The Lawgiver and the Physician: Medical Imagery in Plato's Laws

Doctoral Dissertation


Both the philosopher and the lawgiver, in their attempt to cure the soul and promote its health, are frequently compared to the physician in the Platonic dialogues. By appealing to the reader’s own experience of health and disease, the medical images help to engage the reader in the more abstract subject matter of the dialogue. This dissertation collects and analyzes the medical imagery in Plato’s Laws. It explains that, in the Laws, medical imagery works to show how the souls of the people in the city are subdued, habituated, persuaded, and cured. This occurs in a way that is distinct from the curing practice of philosophy. Whereas the philosopher aims to purge the soul of false opinions in order to create space for reflection, the lawgiver aims to train the emotions and instill correct opinions which would benefit life in the city. The lawgiver proposes the use of wine as a drug that trains the pleasures, music as a charm that seduces the soul, preambles that persuade the soul, and punishment that re-balance the soul. Moreover, the lawgiver suggests that the city itself is healthy when there is a balanced distribution of power.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-12042008-024826

Author Emma Cohen de Lara
Advisor Prof. Vittorio Hosle
Contributor Prof. Vittorio Hosle, Committee Chair
Contributor Prof. Mary Keys, Committee Member
Contributor Prof. Catherine Zuckert, Committee Member
Contributor Prof. Michael Zuckert, Committee Member
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Political Science
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2008-08-18

Submission Date 2008-12-04
  • United States of America

  • Lawgiver

  • Persuasion

  • Medical practice Ancient Greece

  • Soul

  • Plato

  • Laws

  • Regime

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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