1. bookVolume 16 (2022): Issue 1 (April 2022)
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Journal
eISSN
2183-3311
First Published
15 Dec 2016
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1 time per year
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English
access type Open Access

Plato Plays Polis

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Volume & Issue: Volume 16 (2022) - Issue 1 (April 2022)
Page range: 413 - 430
Journal Details
License
Format
Journal
eISSN
2183-3311
First Published
15 Dec 2016
Publication timeframe
1 time per year
Languages
English
Abstract

At Republic 422e1-423a2, while discussing Callipolis and its ability to wage war, Socrates makes a punning reference to the ancient boardgame polis. In this contest, two opponents deployed sets of identical pessoi (counters) to surround and capture the enemy’s forces. Socrates’ allusion is not simply amusing; it is well-suited to the dialogue’s philosophical content and historical context. With regard to philosophy, Callipolis’ guardians resemble the pessoi. Their training makes them equal and interchangeable, while their personal interests are subordinated to those of the group to discourage dissent (stasis) and promote unity. Elsewhere in the Platonic corpus, learning to play polis is mentioned as part of a philosophical education. In the hands of a skilled practitioner like Socrates, dialectic is like playing polis. With regard to history, the Republic’s main interlocutors (Socrates, Adeimantus, Glaucon) were soldiers known for their bravery. Moreover, its readers remembered the rule of the Thirty Tyrants and its aftermath. Indeed, the dialogue’s arguments about the just city and regime change are framed by an allusion to the movements of Thrasybulus and Critias and their respective troops around the game board of Attica. At Athens, polis was played for high stakes, namely the polis itself.

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