Thoughts on Plato’s Statesman

Plato’s Statesman is a somewhat unremarkable dialogue. Unlike its parallel dialogues with the explicit subject matter of political philosophy, such as the Republic or the Laws, the Statesman fails to cover the ground necessary to fully examine the topic, and its main subject matter may more appropriately be called political science.

The dialogue picks up from where the Sophist leaves off. Socrates and the geometer, Theodorus, are discussing their arrangement. Theodorus mistakenly accounts for three character types in question as equal -the philosopher, statesman, and sophist. Recall the Eleatic stranger failed to complete the understanding of the sophist in the Sophist.

In this dialogue, the Eleatic stranger engages with Theaetetus’s young gymnastic companion, a “young Socrates.” However, the Eleatic stranger fails to address the question of what is the statesman, and instead he continues to dissect the statesman into categories and endless dichotomies and distinctions. The Eleatic stranger, unfortunately, leans closer to identifying with a sophist rather than a philosopher, as Theodorus initially thought him to be.

For this reading I used Seth Bernardete’s translation of Plato’s Statesman.

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