trained "artistically and gymnastically" in preliminary exercises.
Furthermore, experience and a good advice (euboulia), i.e. (...) common-interest oriented
I 44
expertise is required (...).


1 Politeia, IV 433a ff
2. II 375a et seq.)
3. 543a


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Höffe I
Otfried Höffe
Geschichte des politischen Denkens München 2016


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