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The Freedom of the Good: A Study of Plato's Ethical Conception of Freedom

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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/20846

The Freedom of the Good: A Study of Plato's Ethical Conception of Freedom

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Title: The Freedom of the Good: A Study of Plato's Ethical Conception of Freedom
Author: McLoughlin, Siobhán
Advisor(s): Bussanich, John
Committee Member(s): Livingston, Paul
Garcia, Lorenzo
Goodman, Russell
Burgess, Andrew
Smith, Warren
Department: University of New Mexico. Dept. of Philosophy
Subject(s): Plato, Freedom, Myth
LC Subject(s): Free will and determinism
Ethics
Plato
Degree Level: Doctoral
Abstract: My dissertation argues that Plato has a concept of individual metaphysical freedom, making him a key figure in the emergence of the free will debate in the history of Western philosophy. A philosophy of freedom can be seen throughout his works, particularly in the Republic, the Laws, and the Phaedrus. I show that underlying Platonic moral psychology is the notion that an individual is free if her reasoning element rules her soul in line with the Good. This makes Platonic freedom a thoroughly ethical concept. In my first chapter, I examine Plato’s critique of three competing notions of freedom drawn from conventional notions of virtue, democracy, and tyranny. Plato’s own notion of freedom emerges from his criticisms of these alternative definitions of freedom. He redefines freedom from a conception of unconstrained choice towards a notion of reasoned choice in line with virtue. Thus, Platonic freedom is a normative concept. My next chapter provides a detailed analysis of Platonic freedom by examining its metaphysical foundation as described in the Republic. This work reveals the philosopher as the authentically free person. The myth of Er engages notions of freedom, responsibility and choice. In this myth, Plato emphasizes individual responsibility even in cases of diminished psychological freedom. The myth of the Cave underscores the idea that philosophical freedom is not liberty to pursue desires uninhibited. Rather, freedom is the ability to pursue reason’s desires as informed by the Good. My final chapter examines the concept of freedom within the tripartite psychology. The Phaedrus myth provides further detail about the interaction between the parts of the soul and the struggle for freedom. It emphasizes the natural position of reason as ruler of the soul. The image of the golden cord in the Laws outlines the soul’s ideal relationship to reason. The freedom of the philosopher is moderate, self-controlled, and predictable.
Graduation Date: May 2012
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/20846

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