Plato’s Laws

Parens, Joshua and Joseph Macfarland, "Plato's Laws," in Medieval Political Philosophy: A Sourcebook. Cornell University Press, Ithica, NY, 2011.

Excerpt from Alfarabi’s introduction:

“Our purpose in making this introduction is this: the wise Plato did not feel free to reveal and uncover every kind of knowledge for all people. Therefore he followed the practice of using symbols, riddles, obscurity, and difficulty, so that knowledge would not fall into the hands of those who do not deserve it and be deformed, or fall into the hands of someone who does not know its worth or who uses it improperly. In this he was right. Once he knew and became certain that he had become famous for this practice, and that it was widespread among people that he expresses everything he intends to say through symbols, he would sometimes turn to the subject he intended to discuss and state it openly and literally; but whoever reads or hears this discussion supposes that it is symbolic and that he intends something different from what he stated openly. This notion is one of the secrets of his books. Moreover, no one is able to understand what he states openly and what he states symbolically or in riddles unless trained in that art itself, and no one will be able to distinguish the two unless skilled in the discipline being discussed. This is how his discussion proceeds in the¬†Laws. In this present book we have resolved upon extracting the notions to which he alluded in that book and grouping them together, following the order of the Discourses it contains, so that the present book may become an aid to whoever wants to know that book and sufficient for whoever cannot bear the hardship of study and reflection. God accommodates to what is right.”

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