Rereading Plato on Censorship
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city-soul analogy

How to Cite

Rereading Plato on Censorship: Mindfulness towards Music and Politics in the Republic. (2021). The Political Science Reviewer, 45(1), 165-192.


One of the most memorable features of Plato’s Republic is its apparent promotion of state censorship of music. Upon closer inspection, however, it is unclear whether this policy is meant to apply to city or soul—or both. This essay reads the Republic’s music censorship not as a practice of the state, but rather as a practice of the self, whereby individual reflection on music and its attendant pleasures awakens the rational part of the soul and habituates the person to the activity of reasoning. Although one might think that guarding citizens, and youths in particular, from exposure to “bad” music is essential for instilling the beliefs and behaviors most conducive to justice, such a policy is shown to be both unnecessary and counter-productive. As the conversation of the Republic itself dramatizes, justice entails confronting difficult tensions. Encouraging mindfulness towards music can facilitate the development of this important virtue.

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