Language, politics and order in Plato's political thought : a study of four Platonic works
This thesis is an examination of Plato's Protagoras, Gorgias, Republic I, and the Phaedrus. The focus is on Plato's political thought and my aim is to examine politics and language within the context of Plato's belief in and desire for order. I try to show how he connects the way language is used with the political life of a community. I argue that he identifies a link between the stability of a political association and the uses, and users, of language. Given his fundamental belief in a metaphysical order, existing beyond and prior to human existence, I argue that Plato seeks to anchor language and politics, to rationalise them in accordance with the the universal harmony characterised by the Forms. In making this argument I try to show that, for Plato, the spread of order logically culminates in a harmonisation of the physical and metaphysical. So much is this so, I claim, that the stability of order in any sphere of human existence depends on the existence of order in all other spheres. Thus, an orderly political association, one organised in accordance with Platonic moral principles, simply cannot exist if the language its members share does not exhibit the very same order. Psychological order is the avenue through which the metaphysical order enters human affairs. Given the Greek assumption that life in the polis is the natural life for man, examination of the human psyche becomes for Plato also an examination of communal, or associative, living. The moral as intrinsically part of the political. Plato is concerned with both the quality of the association and the quality of its mode of interaction. Both politics and language must be harmonised to ensure a concordance between human existence and the metaphysical order in which Plato believes.