Abstract 

In this talk, I discuss Plato’s notion of paideia in the Republic, in order to reconsider the broader question concerning the aim and nature of the political project that is developed in the dialogue. By focusing on the disciplinary dimension of paideia, that is to say, the sense in which it involves a correction or even reshaping of human nature, I will try to show that Plato’s view of education is motivated by his overall outlook on politics in general, and on political rule in particular, as essentially a struggle against nature. This is to say that Plato has no positive conception of political rule, and in fact not of polis as such. In his view, every political community is if not a pure fiction than at least a creation without any natural basis to build upon, because nature is not a proper foundation for politics to begin with, though it might be the only foundation there is. In taking this view on Plato’s political philosophy, I am deeply influenced by Aristotle, who develops a similar kind of criticism of Plato in the Politics. Against Aristotle, however, I think that, insofar as Plato describes politics as a more or less violent enterprise, he manages to reveal some of the less pleasant but perhaps necessary requirements for any functioning society.