How has the Republic managed to inspire tyrannical hubris as well as reflective openness?
The issues that concern Jacob Howland in Glaucon’s Fate are these: “Is [Plato’s] Republic primarily a work of philosophical inquiry or ideological dogmatism? Are its political proposals serious or ironic?” “How has the Republic managed to inspire tyrannical hubris as well as reflective openness?” Howland argues that “a confusion of philosophical aspiration and political ideology runs throughout the Republic.”
A philosophy professor at Tulsa University, Howland thinks Socrates failed to convince his central interlocutor in the Republic, Plato’s brother Glaucon, “of the superiority of the life of philosophy and justice.” Evidence for this is Howland’s surmise (following Michael Munn) that Glaucon died fighting for the notorious Thirty Tyrants who ruled Athens in 404 B.C., after Sparta defeated it. Plato’s relatives Charmides and Critias are known to have been members of the Thirty—Critias led the group, which killed 1,500 people. This connection leads Howland to make much of what he takes to be Critias’ views in three of the dialogues in which he appears (Critias, Timaeus, and Charmides).
Few who study Plato claim Socrates succeeded in turning his most politically ambitious interlocutors toward a philosophical life. This is visible with Alcibiades, whom Howland discusses,
Subscribe to the Claremont Review of Books now and receive a free 2020 calendar featuring the drawings of CRB Art Director Elliott Banfield.