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The Republic (Penguin Classics) by Plato

The Republic (Penguin Classics) (edition 2007)

by Plato, Melissa Lane (Introduction), H.D.P. Lee (Translator), Desmond Lee (Translator)

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13,05468175 (3.84)185
Title:The Republic (Penguin Classics)
Other authors:Melissa Lane (Introduction), H.D.P. Lee (Translator), Desmond Lee (Translator)
Info:Penguin Classics (2007), Edition: 3rd, Paperback, 480 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Republic by Plato

  1. 80
    Politics by Aristotle (Voracious_Reader)
  2. 50
    Political Writings by John Locke (Voracious_Reader)
  3. 41
    The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli (caflores)
  4. 10
    Utopia by Thomas More (StevenTX)
  5. 215
    Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (original 1966 edition) by Ayn Rand (mcaution)
    mcaution: Tired of Philosopher-Kings? Think individual rights aren't practical? Find insights in Rand's essays, "Man's Rights" and "The Nature of Government" among many others.

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  OberlinSWAP | Jul 21, 2015 |
I think everybody had to read this book when I went to college---it was part of the required reading for many required courses. I'm being trite, but this is a really important book with philosophical concepts that lots of other people built on or disagreed with.
  raizel | Jun 26, 2015 |
After thinking through the collection of Plato's Dialogues and the overviews Socrates and Plato, I went after The Republic. I found it less entertaining and interesting than Dialogues but more thought-provoking.

Plato abhored democracy because people had wrong beliefs and would elect others with those wrong beliefs, leading the entire society astray. The Republic is the description of Plato's ideal city-state. Again, Socrates is the mouthpiece and scholars contend that Plato's later works reflect more of his ideas than his teacher's.

The first books deal with the concept of justice. What is justice? Is it simply the interest of the stronger party (ie: might makes right)? Are our ideas of justice simply put upon us by the laws our rulers create, or is there some universal definition? Thrasymachus contends that it does not pay to be just; the unjust get head in life. We may respect justice more, so perhaps it's best to seem just but actually be unjust (does Machiavelli echo this in The Prince?). While the argument ends in a stalemate, Socrates eventually circles around later in The Republic to make a case that it's better to be just.

Book III has interesting thoughts on God's character. Plato writes that God is unchangeable in nature, he cannot deceive or else that would mean he is not good. The Socratic/Platonic idea that the body is evil and troublesome (as seen in Plato's other dialogues) is elaborated on in this book. Socrates states that two lovers must not have sexual relations, because love is a pure feeling of truth whereas the body is base passions. While Socrates contends that the Greek cultural way of "love" between a man and a boy are vital to the boy's education, sexual intercourse must not enter into the relationship or it is not true love.

Socrates moves into discussing who the rulers should be in the ideal state. They should be made up of those containing "gold and silver," whose parents see them as born to rule. Bronze and iron children, on the other hand, will be the working class and these differences will be rigidly enforced. Rulers themselves must receive no wages or hold private property, lest they abuse power; they should depend on the working class for their food and edification.

Book IV elaborates on the lives of rulers. There can be physicians in the ideal state and these should work to kill off the weak and insane. Guardians should share wives and children in common.Socrates states that justice amounts to the health of the soul: a just soul is a soul with its parts arranged appropriately. Health is good, and it therefore pays to be just.

In Book V Plato writes that the interchanging of jobs among the classes is injustice, "the greatest of all evils." A free society of freely interacting agents with individual freedom is anathema to Plato.

In Book VI Plato writes that rulers/guardians' children should be separated and nursed away from the guardians from birth. Mothers should be brought in to nurse but never be allowed to know which child is theirs (sounds like Sparta?). This is because these children will engage in a life-long education and training to make them excellent rulers by their 50's.

Philosophers get corrupted by politics since there is much demand for their skills, and rulers are willing to pay a high price to have them. Philosophy is also useless where society disagrees with the "right" ideals as known only by phililosophers, therefore philosophers are useless.

