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The Republic

The Republic

Written by Plato

Narrated by James Langton


The Republic

Written by Plato

Narrated by James Langton

ratings:
4/5 (42 ratings)
Length:
11 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Mar 23, 2010
ISBN:
9781400186167
Format:
Audiobook

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Description

"What is at stake is far from insignificant: it is how one should live one's life."



Plato's The Republic is widely acknowledged as the cornerstone of Western philosophy. Presented in the form of a dialogue between Socrates and three different interlocutors, it is an inquiry into the notion of a perfect community and the ideal individual within it. During the conversation, other questions are raised: What is goodness? What is reality? What is knowledge? The Republic also addresses the purpose of education and the roles of both women and men as "guardians" of the people. With remarkable lucidity and deft use of allegory, Plato arrives at a depiction of a state bound by harmony and ruled by "philosopher kings."
Publisher:
Released:
Mar 23, 2010
ISBN:
9781400186167
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as ebookEbook

About the author

Plato (428−348 BCE) was a philosopher and mathematician in ancient Greece. A student of Socrates and a teacher of Aristotle, his Academy was one of the first institutions of higher learning in the Western world. He is widely regarded as the father of modern philosophy. 


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4.1
42 ratings / 35 Reviews
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  • (4/5)
    This will be an ongoing review I have to read parts of this for my Ethics class, and we were assigned part of it in week two. I'm not sure how much I'll enjoy it throughout the semester, but I did like what we read this week. Finished with what we are reading in this book for Ethics class, I enjoyed it and probably wouldn't have read this book if it weren't assigned reading. I may pick it up again at a later date and read the parts that we skipped. I'm glad I was given a reason to read this finally.
  • (5/5)
    Three things struck me about The Republic. The first is the incorporation of theology into philosophy. For all the goings on about religion in recent times and the apparent "victory" of science, Plato's philosophy begins and ends with Heraclitus' God. Almost none of the philosophy makes sense without the soul or a higher purpose for humans, and an intelligent deity that has ordered it all to be so. Second, The Republic is a handbook for politics. Hardly an idea has escaped tyrants or politicians. Parts of the work are basically a program for political action. Of course, the examples provided from ancient times are not necessarily the equivalent of the polis today, but there is certainly an element of prediction that cannot be ignored. And third, the art of translation has a significant influence on the readability of classic texts, and this translation by Desmond Lee is fascinating. Lee includes extensive notes throughout the text. Many of the notes relate to the various translations by others, and Lee often admits when he is not sure of his translation. After reading Benjamin Jowett's translation of Meno, I was disappointed with how annoying Socrates appeared in the dialogue. Nonetheless, the dialogue in The Republic is so contrived as to make me wonder why bother having the interjections from the audience (who always agree with Socrates even when the logic is obscure?). Of course, dialogue is a literary and political device, but the differences between the various translations are significant, as they are with Homer's epic poetry. My marginalia is too extensive to write up in this space, but I have kept notes on pedagogy, the reliance on God to make sense of the philosophy, numerous other readings to complete, and Plato's various ideas that make this work timeless. One quote relating to teaching struck a chord (p. 300):The teacher fears and panders to his pupils, who in turn despise their teachers and attendants.As did the many references to democracy leading to tyranny brought about by a popular champion. Once again, I find that a complete reading reveals so much