Socrates' Discursive Democracy

Logos and Ergon in Platonic Political Philosophy

By Gerald M. Mara

Subjects: Classics
Paperback : 9780791433003, 324 pages, February 1997
Hardcover : 9780791432990, 324 pages, March 1997

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Table of contents


1. Democratic Discourse and Socratic Discourse

2. Apologia

3. Aretē

4. Polis

5. Epistēmē

6. Erōs

7. Socrates' Liberal Ironism


Bibliography of Works Cited



Focusing on the speeches and actions of the Platonic Socrates, this book argues that Plato's political philosophy is a crucial source for reflection on the hazards and possibilities of democratic politics.

Gerald M. Mara is Executive Associate Dean in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and Professional Lecturer in Government at Georgetown University.


"Gerald Mara has written a thoughtful, lively, yet wide-ranging book about the contributions of Platonic political philosophy to contemporary debates in political theory. By showing how Socrates' logos (the insistence that we go beyond ordinary sense for the rational solution of political problems) is tempered by if not opposed to his ergon (the particular behavior within practical discursive contexts) and insisting that Plato is both a metaphysician and an ironist, Mara enriches our understanding of various dialogues and the central subjects of Platonic philosophy and scholarship. On this basis he goes on to argue, persuasively I think, that Athenian democracy provided context and referent point for Plato's project even when that project included sharp warnings about democracy. The Plato who emerges provides the grounds for Mara's notion of a 'discursive democracy.' Mara does all this while entering into a respectful but critical engagement with an impressive range of contemporary political theorists and philosophers." — J. Peter Euben, University of California, Santa Cruz

"Mara's presentation of Plato engages two serious, present-day philosophical issues at once—the question of the justification of democratic politics and the question of 'foundationalism'—in a way that allows each to illuminate the other. Mara's work is the best—both the most accessible and the most compelling—of the new readings of the relationship between Plato and democracy, both ancient and modern, that I have seen." — Stephen Salkever, Bryn Mawr College

"This book is a major contribution to our understanding of Plato and Plato's Socrates, with respect to both philosophy and politics. What makes it so good is the way Mara brings his understanding of Plato to bear on contemporary theory. He juxtaposes Plato's position, as he understands it, with those of contemporary theorists such as Rorty, Habermas, Barber, Sandel, Rawls, and MacIntyre. Particularly intriguing is his discussion of the philosophic significance of the differences between Derrida's treatment of Plato and his own. It is indeed a wonderful book." — Mary Nichols, Fordham University