Plato and Aristophanes: Comedy, Politics, and the Pursuit of a Just Life




In Plato and Aristophanes, Marina Marren contends that our search for communal justice must start with self-examination. The realization that there are things that we cannot know about ourselves unless we become the
subject of a joke is integral to such self-scrutiny. Jokes provide a new perspective on our politics and ethics; they are essential to our civic self-awareness.

Marren makes this case by delving into Plato’s Republic, a foundational work of political philosophy. While the Republic straightforwardly condemns the decadence and greed of a tyrant, Plato’s attack on political idealism is both solemn and comedic. In fact, Plato draws on the same comedic stock and tropes as Aristophanes’s plays. Marren’s book strikes up an innovative conversation between three works by Aristophanes—Assembly Women, Knights, and Birds—and Plato’s philosophy, prompting important questions about individual convictions and one’s personal search for justice. These dialogic works offer critiques of tyranny that are by turns brilliant, scathing, and exuberant, making light of faults and ideals alike. Philosophical comedy exposes despotism in individuals as well as systems of government claiming to be just and good. This critique holds as much bite against contemporary injustices as it did at the time of Aristophanes and Plato.

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Originally appeared on Ancient Philosophy Society Read More