of my education that did not make a direct link to the original source. The simile of the cave appears in almost any undergraduate degree in politics, but in such a cut-down version as to make the entire idea in relation to the simile of the Sun and the Line and the division of knowledge into its levels of "truth" disappear. It makes we wonder how much has been lost by perpetually drawing on secondary sources in education. Again, translation fascinates me and I regret not having learnt more than one language when I was young, so I can only trust that Lee's translation does the original work justice (no pun intended). If I had known the impact a complete reading of this work would have on me, I would have attempted it much earlier. Having said that, without having read Homer, Hesiod, Heraclitus, and the Stoics, I think much of The Republic would have gone straight over my head. I have since commenced reading The Laws while I am in sync with Platos' dialogue.
  • (4/5)
    On the whole a pretty good read for me. The ideas about different states and the people in those states really got my imagination going. At first I found it more funny that I though I would, and liked Socrates, but his antics did get tiresome for me half way or so. Sometimes a page turner, helping me excitedly develop some ideas... sometimes a slog, especially the tenth and final book, which I found a real low point as a finish. As other say, the winding arguments he makes by small admissions on the parts of his partners can get too ridiculous, too often - whether that's intentionally provocative or good or bad I didn't really feel much about. A few pages into chapter 8, in my edition being page 206... his manipulating numbers to prove that the timing of the birth leads to bad people... I couldn't even. Laughed.
  • (5/5)
    Classic Socrates and Plato! So many great ideas that we can see today. Here’s to the beginning of Western culture!
  • (3/5)
    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.
  • (3/5)
    The best thing about this particular edition is the excellent indexing of terms in the back.
  • (3/5)
    This book has some brilliant/famous parts, but it's mostly just a guy eloquently agreeing with himself. The allegory of the cave is terrific. The basic concept of a Socratic Dialogue is fascinating: far easier to read and follow than the typical philosophical prose, but also comical in some ways, at least in this book, as all the characters are flat and indistinguishable. "Why yes of course Socrates; truly; certainly; if you ask me, it could be no other way".
  • (4/5)
    Interesting and wordy. I'm pretty sure that Plato came up with the first dystopian society in history, as his ideal community sounds like the basic form of any futuristic world. Emotions are weeded out, the "best" are exalted while everyone else works, love is regulated, there are no such things as families... etcetera etcetera.One thing I'm not sure I like is that Plato writes as Socrates, but we'll never know if Socrates would've agreed with all these things. What if Plato is just putting things in Socrates's mouth? But I guess that's what you get when you don't write anything down (geez, Socrates).
  • (5/5)
    Just to be clear, my rating is for the edition of the Republic I read- the Oxford World's Classics text translated by Robin Waterfield. Giving stars to the Republic is so flagrantly stupid that I can't even come up with a suitably stupid analogy. Giving stars to the Mona Lisa? Not even close. Giving stars to Dante? Not the same, because that deserves five stars. The Republic simultaneously deserves five stars, for kick-starting Western philosophy, social science, aesthetics, theology, and political thought. It poses a bunch of difficult questions in a way that no book before it does. That said, the arguments it uses and the answers it reaches are ridiculous and ridiculously flawed. That's okay. If you're smart enough to ask questions that keep people talking for over two millennia, you're allowed to airball the answers. You can tear the arguments of this book apart in more ways than any other work of respectable philosophy: Aristotle is way more internally coherent, even the most moronic contemporary popular 'scientist' has less absurd assumptions.