Book VII is on education, the goal of which is to drag every man out of a "cave" of ignorance. The fact that a philosopher is reluctant to rule makes him the best ruler-- the best rulers rule out of duty and obligation instead of power and riches. Rulers should study mathematics from addition to geometry, not for commerce, but for making war and because learning about numbers upens up revelations to higher truth. Rulers will also study philosophical dialectic. Dialectic is powerful in the hands of those who misuse it, as many youths love to debate and stir up controversy rather than search out the truth.

Books VIII and IX deal with political economy. Socrates compares the various types of government: timocracy, oligarchy, democracy, and tyranny. Timocracy is a society driven by honor and eventually the birth rate of the less-educated people outstrips that of the wise, so that civil war breaks out and leads to class divisions. Eventually, oligarchy arises where the right of rule is determined solely by wealth.Oligarchs fear the people and cannot make war because they dare not arm the masses to fight lest they be overthrown. The oligarchs' desire for more wealth leads to speculation, high-interest loans, and eventually greater concentration of power in the hands of a few. Those who lose their fortunes work with the masses to plot revenge.

Democracy, then, springs from oligarchy- eventually a revolution overthros the oligarchs and people are made equal. Plato writes that from the outside, democracy appears to be the most attractive society but it's flawed because so many people are pursuing their endless passions. Eventually, this insatiable appetite causes people to neglect proper governing (including breeding at the right times, so eventually the progeny become weaker and weaker). "Drones," which are beggars and criminals deceive both the rich and poor into class warfare. The rich respond by limiting the freedom of the poor, and revolt ensues in which the chief "drone" becomes the populist tyrant. He kills all the good, enslaves the others, constantly makes war, and lives a lavish lifestyle. He panders to the other drones and they become his bodyguards.

(Depressed yet?)

The tyrranical man is the least-happy of all the rulers, he is also the most unjust. Therefore, it pays to be just. Only philosophers can determine who is right among the truth-loving, honor-loving, and profit-loving types of people. The philosopher, of course, says seeking truth and denying the body and its various passions is the best life and leads to the best afterlife.

In Book X, Socrates regretfully bans potes from the ideal society. Poets imitate the worst part of people, appeal to the worst parts of men's souls.

Book XI deals with the immortality of the soul. Socrates' earlier dialogue with Phaedo summed up much of his beliefs, but here it is reiterated that bodily damage cannot harm the soul unless it can be proved that it makes the soul meaner, kinder, etc. In the afterlife, the just and unjust will be rewarded accordingly. Where good works outweigh the bad, there is reward. Sins must be long-punished according to severity. It's from this chapter that one might see how the Roman Catholic church eventually developed a doctrine of Purgatory, by incorporating the (erroneous) ideas of Plato.

This was a difficult book to work through but I'm glad I did it. It is one which I should probably read repeatedly, and really only in Greek if I want to get it. ( )
  justindtapp | Jun 3, 2015 |
How do you rate a classic like this? It's worth reading if only because of its immense influence on the Western world. It's also a much more multivocal text than it's given credit for, as a brief perusal of the secondary literature will show. Is the city in speech a serious utopian project, even if only as a regulative ideal, or is it an elaborate send-up of the absurdity of utopianism? That's only one of the big interpretive puzzles readers of The Republic must face.

On the Allan Bloom edition specifically - The extensive endnotes make this a very useful translation. ( )
  brleach | Jan 26, 2015 |
This was my first experience reading Plato, and it was an interesting one. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved to have finished reading it, but I would also be lying if I said I didn’t like it because I do like it, sort of.

It’s an odd book to rate, written as it was more than two millennia ago (~375 BCE). The paradigms that governed Plato’s worldview are difficult to grasp. I kept reminding myself that back then they simply didn’t know some of the things I take for granted (like that germs cause disease and that slavery is neither necessary nor unavoidable), and even so I feel like I only have the barest edge of an understanding of where he was coming from.

