Plato’s Concept of Liberty in the Laws

YOUNG, C.

HISTORY OF POLITICAL THOUGHT

Abstract: In this article, I argue that Isaiah Berlin’s distinction between positive and negative concepts of liberty is useful for articulating nuanced aspects of Platonic liberty, but that this terminology has led readers to fail to grasp the full dimensions of Plato’s conception of liberty and the essential virtue that actualizes it. I go on to show that Plato’s conception of freedom in the Laws has both a negative and a positive dimension, an ethical and a political aspect, but that liberty for Plato is ultimately a unitary concept that emanates from self-control, the unifying and central virtue of freedom.