    Anyway, really I wanted to review the edition. It's great. Waterfield jettisons the random 'book' divisions of the Republic. Ideally, I guess, you'd just publish the thing as one long rant, but in the interests of user-friendliness Waterfield's split the text up into chapters, each one of which more or less features one argument. This makes the flow of the dialogue much easier to follow. He also breaks up steps in the arguments of the longer chapters, so you don't get lost even if you're kind of half-arsing your reading. For that alone, he'd get four stars, but his notes are *brilliant* too. Philosophically engaged, historically aware, never willing to play cheerleader to Socrates' more obvious gaffs, but willing to go out on a limb to defend something that initially seems implausible. Waterfield's guiding thread is that you really should read the book as what it says it is: an investigation into morality (often translated as justice elsewhere), which proceeds by way of analogy. The political stuff is secondary; the real goal is to defend the idea that the moral person is happier and better in the long run. I say all this despite disagreeing with Waterfield's argument that the forms aren't metaphysical. I know why philosophers say that; the idea that Plato thought there were real Divine Bedframes floating somewhere in the fifth dimension is ridiculous. But he pretty clearly thought that ridiculous thing. Not because he was an idiot, though: he wanted to anchor truth is something which actually existed, but acknowledged the real lack of truthiness/justice/morality in the world as he found it. Good for him.
  • (3/5)
    Kind of "the big one" as far as Plato goes. I would need to spend a lot more time on it to really appreciate its intricacies.
  • (4/5)
    A good piece to just sit and reflect on.
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (5/5)
    butter than I expected. and a bit shocking...but I think most of those go to cultural differences and do NOTHING to expunge him as one of the world's first philosopher.
  • (5/5)
    Read it as a powerful book in Major Theories of the State I course in Waikato University.
  • (1/5)
    I just didn't like it. There's nothing wrong with it, I just didn't really understand it, and wasn't really interested in what I did understand.
  • (4/5)
    The writings of Plato have been one of the cornerstones of Western thought for two and a half millennia used for both secular and religious purposes, sometimes not as he intended. Republic is one, if not the, most famous piece of Plato’s philosophical/political writings and the translation by Robin Waterfield for Oxford World’s Classics adds to the debate that surrounds it.During a thorough 60+ page introduction to Plato’s text, Waterfield most significant translation is “morality” instead of “justice” for the Greek word dikaiosune because of the definition provided by Aristotle of the word. With this word decision and with her discussion of Plato’s complete disregard to politics, Republic turns from a work of political theory into one of philosophy concerned about the improvement of an individual’s life and not that of a Greek polis. Using the cultural terms and norms of his time, Plato sets out to express his belief that individuals can improve and better themselves outside the communal structure of Greek life. This was a radical notion given that individualism—especially as we know it today—was not a part of respectable Greek political life, the individual’s life was bound up in the community and if they went off on their own it was dangerous to the civic order and with the relationship with the gods (the charge against Socrates).While Plato’s overall thesis is thought-provoking, some of his supporting arguments via mathematics and his lack of details about how to improve one’s morality and thus goodness are detriments to Republic’s overall quality. Although later individuals, in particular early Christian fathers, would supplement Plato with their own supporting evidence for those in the 21st Century these elements can be stumbling blocks. Even though Waterfield’s translation provided to be very readable and her notes beyond satisfactory, the constant flipping to the back of the book to read them and provide myself with the context to what she was saying while at the particular place in the text was somewhat unhelpful but footnotes at the bottom of the pages might have been worse.Republic is one of the most significant pieces of Western literature and whether you approve of Waterfield’s translation or not, it is a very good was to look at a piece of text long-thought to mean one thing and see it as something completely different.
  • (4/5)
    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?
  • (5/5)
    This famous piece of literature introduces readers to the Socratic method. Socrates was a famous Greek philosopher and his student Plato wrote about his method of teaching. Instead of informing or explaining things, Socrates would ask questions and open a dialogue with his students. He shared his philosophical view by asking questions and making his students reach the conclusions on their own. His political theories and observations are still relevant, though the book was written in 300 BC. In The Republic Socrates discusses the way to create a perfect society. They work their way through the different rules and regulations that society would need. They decide what their education would focus on and whether there would be equality between the sexes, etc. As they talk through all of the details of their society they come to the inevitable conclusion that it can never exist. Mankind is too flawed and even with the best of intentions, political leaders are corrupted by power. The other major issue up for debate is justice. Each man comes to the table with a slightly different view of how to define justice. Is justice helping your friends? Is it unjust to injure your enemies? These questions make the Athenians go round and round as they each add their opinions to the mix. This book also includes the famous allegory of the cave, which is discussed in every Philosophy 101 class. BOTTOM LINE: The arguments aren’t flawless, but it’s the style of arguing that makes this such a compelling read. I enjoyed every second of it and would highly recommend finding an audio version if you can.“The society we have described can never grow into a reality or see the light of day, and there will be no end to the troubles of states, or indeed, my dear Glaucon, of humanity itself, till philosophers become rulers in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands.”“They agreed to avoid doing injustice in order to avoid suffering it. This is the origin of laws and contracts.”“Don’t you think this is why education in the arts is so powerful? Rhythm and harmony find their way to the inner part of the soul and establish themselves there, bringing grace to the well-educated.” 
