“Meddling in the work of another”
πολυπραγμονεῖν in Plato’s Republic
Keywords:Plato, justice, ancient ethics, virtue, meddling, Principle of Specialization
The second conjunct of the Republic’s account of justice—that justice is “not meddling in the work of another”—has been neglected in Plato literature. This paper argues that the conjunct does more work than merely reiterating the content of the first conjunct—that justice is “doing one’s own work.” I argue that Socrates develops the concept at work in this conjunct from its introduction with the Principle of Specialization in Book II to its final deployment in the finished conception of justice in Book IV. Crucial to that concept’s development is the way in which the notion of “another” comes to refer to members of distinct classes or parts, i.e. takes on an inter-part connotation beyond a mere intra-part connotation. The first conjunct—that justice is “doing one’s own work”—does not connote the same divisions, and so the conjuncts should not be understood as equivalent or mutually entailed.
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