Vol. 39 No. 1 (2019): The Prismatic Shape of Trust

Law and its Imitations in Plato’s Statesman

Paolo Crivelli
Département de philosophie - Université de Genève

Published 2019-06-10


  • knowledge,
  • statesmanship,
  • politician,
  • constitution,
  • imitation,
  • law,
  • sophistry
  • ...More

How to Cite

Crivelli, P. (2019). Law and its Imitations in Plato’s Statesman. Teoria. Rivista Di Filosofia, 39(1), 181–216. https://doi.org/10.4454/teoria.v39i1.63


In the Statesman Plato identifies the art of the statesman with a highly specialized branch of knowledge. It is this knowledge that must have the highest authority in the state: all other forms of organized society are merely imitations of the society based on the statesman’s knowledge, which is the only genuine constitution. The concept of imitation is applied not only to describe the relationship between the genuine constitution and other types of organized society, but also to the relationship between the statesman and everyday politicians and to the relationship between the statesman’s knowledge and law. It turns out that these three applications of the concept of imitation are reciprocally connected. Plato explicitly argues that everday politicians are imitations of the genuine statesman because everyday societies are imitations of the genuine constitution. This study explores the possibility that everyday societies could be imitations of the genuine constitution because law is an imitation of the statesman’s knowledge.