From Pericles to Plato: From Democratic Political Praxis to Totalitarian Political Philosophy

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Plato is normally taken as one of the founders of Western political philosophy, not at least with his Republic. Here, he constructs a hierarchy of forms of governments, beginning with aristocracy at the top as a critical standard for the other forms of governments, and proceeding through timocracy and oligarchy to democracy and tyranny at the bottom. Following Karl Popper, the paper argues that Plato’s is a totalitarian philosophy that emphasizes the similarities between democracy and tyranny, which it considers to be the two worst forms of government. Plato’s denigration of democracy has dominated the tradition of political philosophy until recent times. This paper, however, shows that political philosophy in fact originates in democracy, especially as developed by the sophists and that philosophy is only a form of sophism with a similar origin in ancient Greek democracy. A discussion of Pericles’ funeral oration is used to show that Pericles presented a democratic political philosophy that can serve as a counterpoint to Plato’s political philosophy in the Republic.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventWinter Symposium Nordic Summer University 2012: Towards a New Ethical Imagination: Political and Social Values in a Cosmopolitan World Society - Turku, Finland
Duration: 10 Feb 201212 Feb 2012


ConferenceWinter Symposium Nordic Summer University 2012
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