Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 2006


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name





McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Ronald Polanksy

Committee Member

James Swindal

Committee Member

Therese Bonin


desire, ethics, happiness, Plato, politics, Socrates, tyranny, tyrant


This dissertation explores and highlights Plato's timeless and enduring insights on tyranny and the tyrannical personality in the Republic. I argue that Plato has a comprehensive and illuminating account of tyranny and, while neglected by scholars, such an account is applicable to our understanding of ethical and political life. The dissertation begins by considering the use of the term "tyrant" in Plato's literary tradition, from Archilochus to Thucydides and Isocrates, to situate his critical view of tyranny. Then I proceed to explore the descriptive and prescriptive aspects of Plato's view of tyranny in relation to Thrasymachus' claim that tyranny or injustice makes one happy. I pay close attention to the fact that Plato analyzes both tyranny as a political system and the psychology of the tyrant. I argue that Plato's analysis of the origins and structure of tyranny as a political system anticipates many of the causes of change and structural features we find in recent and contemporary political communities. I also point out that Plato makes a compelling case when he argues that even though the tyrant appears powerful, he is nevertheless unable to do what he wants due to his unlimited desires and to the negative effects forced upon his life due to his being a tyrannical ruler. Plato is able to show that the tyrant's life of injustice and pursuit of power is unhappy and that we should not aspire to it. My dissertation contributes to an understanding of: (1) Plato's view of tyranny and the tyrant, (2) the perennial political problem of tyranny in terms of its origins, goals, function, and measures it employs, (3) the tyrant as a political figure with particular desires related to his goals, actions, and measures as a ruler, and, thus (4) the relation between tyranny as a regime and the tyrant as a type of person.