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2nd revised edition
When I wrote this review I failed to mention Bloom’s essay (and translation). It’s possibly the best commentary on Plato I’ve read. An overly simple summary is that Bloom suggests many of Socrates’ proposals were intentionally preposterous, with the aim of leading his interlocutors to grasp that no truly legitimate political system is possible, and that the best course for individuals is to tend their souls, necessarily within a polity, going along with its requirements as necessary, but avoiding involvement in it as much as possible. Also, he suggests much of what Socrates says is not a definite political program, but directed to the particular characters of his interlocutors (Glaucon and Adeimantus) to lead them towards philosophy and away from their particular weaknesses (as Socrates saw them).
Bloom makes a very good case for this interpretation, which I’ve grossly oversimplified (and left important parts out). There’ll never be an end to the debate, but this essay is one to be reckoned with by anyone interested in the Republic. Regarding the translation, it’s very precise; someone with a little knowledge of Greek can often see the Greek through the English. This makes for less flowing language; with a lesser dialogue such as the Euthyphro I prefer a more literary translation, but it seems appropriate for such an important work. My review was:
In the West, at least, this is the touchstone of all political philosophy, and Plato pretty much covered all the issues people have been fighting and arguing about since people started wondering how societies should be organized and governed. It's easy to say that Plato's ideal state is nutty beyond imagination, but that misses the point. He asked the questions that really matter, and just about all of them, and considered them deeply and carefully, and then came up with his nutty system.
What about us? We live in a largely unquestioning age - maybe virtually everyone has. But it’s hard for, say, a modern American to read Plato’s assessment of the relative merits and demerits of different political systems and come away with the kind of mindless idolization of “democracy” with which we’re inundated by politicians and the media. It’s easy to say Plato’s system is goofy, but do you ever hear anyone in America publicly saying, “Democracy has a lot of serious weaknesses, one of them being its tendency to develop a culture needing life support.” Or, “Elites provide some real benefits to society, as does an aristocratic element.” Could those ideas have some merit? Well, we never even get that far since those ideas are too blasphemous for our society.
It’s funny how open-minded we consider our modern selves. But when’s the last time you heard a serious, thoughtful critique of modern liberal democracy (as opposed to a silly, neo-Marxist rant)? Plato had the courage, the detachment, and the brilliance to give his honest assessment of the various systems, compare them and then judge them. His purpose, at least apparently, had little to do with an agenda other than asking a question – what might constitute a good government? And not only good, but the best? Those questions require asking and answering questions about human nature and the nature of social relationships. Plato asks so well and considers so well, and so comprehensively, that his ideal system (regardless of whether he was even very serious about it) isn’t the issue. The significance, I think, is that he gets us to consider all the important questions he considers, many of which we otherwise probably wouldn’t have considered, and among other things to then uncover our unexamined assumptions and prejudices and reassess them.
Fictional Socrates travels to pay his respects at a religious festival in another town and is about to leave when an old associate asks him to stay and talk (I'm too old to visit you)...so he stays and rattles on and on about a society of the "just". I found the text easy to follow (Jowett translation), and the format reminded me of Wittgenstein's bullet-point-like formula. Funny at times (the audience complained about the way Socrates asked a question they were compelled to agree with him whether they actually agreed of not: "No man can answer you, Socrates; but every man feels that this is owing to his own deficiency in argument. He is driven from one position to another, until he has nothing more to say, just as an unskilful player at draughts is reduced to his last move by a more skilled opponent. And yet all the time he may be right.")
The ideal society set by Plato had some surprising elements - no religion, equal rights between the sexes, with many banned texts and banned songs, in order to keep the masses happy. This book contained the Ship of Fools allegory, along with the Cave allegory, and the Sun and Line allegories. It was a surprisingly quick read, although it helped that I had read about much of before I realised where it came from.
Fascinating read that I'm embarrassed to say I have not read until now. I really liked how this edition is presented in present-tense dialog format.
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Schlüsselwerke der Philosophie : die philosophische Basisbibliothek ; mehr als 20.000 Seiten! ; Logik, Ethik, Erkenntni by Mathias Bertram
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Philosophy. Politics. Nonfiction. HTML:
The Republic is Plato's most famous work and one of the seminal texts of Western philosophy and politics. The characters in this Socratic dialogue - including Socrates himself - discuss whether the just or unjust man is happier. They are the philosopher-kings of imagined cities and they also discuss the nature of philosophy and the soul among other things..
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)321.07Social sciences Political Science Political Systems Political Systems Ideal state; Utopias
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An edition of this book was published by W.W. Norton.
Yale University Press
2 editions of this book were published by Yale University Press.
Editions: 0300114516, 0300136374
An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.
An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.
An edition of this book was published by Urban Romantics.
FROM SYNC: Narrator Leighton Pugh gives all the interlocutors in Plato’s most important dialogue their own voices. But only Socrates, who does almost all the talking, comes across as a full person: intelligent, moderate in temper, genial, accommodating to his fellows but someone who commands respect and attention. Pugh also distinguishes the minor characters adequately and switches among them skillfully. THE REPUBLIC deals with justice, politics, and education, among many topics, and includes the famous “Allegory of the Cave.” It can be complex, but Pugh’s fine voice, natural pacing, and thoughtful expressiveness help keep the meaning clear, and the nineteenth-century translation is both graceful and lucid. Pugh’s reading demonstrates that philosophy not only can be comprehensible in audio but also enjoyable. ( )