  • (5/5)
    Plato's Republic is one of the world's most famous thought experiments. It is usually described as a treatise on justice in an ideal State, and while that is not incorrect, it is not the whole story. While the work is certainly of interest to students of philosophy and political science, it might also appeal to anyone interested in psychology and literature in general.The first thing one notices right off the bat is what a great writer Plato is. This great work of philosophy is presented as a conversation — seemingly without end! — which like other dialogues of Plato, engages the reader and draws him or her in with a surprising degree of wit and flare. We who are not philosophers per se might tend to think of philosophy as a dry and lifeless subject, but in Plato's hands, it can be quite fascinating and certainly never dull.The Republic is not an easy place to begin with Plato because of its sheer length and the scope of ideas it covers, but with some patience it is not an entirely bad place to begin, either.For whatever reason, reading ancient Greek literature in English translation seems to be fraught with difficulties. It may be because of the limited vocabulary available within the ancient language as compared to a polyglot language such as English with its agglomeration of words from literally everywhere. But word choice can make a huge difference in the tone and feel of the material.For example, as mentioned above, most modern translations of the Republic are concerned with "justice" in an ideal "state," which sounds rather remote, abstract and high-minded, leaving a perception of difficulty. Robin Waterfield has tried to be more precise in his translation. The Greek word dikaiosunē is usually translated as "justice," but Waterfield says the word "refers to something which encompasses all the various virtues and is almost synonymous with 'virtue' in general." In his translation the Republic is about "morality — what it is and how it fulfils one's life as a human being." Also, instead of "state," Waterfield has substituted the word "community." In combination, the idea of morality in the community brings the whole discussion down to a more personal level. I appreciated the change and the more personal tone of the entire work.At any rate, philosophy aside because I am singularly unqualified to utter even platitudes on the subject, I enjoyed reading Plato's Republic. It was a much different book than I was expecting. Of course, having recently read Eric Havelock's [Preface to Plato], I was reading with an agenda — namely, to see whether his assessment of the Republic was correct, and while I appreciate his perspective, I feel his agenda got in the way of presenting a complete picture. I also came away from this reading believing that many critics and commentators attribute more dogmatism to Plato than was really intended. The notion that he, through his mouthpiece Socrates, was setting up an ideal state, a sort of communist utopia, is an overstatement. While he did conclude that in his so-called ideal state the rulers would have no personal property and that they would be philosopher kings (and by implication queens), he also admitted many times throughout the discussion that "the community we've just been founding and describing can't be accommodated anywhere in the world, and therefore it rests at the level of ideas." Thus my initial suggestion that the Republic is a thought experiment, and the ideal state or community is a notion to be thought about and discussed but never to be realized. Something called "human nature" will prevent anything like it ever working in the real world. The ideal was created as a paradigm within which to explore the subject of whether a just or moral person is happier than an injust or immoral person, and incidentally, to try to define the nature of goodness. Socrates was only able to come up with various allegories to illustrate his points about what constitutes goodness, but he never delivered a definition as such.But that is in the nature of Plato's dialogues, which consist of many questions and few definitive answers. The pleasure in reading comes from the plethora of ideas that arise out of the conversations between Socrates and his interlocutors.In addition to the political level, Plato constantly reminds us that "We should bear in mind the equivalence of the community and the individual," and that a just society reflects the just or moral character of the individuals of whom it consists. What works at the community level he also tries to apply to the individual, not always successfully. The success of the community is dependent upon the education of its people and adherence to its customs. Education as discussed in the Republic applies to the rulers or "guardians," but in an open democratic society it must apply to everyone.The Republic is not by any means a quick read, and the more time spent, the more one will get out of it. Robin Waterfield's translation in the Oxford World Classics series is excellent in addition for its introduction and extensive notes which help to guide one through the many digressions and to pinpoint the salient ideas.
  • (3/5)
    I'm not, as it happens, a Platonist. It's interesting to read The Republic -- it's worth doing, if you have any interest, particularly because Plato's ideas are so very very pervasive and have in fact endured and stuck in our society more than you'd think. The dialogues can be quite interesting; some of them are quite dramatic. But the logic to me is always dragged out too far and too long, and sometimes I just want to punch Socrates. I have major issues with Plato's analysis of art.

