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THE REPUBLIC

Fr:i ( G. R. F. ) (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Platos


Republic. Pp. xxvi + 533. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge
University Press, 2007. Paper, 16.99, US$29.99 (Cased, 48, US$80).
ISBN: 978-0-521-54842-7 (978-0-521-83963-1 hbk).
doi:10.1017/S0009840X08001856
This volume maintains the high standard which readers have come to expect of the
Cambridge Companions. In addition to an introduction by the Editor it has sixteen
chapters, all specially commissioned, covering all the major aspects of the dialogue.
Ten of the contributors are from the USA, ve from the UK and one from Germany;
as the interests of the authors cover a spectrum from the more literary and historical
at one extreme to the more narrowly philosophical at the other (several contributions
manifesting both aspects) the work as a whole displays a greater breadth of approach
than in some comparable volumes, as is particularly appropriate to the notoriously
diverse subject-matter and complex construction of the Republic. Each chapter
contains a bibliography, and in addition there is a comprehensive survey of work on
the dialogue, listing edited collections, editions, commentaries, translations, books
and articles (thematically arranged), totalling more than 600 items. Students of the
dialogue will place this bibliographical provision high among the many merits of this
volume. The work is completed by an index locorum and a general index.
After the Editors introduction, setting out the aim of the volume and summarising
the individual chapters, the work proper begins with three chapters discussing
dierent general features of the dialogue. Harvey Yunis presents it as a work of
protreptic rhetoric, whose strategy is to exploit the available literary resources in such
a way that an unknown reader would most likely be moved as close to Socrates
position on justice and the soul as was possible (p. 7); this strategy requires Socrates
to defend justice by deploying arguments which are maximally persuasive to a
readership untrained in technical philosophy, at the same time as employing literary
artice to challenge the status of poetry as the foundation of the popular values
which the dialogue seeks to subvert. The theme of Platos use of poetic techniques
and imagery to challenge the cultural supremacy of poetry is explored in more detail
by David OConnor in Chapter 3, which points among other themes to the reshaping
of Homers account of Odysseus descent to the underworld in Socrates descent to
the Piraeus at the beginning of the dialogue and in the escaped prisoners return to the
cave, episodes in which (as in Protagoras 315bc and Meno 100a) the gure of
Socrates is ambiguous between Odysseus and the blind seer Tiresias. In Chapter 2
Christopher Rowe places the Republic in the context of Platos other political
writings, arguing persuasively for a closer continuity among them than is generally
assumed, and suggesting provocatively (but not unpersuasively) that since the
necessity for a warrior class arises from the corruption of the original city of pigs,
the political system of Callipolis, as opposed to a simpler social structure based on
fundamental human needs, may be not the ideal form of social organisation but a
concession to fallen human nature. (A very similar suggestion appears at the end of
Donald Morrisons extremely sensible discussion of Platos utopianism [Chapter 9]. It
is one of the most stimulating aspects of the collection that, as ts the character of the
dialogue [see above], certain themes recur, treated from dierent viewpoints, and
sometimes with divergent results, in dierent chapters. I discuss another instance
below.)
The Classical Review vol. 59 no. 1 The Classical Association 2009; all rights reserved
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The remaining chapters deal with the principal arguments of the dialogue, together
with certain specic themes, starting with the defence of justice in Books 1 and 2,
continuing through psychology, ethics and politics and the metaphysics and
epistemology of Books 57 to conclude with the degenerate political states of Books
89 and the leading themes of 10, the critique of imitative poetry and the myth. Since
a brief review does not allow extended discussion of such copious and diverse
material, I restrict myself to a single central issue.
