Plato's Laws: Postlude or Prelude to Socratic Political Philosophy?


Catherine H. Zuckert is Nancy Reeves Dreux Professor of Political Science, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana 46556 (


In the Laws, some commentators maintain, Plato put forth his own practical political proposals. According to others, the Athenian Stranger says what Socrates would have said. Having examined the dramatic setting, central philosophical doctrines, and political project outlined in the Laws, I conclude that the Athenian Stranger is neither Plato nor Socrates ahistorically transposed to Crete. When the Athenian ends his description of the best possible regime by arguing that its leaders need to investigate the ideas of virtue, the noble and the good, he shows why the emergence of Socratic political philosophy was necessary to achieve true political reform.