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Method and Politics in Plato's Statesman.
University Press, Cambridge, 1998. XIII,229p. Hardbound with dust wrps. Series: Cambridge Classical Studies. Nice copy. 'Melissa Lane sees the ‘Statesman’, despite its difficulties, as a whole, unified by its concern with political expertise and its emphasis on the methods of investigation. In her account method holds the dialogue together since the methods of investigation turn out to reflect on the method of the political technique itself. Her book thus aims to weave together the concerns of two usually opposed groups of scholars, the concern with methodology of analytical scholars, a tribe once ruled by Gilbert Ryle, and the concern with the form and unity of the ‘Statesman’ shown in Straussian discussions. Indeed, Lane's use of Straussian scholarship on the ‘Statesman’ is generally fair and thorough, an untypical virtue in a Cambridge scholar of ancient philosophy. Here I will focus on the book's principal contributions: its new interpretations of the Eleatic Stranger's method and of the role of temporality in the dialogue. Lane's accounts of the tale of the age of Kronos, of the rule of law, and of gender and the example of weaving will also reward the serious student of the ‘Statesman. The Statesman is Plato's systematic discussion of politics as an art or expertise. (…) The political art rules, but how? Lane's original and compelling solution is that the ‘Statesman’’s political art is the art of grasping the proper moment in time, the kairos, for any particular action done by any particular art among the arts that are ruled. To possess the true art of statesmanship is to know how to respond to the ‘dynamic flux’ of events (p. 146). The general knows how to make war, but the true statesman knows when war should be made and when, instead, the survival of the regime he rules requires him to abstain from war and seek peace. The orator knows how to persuade, but only the possessor of political expertise knows when it is better for the city or her citizens to attempt persuasion and when to use force (pp. 135-6). As master of the possibilities of both force and persuasion, the political art overcomes rhetoric's pretension to be the art of ruling cities, and at the same justifies its claim to rule rhetoric in cities. Lane is thus led to stress the role of temporality throughout the ‘Statesman’. In particular, Lane stresses the sense in which the repeated failures of method in explication force a gradual evolution, in dialogic time, of the method itself. (…) Though an important step forward for our understanding of the dialogue, the book does have its failings. Lane's account of the ‘Sophist’ is inadequate to the argument that depends on it, as is her account of sophistry itself. Most seriously, the method of the ‘Statesman’ poses problems in the philosophy of language that require more elaborate treatment than she adopts. (…) A ‘linguistic’ method would seem to presume that ‘names’ as used prior to investigation do have some use in that investigation. Lane, however, pushes division and example very far in the direction of modern empiricism, in which names are not interrogated but categorically doubted. (…) All in all this is a fine book. Though it does not completely lay out the picture of pre-Aristotelian rhetoric on which it depends, this lacuna serves more to stimulate further investigation than to call into question Lane's own argument.’ (MICHAEL S. KOCHIN in Bryn Mawr Classical Review 1998.07.17). From the library of Prof. Carl Deroux.