Knox Lecture: 21st May 2018

The 2018 Knox Lecture, ‘Plato on the Purpose of Rule’

Monday 21 May 5:15-6:45pm

School III, St Salvator’s Quad, North Street, St Andrews

Prof Melissa Lane


Prof Melissa Lane, Princeton University



Melissa Lane is the Class of 1943 Professor of Politics, and Director of the University Center for Human Values, at Princeton University. Her books in the UK include Greek and Roman Political Ideas (2014), Eco-Republic (2011), Plato’s Progeny (2001), and Method and Politics in Plato’s Statesman (1998). Among other honours, she has been awarded Fellowships of the Guggenheim Foundation and of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturing, and Commerce, and is the 2018 Carlyle Lecturer at Oxford University. Lane holds a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Cambridge, where she was previously a Fellow of King’s College.

The title of Prof Melissa Lane’s Knox Lecture is ‘Plato on the Purpose of Rule’.

Abstract: This lecture explores Plato’s engagement with the purpose of political rule, analysing key passages of Republic Book I as a response to existing Greek and especially Athenian conceptions of the purpose of political office. While the practices and institutions of limited and accountable offices reveal an implicit Greek and Athenian constitutional idea of the officeholder as (ideally) serving the good of the ruled, Plato can be seen to question whether such constitutional constraints are in fact the way in which that good can be realized, offering analysis of the underlying nature of rule as an alternative approach. The lecture concludes by exploring how Plato wrestled with both the promise and the danger of a perfect identification between a natural person and their role of ruler.