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The Politics of Knowledge in Plato's Statesman


This dissertation establishes that the Platonic dialogues Theaetetus, Sophist and Statesman comprise a tightly woven trilogy which is unified both thematically and philosophically. Its focuses on the last dialogue in this list, relatively neglected by commentators, the Statesman. Despite the fact that Plato seems to take pains to alert us to the thematic unity of the Theaetetus, Sophist and Statesman, not only has the unity of the dialogues not been adequately appreciated, but the Statesman has usually been treated as a mere curious appendage: a dialogue of interest primarily if not solely for insight into Plato’s late political philosophy. This thesis proposes that the Statesman is, rather, the culmination of this very important trilogy of dialogues, and that one can have a proper understanding of the dialogues and the philosophical issues with which they are concerned only if one understands the relation of the Statesman to the prior two dialogues. In order to establish the unity of the three dialogues and the central importance of the Statesman for the epistemology developed in them, this dissertation seeks to show that the epistemological doctrines initiated but left in a state of incompletion in the initial dialogue, the Theaetetus, find partial completion in the next dialogue, the Sophist, but are fully worked out only in the Statesman. The epistemology developed in the trilogy is an interrelational epistemology, as other scholars have maintained. This dissertation argues for a modified version of the interrelational model on which axiological and hierarchical relations play a role of maximum importance. By brining this interrelational epistemology to fruition in the political context of the Statesman, where it is used to provide an account of human being and the polis, Plato discloses the ineluctably political nature of knowledge and philosophy.

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