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Plato and the Invention of Life$
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Michael Naas

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780823279678

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823279678.001.0001

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The Life of Law and the Law of Life

The Life of Law and the Law of Life

(p.136) Chapter 6 The Life of Law and the Law of Life
Plato and the Invention of Life

Michael Naas

Fordham University Press

This chapter analyzes a large swath of Plato’s Statesman (287b–311c) in order to ask, with “Plato’s Pharmacy” in the background, about the Stranger’s claim that law—and especially written law, since writing is the essence of law—is at once inferior to rule without law and yet, in a world without divine rulers, absolutely necessary for human governance. This chapter returns to many of the insights from Chapter 2 on the myth of the two ages, since what that myth demonstrated was the desirability and yet impossibility of an age in which a truly divine being rules over human beings and the concomitant necessity of trying to imitate that age through laws. Once again, we see that what is at issue in the relationship between the two ages, as well as in the relationship between a regime without law and a regime with it, are two different valences or valuations of life—the values of pure life, fecundity, spontaneity, and memory, on the one hand, and the values of death in life, forgetting in memory, and sterility in fecundity, on the other.

Keywords:   imitation, law, life, memory, Plato, Statesman, writing

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