Platonic metaphysics and the ontology of International Relations: a sketch

King-Ho Leung*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
35 Downloads (Pure)


This article offers a reading of Plato in light of the recent debates concerning the unique ‘ontology’ of International Relations (IR) as an academic discipline. In particular, this article suggests that Plato’s metaphysical account of the integral connection between human individual, the domestic state, and world order can offer IR an alternative outlook to the ‘political scientific’ schema of ‘levels of analysis’. This article argues that Plato’s metaphysical conception of world order can not only provide IR theory with a way to re-imagine the relation between the human, the state, and world order. Moreover, Plato’s outlook can highlight or even call into question the post-metaphysical presuppositions of contemporary IR theory in its ‘borrowed ontology’ from modern social science, which can in turn facilitate IR’s re-interpretation of its own ‘ontology’ as well as its distinct contributions to the understanding of the various aspects of the social world and human life.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-191
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Relations
Issue number2
Early online date31 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022


  • International relations
  • International theory
  • Metaphysics
  • Ontology
  • Plato
  • Political philosophy


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