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Platonic Reflections on the Aesthetic Dimensions of Deliberative Democracy

Christina Tarnopolsky
Political Theory
Vol. 35, No. 3 (Jun., 2007), pp. 288-312
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20452557
Page Count: 25
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Platonic Reflections on the Aesthetic Dimensions of Deliberative Democracy
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Abstract

This essay utilizes Plato's insights into the role of shame in dialogical interactions to illuminate the aesthetic dimensions of deliberative democracy. Through a close analysis of the refutation of Polus in Plato's dialogue, the "Gorgias", I show how the emotion of shame is central to the unsettling, dynamic, and transformative character of democratic engagement and political judgment identified by recent aesthetic critics of Habermas' model of communicative action and democratic deliberation. Plato's analysis of shame offers a friendly amendment to these aesthetic critiques by showing how the psychological forces at the heart of shame make the outcome of our political engagements with others uncertain and unsettling, even while they make possible the kind of self-reflexivity necessary to foster the deliberative virtue of sincerity or truthfulness.

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