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MaieusisEssays in Ancient Philosophy in Honour of Myles Burnyeat$
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Dominic Scott

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199289974

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199289974.001.0001

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Erōs, Philosophy, and Tyranny *

Erōs, Philosophy, and Tyranny *

(p.136) 7 Erōs, Philosophy, and Tyranny*

Dominic Scott (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The philosopher and the tyrant of the Republic seem worlds apart from one another — the one just, ordered, and harmonious; the other lawless, bestial, and wild. And yet they have one thing in common: both are gripped by an obsessive erōs. At various points in book VI, philosophers are described as lovers, whether of learning, truth, or philosophy itself (485b1, 490b1-7, 499c1-2, and 501d2). According to the channel analogy of 485a-487a, their philosophical erōs is like a flow of water directed into a single stream, drying up their other desires for more worldly goods. But the channel argument also applies very well to the tyrant, described not just as lawless, but also as having an erōs that he pursues with complete single-mindedness, an erōs that informs all aspects of his character, dominating his beliefs, desires, and actions. This chapter begins with a description of the tyrant in book IX, focusing on the exact reason why Plato characterizes him in terms of erōs. It then turns to the philosopher and examines passages from the central books of the Republic that help to reveal the strand linking philosophical and tyrannical erōs.

Keywords:   philosopher, tyrant, Republic, erōs, Plato

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