Plato and Hobbes: Two bad metaphors for society—and a better one

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  • Chandran Kukathas, Lee Kong Chian Chair in Political Science, considers Plato and Hobbes’ metaphors of society as a ship and a body, respectively.
  • The metaphors for society from classical philosophy frame it as a closed structure. Kukathas argues that because boundaries are fluid and ever changing, and because people move in and out of them, the metaphor should be one of an archipelago.
  • The islands that form an archipelago come into and go out of existence according to various factors and natural circumstances. For Kukathas, this model of society favors “norms of toleration” over “norms of justice” and leaves room for debate and disagreements about what’s right or wrong.


The Liberal Archipelago: A Theory of Diversity and Freedom (Oxford Political Theory)
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