Book Analyzes Plato's Laws in Relation to Today's Medical and Political Climates

Between 2001 and 2002, Randall Baldwin Clark at the University of Virginia Law School Foundation, Charlottesville, Va., finished and disseminated his book, The Law Most Beautiful and Best: Medical Argument and Magical Rhetoric in Plato's Laws.

By analyzing Plato's Laws, Clark examines the role that irrational rhetoric ought to play in persuading citizens to obey laws voluntarily. Specifically, he explores the figure of the physician in Laws to address this issue, identifying the ways in which Plato uses the physician's role in healing as a metaphor for the task of governance.

Clark argues that in Laws, Plato hints that rational discourse may be inadequate as a persuasive technique. Clark deduces that, based on this interpretation, political leaders must use a combination of reasoned discourse and irrational rhetoric to persuade citizens to obey laws.

As of 2001, Clark was nearly finished with the book; however, he required additional support, which RWJF provided, for fact checking, copyright research and creation of the bibliography.

Key Results

  • In September 2003, Lexington Books, at Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, published the book. RWJF funding also supported Clark's purchase of 150 copies of his book for free distribution to law libraries.

As of August 2005, Clark indicated that many law libraries have purchased his book, making free distribution unnecessary. Instead, he distributed 75 copies to magazine editors, journalists and individuals. In summer 2006, he planned to distribute the remaining books to any libraries that had not already purchase it.