Volume 25, Issue 2, Spring 2021
Narrative Tyranny in American Political Discourse and Plato's Republic I
The Possibility of Philosophical and Political Freedom
This paper begins with a brief examination of the contemporary American political landscape. I describe three recent events that illustrate how attempts to control the narrative about events that transpired threaten to undermine our shared reality. I then turn to Book I of Plato’s Republic to explore the potentially tyrannizing effect of Socrates’s narrative voice. I focus on his descriptions of Glaucon, Polemarchus and his slave, and Thrasymachus to show how Plato presents Socrates’s narrative activity as a process that controls how the auditor understands the events that follow. I then turn to an alternate understanding of Socratic narrative which extols its philosophically and politically liberatory possibilities. I use my own previous work on Socratic narrative, Jill Frank’s Poetic Justice, and Rebecca’s LeMoine’s Plato’s Cave as three examples that emphasize the more positive dimensions of Socratic narrative. Finally, I end with a brief exploration of Cornel West’s Democracy Matters, and bell hooks’ works on pedagogy to argue for the possibility a Socratically-informed public space for political discourse.