Top positive review
Plato's The Laws is a classic masterpiece!
on 13 September 2017
Plato's The Laws is a classic masterpiece. Although it would be cumbersome to give a description of every section of the book, here are some highlights: Plato starts off talking about the inadequacy of Spartan and Cretan legislation, in that they are geared up completely to the aim of War. He then discusses drinking parties and how they can be beneficial or educational to citizens, as kind of test of self restraint. He discusses music, dance and singing to quite some extent, mainly in the form of three choruses, which include children, men to the age of thirty and men from the age of thirty to sixty. He discusses which kinds of music should be suitable or censored in the hypothetical new state to be founded on Crete called Magnesia. He discusses the preferred locality and the type of terrain Magnesia should be established on, he then divides the territory in to twelve districts radiating from the city and corresponding to twelve tribes. This is then divided further in to hearths or farms for each individual citizen or family, the exact number being 5040, which can neither increase nor decrease. He discusses what type of people should colonise Magnesia, what political offices there should be in the new state, and precisely how the offices are to be filled, whether by election or lot. There are four classes in Magnesia, ranging from wealthy to poor. Although farms are assigned to the citizens, property and produce are to be held in common, the state ultimately owns the land. This book is like a legislation for an early communist society. There is to be limited money and wealth in Magnesia, a man can only own up to four times the value of his lot. There are also restrictions on how much money a citizen can own, (all this is to curb the greed and avarice of profiteering). There are three goals of the city-state and the citizens, in order of importance, they are: virtue and that of the soul, the health of the body, and finally external goods, such as wealth. Virtue has four parts, courage, restraint, wisdom and justice, and the ultimate goal of the state and legislator is virtue. Plato discusses, common meals, education and military training and how women should be given equal inclusion and training in these institutions and fields. Plato then discusses capital offences, with surprisingly mild and severe punishments for homicide, woundings and assault. In a riveting chapter he then discusses religion and makes arguments against complete atheists, as well as those who believe the gods are indifferent to human affairs, and those who think the gods are venal and can be bribed. Surprisingly some of these punishments for these acts of impiety are harsher than those for homicide. In fact the death penalty occurs more frequently towards the end of the book, under miscellaneous legislation. The Laws is a riveting and essential read for anyone with an interest in legislation, statecraft or politics. I highly recommend it to anyone.