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Research Articles
Published: 2015-10-12

Animal Republics: Plato, Representation, and the Politics of Nature

Brock University
Plato Rancière Latour interspecies communication representation


It is something of a truism among contemporary French theorists that Plato’s vision of politics is an elitist one that legitimates authoritarian schemas of non-democratic representation. I challenge this version of Plato the anti-democrat, exemplified here by Jacques Rancière and Bruno Latour, by considering Plato’s aesthetics and politics in light of the representation of nonhuman animals in the Republic and Timaeus. In these texts we see a Plato who solicits the voices of nonhuman animals in order to elicit cacophonous conversations on epistemology, ethics, and politics. While conventional views of Platonic animals emphasize their role as representatives of wildness in need of taming, I use the work of Christina Tarnopolsky and Peter Euben to argue that these texts are incitements to listen to the voices of nonhumans in the reformation of both philosophy and politics. These voices are not included by Plato merely to constitute the order of Rancière’s “police logic,” but instead set up a “zoopolis” where human and nonhuman come together in strange, incomplete, but often productive encounters. Bringing Plato, Rancière, and Latour into a dialogue on the topic of nonhuman representation challenges conventional notions of “Platonism,” but more importantly it produces a more nuanced vision of the contemporary ecological polis.



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