    Which all adds up to: worth reading, but I wish I could've read a summary instead.

    Edit: On reread, I found it somewhat more bearable. I still don't agree with the philosophy, but it's readable and the arguments are clear. I think some of them are more pedantic than accurate, but then we've established I think Plato's a twit.
  • (3/5)
    Rated: C+The New Lifetime Reading Plan: Number 12Guess I'm not a real fan of the Socratic dialogue. Seems like there could be more logic branches that the ones chosen. Anyhow, did appreciate three key concepts: 1) the uniqueness of the individual and the how that shapes ones vocation; 2) the cave and how perception shapes one's view of the truth; 3) The Myth of Er and the vision of how souls must choose their next lives ... "the unjust passing into the wild ..." and "... by the bank of the river of Indifference, whose water cannot be held in any vessel. All persons are compllled to drink a certain quantity of the water; but those who are not preserved by prudence drink more than the quantity, and each, as he drinks, forgets everything. When they had gone to rest and it was now midnight, there was a clap of thunder and an earthquake; and in a moment the souls were carried up to their birth, this way and that, like shooting stars."
  • (5/5)
    Some of the reviewers seem to me to completely fail to take into account: (1) The actual flow of the argument in The Republic (2) The historical context in which Plato wrote The RepublicFirstly, The Republic is a "city in speech" as Socrates calls it, not an actual political model, and the reason why Socrates embarks on this journey is to illuminate the virtuous soul. In the city-soul analogy Socrates compares the perfectly good city to the perfectly good individual, with a well-ordered soul. It's not clear whether this is a desirable city-state, and Socrates himself questions it in book 8. Secondly, I would suggest that people who are outraged are engaging in arrogant de-historicism. Plato was writing after the disastrous wars between the Athenians and the Spartans, which Athens lost, and tyranny ensued, and the early attempts at democracy put his mentor Socrates to death. Plato hadn't seen liberal democracy as we know it, and he wasn't writing for a modern state. Plato saw what civil unrest can lead to, and he hated it.But most importantly, The Republic is more a work of epistemology and metaphysics than one of social engineering, it's about being vs. becoming, things "in themselves" and Plato's theory of forms (or ideas). If you read it like a work of political philosophy and a blue-print for a state, then I think you've misunderstood it.For someone interested in philosophy; this is essential reading. Plato outlines ALL the questions which have plagued philosophers since then, and many of them aren't resolved. One can only marvel at the aristry and craft with which Plato has crafted this magnificent, extraordinary piece of work.
  • (2/5)
    I read this book because I thought I might find something of interest in this classic book. Well I did, but not enough to recommend it to anyone else. Much of it I found very unconvincing, the format, the arguement, the conclusions all unconvincing. The only parts that I would recommend were Part IV: The Philosopher Ruler, which is really more about the nature of reality and Part IX: Imperfect Societies, which I would rate at 4 stars and may even read again. If your interested in Philosophy, maybe read it, if your interested in history as I am, don't bother!
  • (5/5)
    I often wonder what I would have taken away from this book had I read it on my own, and not as the only subject of a semester-long seminar. I read and reread each chapter many times over, wrote papers on what I thought was meant, and then often had my eyes opened to an entirely different possibility when I heard others' views. I'd like to think I would have still gotten something out of it, but for me, I think that to really truly get the most out of this book, one should read it as part of a group, be it a class, a book club, a gathering of friends interested in politics/philosophy/history, etc. A work with so much depth, which can't/shouldn't be taken at face value, really benefits from discussion. Allan Bloom's translation/commentary is fascinating, and I would recommend picking up that version if you have the option. Though perhaps reading through it once first without the commentary, and then reconciling your own initial reactions with what others have said over time might prove to be more rewarding than having it spoon-fed upon initial read.
  • (4/5)
    Plato's tireless documentation of Socratic philosophy in conjunction with much of his pupil Aristotle's work is central to the very existence of Western civilization, and their influence is felt to this day. Everything from Christianity to literature and science owes a debt to Plato, and the Republic is the pinnacle of that contribution to Western Civilization. In fact, it could arguably be the single most important text in the Western cannon as it influenced so much of what followed.Let me sum it up this way. If you want to develop any kind of insight into Western civilization, you have to read The Republic... if you don't then most of what comes after looses some of its meaning because so much of Western thought is either a result of it or a reaction to it.
  • (5/5)
    Plato's The Republic is a staple in philosophical literature. The Allegory of the Cave, the story of a man finally reaching his enlightenment but wanting to return to the cave (or ignorance), has been exemplified in recent years: people remain ignorant of certain facts, and when confronted with them, they continue to enjoy the cave. This is not a very comforting thought.
  • (5/5)
    It's totalitarian, it's fearful, it's deceitful, it's violent, it censors the people and turn them into objects, its rhetorical, it advocates eugenics, and its egotististical--as Plato seems to ironically put Philosophers like himself in the master's throne. It's a horrific nightmare that betrays the author's master, Socrates. Why the five stars? Because it has managed to influence every nook and cranny of politics and its vicious underbelly-- it is essential for that reason. Anyone who has read The Republic knows the score.
  • (3/5)
    a classique. allegory allegory everybody's coming to get me. i got out of the cave back in the mid 00's.
  • (4/5)
    I put off reading this book for quite a while because I had been given the impression that it was largely about politics, which I find particularly boring. As it turns out, this book isn't really about politics, but more about philosophy in general, with a good variety of things being discussed, from the nature of justice, goodness, how education should be done (not as boring as it sounds), and how the ideal state should be set up. It is fairly easy reading, as Plato does not use difficult words or complex reasoning, so would be an ideal introductory book for someone who has not read much philosophy before. I agree with a lot of what he writes, and his idealisations, as have other philosophers down the ages, who have been inspired too. A lot of it isn't politically correct, but he does have a lot of common sense, and was ahead of his time on things like equal rights for women. One of the things I like is his cynicism directed towards politicians, and people in general, but I think his reasoning can be simplistic and flawed in places. I don't think this would be worth reading again, but I am glad I have read it the once, and will probably look to acquire some of his dialogues before too long. This translation was by H.D.P. Lee.
  • (3/5)
    I read this book as I was working on my thesis. It was the summer of 08. I thought this book was ok and I found much material that I can use in my thesis; reflection from journals on a life of a musician / teacher. As Plato was also a teacher I found that I disagreed with him a little. His questions that he asked were not open ended, but were meant for others to see "his" answer. I teach in a different way in which I ask opened ended questions, and use the answers from my students as a learning opporunity to later reflect on. Over all the book was a pleasure to read, even though it was difficult at times to understand. However, philsophy is always difficult to someone who is not a philosopher.