Julia Pfefferkorn

Julia Pfefferkorn

Title : The dyo phobôn eidè of Laws I



In Laws 646e4, right after the puppet allegory, the Athenian introduces a distinction between ‘two nearly opposed kinds of fear’ (δύο φόβων εἴδη σχεδὸν ἐναντία), the first of which is described very generally as the expectation of evils, whereas the second refers, more specifically, to the fear of bad reputation, also called ‘shame’ (αἰσχύνη; αἰδώς). Contrary to the common fear, this second kind is to be fostered in the citizens’ souls by the lawgiver.

Does Plato’s last work introduce a new, further articulated psychology of fear, possibly within the framework of a new emotion-based bipartite (Rees 1957, Schöpsdau 1994) or unitary (Bobonich 2002) theory of the soul? If so, is a more precise description of fear reconcilable with a supposed abolition of the θυμοειδές (Sassi 2008)? In the Republic, the virtue of the θυμοειδές, ἀνδρεία, was closely connected to the emotion of fear as its counterpart. Finally, in what way is such a new, ‘positive’ notion of fear productive or even necessary for the acquisition of virtue in the citizens?

As is evident from these questions, this passage in Laws I leads directly to the much debated major topics of the dialogue. I will argue that a close reading of this passage provides an ideal basis for analyzing the way in which certain emotions contribute to the acquisition of virtue, or in fact partake in virtue. Furthermore, I will try to show that my reading offers an important argument against a presumed bipartition of the soul in Laws.

In a first step, I contextualize the passage within the dialogue’s course of argument. From the beginning of the dialogue, the two interlocutors of the Athenian hold that their lawgivers ordained everything with regard to war and victory (625d-e). Thus, the Athenian’s aim is to convince the two of the importance, not just of courage, but of virtue as a whole (630b3;e2-3). In 632d9-e5 he suggests to go through ἐξ ἀρχῆς first the practices to do with ἀνδρεία, and to proceed afterwards with the other virtues, taking courage as a model (παράδειγμα). This announcement is usually overlooked, but is of pivotal importance, as it paves the way for the Athenian to shift the focus to the control of ἡδονή, i.e. to temperance.

Secondly, I point out how ἀνδρεία and σωφροσύνη are analogized on the basis of the two notions of fear: the ‘positive’ notion is opposed to the emotion that courage has to fight and is in fact identified with the attitude of a temperate soul, which has to be trained and tested during the συμπόσια.

Finally, I show that temperance is the most fundamental virtue for the colony, accounting for its considerable emphasis by the Athenian. It is in this context that the Athenian places the puppet allegory as an image of temperance, and not of a bipartite soul. Thus, the distinction of the two kinds of fear proves to be of great significance concerning the role of emotions in Laws.

Literature cited above:

  • Bobonich 2002 = Ch. Bobonich: Plato’s Utopia Recast. His later ethics and politics. Oxford/New York, Clarendon Press 2002.
  • Rees 1957 = D. A. Rees: Bipartition of the soul in the Early Academy, in: Journal of Hellenic Studies 77 (1957), 112-118.
  • Sassi 2008 = M. M. Sassi: The self, the soul, and the individual in the city of the Laws, in: Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 35, ed. by B. Inwood, Oxford, Oxford University Press 2008, 125 – 148.
  • Schöpsdau 1994 = K. Schöpsdau: Platon, Nomoi (Gesetze) Buch I–III, Übs. und Komm. v. K. Schopsdau, Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1994.

Follow this link to have access to full texts and hand-outs. This is restricted area, password protected, for the participants and the audience.