Among the themes which recur in several contributions is that of the philosophers
return to the cave in Book 7. Are the guardians obliged to sacrice their own
well-being in taking their share of administration instead of devoting their whole
energies to metaphysics? If they are, are they a counter-example to the central thesis
of the dialogue, that justice benets the just person both intrinsically and in terms of
its consequences? Further, if they have to sacrice their well-being, what motivates
them to do so? This issue is discussed by Roslyn Weiss in the context of the defence of
justice in Books 12, by Malcolm Schoeld on the Noble Lie, by Donald Morrison
on Platos utopianism, and by David Sedley on the role and education of the
philosopher-rulers. Sedley alone maintains that the philosophers do not sacrice their
well-being, since the alternative to their accepting their share in government is, as
specied in Book 1 (347cd), subjection to the rule of non-philosophers, with
disastrous consequences for the political system, and hence for their well-being. He
acknowledges (p. 281) that this provides a self-interested reason for the philosophers
as a class to accept that they should rule, but not for any individual philosopher to
take his or her turn, as opposed to becoming a free rider, selshly devoting him or
herself to full-time metaphysics. To avoid that possibility Sedley posits appeal to a
principle of fair sharing of burdens. That is indeed closer to the text of 520, which
stresses, not the avoidance of the perils of rule by inferiors but the obligation of the
philosophers to replay the benets of their education by the polis, but then
self-interest is being subordinated to the independent claims of fairness, contrary to
Sedleys thesis. Weiss accepts (p. 112) that for the philosophers themselves, only the
justice argument compels It is justice in the form of repaying a debt that
motivates the philosophers to rule. To the objection that in that case justice does not
pay the philosophers, contrary to the central thesis, she replies (ibid.) that it is being
just, not acting justly, which benets the just person. The state of being just, i.e. of
having ones soul in optimal condition, is desirable both in itself, as a source of joy
and pleasure to the person in that condition (p. 113), and for its consequences, but the
consequences, viz. just actions, benet primarily not the agent himself but others
(ibid.). I doubt whether this ingenious suggestion ts the text; the class of things
desirable for their consequences, whether intrinsically desirable like health or
intrinsically undesirable like medical treatment, seems to be conceived of as desirable
to or for the person who has or experiences those things. Given that conception, being
just (as described by Weiss) would be desirable in itself but (frequently) undesirable
for its consequences, which is contrary to Socrates view. Schoeld and Morrison
propose a third view; the philosopher is motivated to rule neither by considerations of
self-interest nor by the claims of abstract justice, but by patriotism. In Morrisons
version (pp. 2434) patriotism does not require that the philosophers motivation is
permeated by philosophically-based universal altruism. In Schoelds the distinction
is less clear, since in his view the mechanism by which the spirit of patriotism is
inculcated is an ideology including both the Noble Lie, which includes the myth of
the universal brotherhood of the indigenous population (p. 138), and the claims of
obligation on the philosophers to repay the benets of their education (see above).
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Comparison with the similar arguments put forward by the laws in the Crito shows
how closely considerations of patriotism intertwine with those of abstract justice; the
citizen must regard his city as his parents, and in virtue of that relationship he must
acknowledge an abstract obligation to obey it. This diversity of opinion amply
conrms Morrisons shrewd observation that the great messy hairball of the issue
that is the philosophers return to the cave has no clear resolution without importing a
great deal that is not explicit in the text, so any answer that is put forward by its
advocates is speculative (pp. 2423).
In addition to the value of its bibliography, a volume of this kind provides a
snapshot of the scholarly work being done on its subject (primarily in the
Anglophone world) at the time of its publication. Its longer-term utility depends on
the value of its individual contributions, some of which are likely to enter the canon
of the literature on the dialogue, while others sink without trace. I am prepared to
hazard the prediction that among the contributions to this volume which will still be
regularly read in twenty years time are those by Sedley, Nicholas Denyer on the Sun
and Line (a model of lucidity, which makes illuminating use of the mathematical
background) and Jessica Moss on the critique of imitative poetry; the clarity and
freshness of this piece make it, in my view, one of the best discussions of this hoary
topic, and it should be on everyones reading list.
Corpus Christi College, Oxford C. C. W. TAYLOR
christopher.taylor@philosophy.ox.ac.uk
THE SOPHIST
Axniri ( D. ) Image and Paradigm in Platos Sophist. Pp. xviii + 279.
Las Vegas: Parmenides Publishing, 2007. Cased, US$32. ISBN:
978-1-930972-04-9.
doi:10.1017/S0009840X08001868
A.s book treats Platos Sophist in three parts. It rst presents an analysis of the whole
dialogue, although the nal denition (264b268a) is visited briey. Then a new
translation is provided, followed by an appendix which examines some scholarly
discussions (the main target is G.E.L.Owen, Plato on Not-being [1971]). The
translation is generally good, and its readable English will lessen the stress for readers
who nd the dialogue full of unusual expressions and complex arguments. While it is
based on the new OCT (D. Robinson, 1995), it has the good sense, for example, to
adopt the manuscripts reading against the emendation at 251a (p. 224, n. 211).
The whole strategy for reading the Sophist is presented at the outset (pp. xivxv). A.
aims to establish three main points in the book: (1) the dialogue as a whole is
aporetic, creating a reductio ad absurdum, for its apparent conclusion derives from
assumptions that are shown in the middle section to be untenable; (2) the dialogue is
meant to cricitise Parmenides, whose incomplete thought leads to sophistry; (3) the
dialogue indirectly argues for the necessity of the ontological distinction between
paradigm and image, the basis for the theory of participation as an account of reality
and meaning. The meaning of these claims gradually emerges as the author proceeds
to analyse each argument.
However, a reader may feel ambivalent about a combination of the step-by-step
analysis of Platos argument and the proposed line of reading, repeated throughout
the book. On the one hand, the analysis seems to pay due attention to the details of
The Classical Review vol. 59 no. 1 The Classical Association 2009; all rights reserved
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