In the Republic, a bunch of guys are hanging out talking while eating dinner and waiting to go to a torch race. It must be a very long dinner because they cover a lot of ground in their conversation and seem to have forgotten all about the torch race by the end.

They start out arguing about the nature of justice and just action, and that turns into an argument about whether the just man or unjust man is likelier to lead a happy life and gain material rewards. Having accepted that acting justly is better than acting unjustly, a couple of the guys say, “You know, the best way to do it is to act unjustly so you can get all of the wealth you can get through dirty dealings, but to have everyone think you’re a just man so you can have the good reputation along with the riches.”

And because there was no television back then, they end up creating a whole utopian society governed by philosopher kings (and queens, although Plato seems to keep forgetting that he included women in the mix of rulers) and in which marriage lasts only a week or two at most and there are no families and all children are raised by the community. Children consider their parents’ entire generation to be fathers and mothers, and their parents’ generation considers all children to be their sons and daughters. In order to maintain this utopian society, the rulers control the common folks in part by myths and deception and by only exposing them to stories and songs that promote the kinds of values they want in their society, and in part by rewarding bravery in battle with more chances to reproduce. It was all very Brave New World.

My notes are filled with comments like, “Is this a joke?”

And there are funny bits to it, like this exchange:

[Question] "Any story or poem narrates things past, present, or future, does it not?”

[Answer] “There is no alternative.” (86)

But I think Plato is pretty serious about all of this. He’s realistic in his expectation that a society like the one he’s imagined is unlikely to ever exist in reality, but he seems convinced that his utopia really is the ideal society.

The part I enjoyed the most was the Simile of the Cave. Plato uses this story to represent the way in which the life and understanding of the common man differs from that of the philosopher. In it, people are held prisoner within a cave, chained up so that they can see only right in front of them for their whole lives. Behind them is a fire and a road, but while they can see the shadows cast on the wall before them by those traveling the road, they can see neither the fire nor the road itself. Their entire existence is made up of shadows and reflections; they never get to see the true objects of the world. The prisoners believe this is all the world is until one day, one of them is set free and can look around.

“If he were made to look directly at the light of the fire, it would hurt his eyes and he would turn back and retreat to the things which he could see properly, which he would think really clearer than the things being shown him.” (242)

Even when he sees that what he’s thought was real is only a shadow, he continues to turn away from what’s real and back to the shadow because it’s what he knows and because the light of the fire is too bright for him to look at. You can imagine what happens when this fellow sees the world outside of the cave.

There’s a lot more to the simile than that, but I really found this idea of shadows and reflections intriguing. I think about the shadows to which we turn in our modern lives: television shows, movies, the Internet. These things aren’t real things but merely the shadows of real things. Plato argues that no good comes from these shadows (which in his day were lyric poetry and stage dramas rather than Breaking Bad and Duck Dynasty, but it’s the same basic concept), that they serve only to distract us with petty amusement. I wouldn’t go quite that far; I think that music, movies, books, and other amusements have the potential to lead us to deeper (or perhaps loftier) thinking and can help us to live better, more compassionate lives, but I agree with Plato that these things can also have the effect of causing us to see the world in such a way that we don’t act in the best---wisest, most compassionate, most just---way possible. For this reason, we have to be careful what we choose to consume, media-wise and not consume it passively, so that we can always be reaching for goodness and wisdom.

One of my favorite passages explains what happens when we don’t do this:

”Those, therefore, who have no experience of wisdom and goodness, and do nothing but have a good time, spend their life straying between the bottom and middle in our illustration, and never rise higher to see or reach the true top, nor achieve any real fulfillment or sure and unadulterated pleasure. They bend over their tables, like sheep with heads bent over their pasture and eyes on the ground, they stuff themselves and copulate, and in their greed for more they kick and butt each other because they are not satisfied, as they cannot be while they fill with unrealities a part of themselves which is itself unreal and insatiable.” (327)

To be our best selves and to have “real fulfillment,” we must always seek what’s real and true in this life and strive always towards wisdom goodness.

