Volume 12, Issue 2, 2012
Plato’s Republic as a Political Thought Experiment
Plato’s Republic is a political thought experiment, claims the present paper. Thought-experimenting is announced in the story of the Ring of Gyges, and done in a thorough and systematic way through a series of political scenarios: community of goods, of women and children, educational system and the philosopher rule? The paper considers the longstanding issue of plausibility, putting it in the context of current debates about thought-experiments, and the issue of replaceability: can a given political thought experiment be replaced by an argument which features only norms and empirical information? The paper also puts the Republic thought experiment into a broad historical context, presenting it as the point of origin of utopian literature on the one hand, and the thought-experimental tradition in political philosophy on the other hand, contrasting it with the social-contract thought-experiment, also adumbrated in the Republic but fully developed in modern thought.