29 March 2005

Cover of Justification

Footnote 15, pp. 484-5 of Plato's Utopia Recast reads as follows:

There is a textual difficulty at 82B7. If we read kai/ (Burnet) rather than h)\ kai/ (Duke et al.), then we should translate as 'and then back again into the very same one, the human race...' Fortunately, it does not matter much which we read. Even if we think that coming back into the human race is a distinct option that excludes going into the race of bees, wasps, or ants (and is not a further reincarnation after that as one of these three political creatures), this is just another option that Plato puts on the same level as the other three. There is no hint that there is a special class within those who practiced popular and political virtue who get a vastly better reincarnation, i.e. as respectable men, cf. Rowe (1993, ad loc.). All of the reincarnated souls are 'not all the souls of the good, but of the worthless [tw=n fau/lwn]' (Phd. 81D6-7). In either case, the message is the same: these souls either migrate from human to non-human lives and back again without there being much difference between these reincarnations, or it makes little difference which of the four classes the souls go into in their first reincarnation.

So Bobonich thinks it makes no difference, for Plato, whether the best of the non-philosophers are reincarnated into human beings or insects, and that's presumably why, when he refers back to the passage, Bobonich consistently omits mention of the human reincarnations.


1. That's to conflate theory with evidence. What the passage says is one thing; and what Bobonich takes it to mean is something else. Good scholarship should not conflate these.

2. It ought to make a difference, even on Bobonich's interpretation, whether someone ultimately can become reincarnated once again as a human being, since a human being can potentially become a philosopher, and philosophers get liberated from cycles of reincarnation. (It's as if Bobonich is mistakenly presuming that there difference between philosophers and non-philosophers is essential rather than accidental.) Someone who can become reincarnated again as a human being would not, then, even on Bobonich's terms, be 'living a life not worth living'.