The Laws by Plato

October 1, 2012
By , Auburn, NY
If you could redo our broken, fragile society, could you do it better? In Plato’s book “Laws,” three people from the far-flung cities of Ancient Greece, all the way from shining Athens, warlike Sparta, and the beautiful island of Crete, are given the chance to do this very thing. People often say that “such and such a law makes no sense,” and “if it were up to me I could do it better.” While these people are ambitious and have admirable character, they do not realize the difficulty it takes to create a civilization. The exploration of the origins of these three cultures laws and customs brings you straight into the minds of the Ancients, giving you a deeper understanding and respect for their wonderous codes and ethical values, as well as forcing you to ponder on your own. Plato's great usage of analogies and his very descriptive style of writing calls for great attention to the topic, and makes you wonder why what they say is significant. It can make it tough to follow, but if you keep your mind focused on the topic it opens you to an entirely new world of thought.

As the book opens, you meet the three characters, Megillus the Spartan, Cleinias the Cretan, and a nameless Athenian. As these men travel along the road to Knossos, it is decided that "it is appropriate for men of our age, in the absence of impressionable youths, to discuss these matters critically." These matters being the laws and customs of their respective people. It starts with the simple questioning of the origins of the laws of Sparta and Crete, which they each claim are devine. As it moves on they discuss in great detail the use of different customs, though they are simple enough. When though, they question not only the origin of the laws, but their validity and usage as well, the book takes an exciting turn. It is eventually revealed that Cleinias has a reason for partaking in this discussion, other than the leisure.

In their discussion they decide to "take on the role of the legislature," and they begin to devise their own laws. To do this, they draw back on their analysis of the existing cultures and take from them what they believe is useful, tweeking what they need to along the way. They also devise a few radical ideas, and a lot of less radical but still original ideas. Plato throughout the entirety of the novel never ceases to use eloquent vocabulary and such thorough detail that you can't help but get drawn in and feel like you are part of their awe inspiring discussion. At the end of this amazing book, you are left with a complete society and culture that matches nothing in history, but is a culmination of the hearts and minds of the most amazing people to ever exist. This book should be read by anyone who contains the same unquenchable thirst for knowledge as the great man who wrote this amazing dialog.

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