That is, if we want to be our best selves and achieve real fulfillment, which I suppose is also open for debate, but the guys in the Republic would have to order more dinner rolls and probably some wine, too.

This, to me, is the reason to read Plato. His Republic doesn’t contain ideas we can---or should---apply to our lives and our societies right out of the box, but we can turn around and contemplate the admittedly wacky ideas it presents. Plato’s ideal society is seriously impractical (and, to me at least, undesirable), but reading about it prompts me to consider what it is that I think is wrong with the idea. Why couldn’t it work? Why shouldn’t it work? And if not Plato’s utopia, what’s a better alternative?

And even more than this, I ask myself, am I basing my life on shadows and reflections rather than on things that are real and true? If I am, is this a bad thing or not? And if it’s a bad thing, what am I going to do about it? ( )
  ImperfectCJ | Jan 25, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (114 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Platoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Waterfield, RobinTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cornford, Francis MacdonaldTranslatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Allan, D. J.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Allen, Robert E.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baccou, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Blakewell, Charles M.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bloom, AllanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Buchanan, ScottIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Burnet, JohnEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Camarero, AntonioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davies, John LlewelynTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ferrari, G. R. F.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fraccaroli, GiuseppeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grayling, A. C.Forewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grou, Jean NicolasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grube, G.M.A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Itkonen-Kaila, MarjaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jowett, BenjaminTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Koolschijn, GerardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kredel, FritzIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Larson, RaymondTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lee, DesmondIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lee, DesmondTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lee, Henry Desmond PritchardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lindsay, Alexander D.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Molegraaf, MarioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nehamas, AlexanderIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pabón, José ManuelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reeve, Charles D. C.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rouse, W. H. D.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scott, William C.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shorey, PaulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Spens, HarryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sterling, Richard W.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vaughan, David J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Warren, HansTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Whewell, WilliamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I went down yesterday to the Piraeus with Glaucon, son of Ariston, that I might offer up my prayers to the goddess, and also because I wanted to see in what manner they would celebrate the festival, which was a new thing. (Benjamin Jowett's translation)
The main question to be answered in the Republic is: What does Justice mean, and how can it be realized in human society? [tr. Cornford]
...justice is keeping what is properly one's own and doing one's own job. (Desmond Lee translation)
...the state whose prospective rulers come to their duties with least enthusiasm is bound to have the best and most tranquil government and the state whose rulers are eager to rule the worst. (Desmond Lee translation)
...no one who had not exceptional gifts could grow into a good man unless he were brought up from childhood in a good environment and trained in good habits. Democracy...sweeps all this away and doesn't mind what the habits and background of its politicians are; provided they profess themselves the people's friends, they are duly honored. (Desmond Lee translation)
...an excessive desire for liberty at the expense of everything else is what undermines democracy and leads to the demand for tyranny. (Desmond Lee translation)
...all the poets from Homer downwards have no grasp of truth but merely produce a superficial likeness of any subject they treat, including human excellence. (Desmond Lee translation)
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The original Ancient Greek title was 'Πολιτεία', though most editions in the original Classical Greek have the Latin title, 'Respublica'. Neither should be combined with this translated entry (Modern Greek editions should be here, however).
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0872201368, Paperback)

Since its publication in 1974, scholars throughout the humanities have adopted G M A Grube's masterful translation of the Republic as the edition of choice for their study and teaching of Plato's most influential work. In this brilliant revision, C D C Reeve furthers Grube's success both in preserving the subtlety of Plato's philosophical argument and in rendering the dialogue in lively, fluent English, that remains faithful to the original Greek. This revision includes a new introduction, index, and bibliography by Reeve.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:01 -0400)

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A model for the ideal state includes discussions of the nature and application of justice, the role of the philosopher in society, the goals of education, and the effects of art upon character.

(summary from another edition)

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