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Plato casts his vote

Imagine if you could start a city from scratch – not just its physical structures and engineering, but its social forms and paradigms . Many have tried and have created all sorts of utopic visions. Plato once tried it too. In his Laws, he articulated the creation of a new city on Crete called Magnesia. Plato’s Laws takes the form of a long conversation between a man from Sparta, a fellow from Crete, and Plato himself, who takes the part of a man from Athens.

As the three men discuss all sorts of things political, geographical, social, educational, and ethical, Plato expresses his views on marriage and sexuality, and presents marriage as crucial part of a well-ordered state, and defines marriage as a life-long contract between a man and a woman, and is explicit as to the unsatisfactory nature of same-sex unions. (Laws 1.636, 8.836, 8.840, 8.841 – easy to google ‘Plato Laws 1.636’).

How ironic. Plato is dreaming of laws that protect what we call traditional marriage, because he lived in a culture of confused relationships and unions. And here we are, more than two thousand years later, wanting to give up what he thought of as a utopia. Seems to me that in our current debate on marriage, Plato would counsel less haste and more caution. And that if given a chance to vote, would cast in his lot with the traditional form. But what would Plato know?

DM 23rd August 2017

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