The Republic

by Plato

Paper Book, 1987

Status

Available

Call number

CD 3054 R426

Collection

Publication

Harmondsworth : Penguin, 1987.

Description

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..

User reviews

LibraryThing member Poquette
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member hampusforev
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 Republic

Firstly, The Republic is a "city in speech" as Socrates calls it, not an actual political model, and the reason
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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.
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LibraryThing member TrebleClef
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member uh8myzen
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member madepercy
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member SaraPrindiville
Some interesting ideas and famous arguments. He seems to want to fit things (ideas) into his preconceived plan rather than having them make sense. I will have to read this again.
LibraryThing member stillatim
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.
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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.
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LibraryThing member P_S_Patrick
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,
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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.
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LibraryThing member bookmarkaussie
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
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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!
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LibraryThing member jpsnow
This particular version divides the dialogue into 10 chapters, though the division has varied over the years. While some commentary finds this to be the pinnacle of Plato's work, I find it less captivating than some of the others. (I'm sure there is some depth that I do not perceive, however the
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style means as much to me as the depth.) The key elements are brought out through the ongoing conversation regarding the hypothetical creation of an ideal state, all of which is done in pursuit of Socrate's attempt to define justice. The ideal state is composed of three groups of people. The commoners are still better educated than the citizens of other cities and limited in number via ejection. The guardians are chosen from the best children, raised in common, educated in only that which advances their status as guardian (good-bye Homer, and anything mourning death), mated based on ability and without marriage, and trained in combat from an early age. The most advanced of them also become philosopher-kings. All citizens are trained in varying degrees in only that which is deemed beneficial: gymnastics, mathematics, etc, though in each, only the desired elements are maintained. For example, only certain appropriate musical rhythms are permitted. Eventually we come to the point of justice, in which we find that these elements of the state are in harmony (the spirit and the mind; the peace and the aggression, the leadership and the philosophy). Socrates then brings us to the individual, for whom we find justice is defined as the same harmony of those elements within each person.

It is both intriguing and somewhat dissapointing to find exact phrases later seen in the Wealth of Nations and perhaps the Federalist. For example, these early thinkers already proclaim "when there is an income-tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of the income." (p. 306, Book I) Later, they also convey a perfect understanding of the division of labor within a city. Then again, the quotations from Homer, such as "And the soul, with shrilling cry, passed like smoke beneath the earth." (Illiad) were borrowed by them and quite welcome (and referenced). Within all of the hypothesizing, a basic observation is made about the motivation of rich men vs. laborers. When ill, the carpenter sees a doctor. If advised that he must rest in order to recover, the carpenter does not because he cannot and so goes on and either lives or dies. Either way, he fulfills his purpose and does not waste away with a lingering death. Alternatively, the rich man has no occupation and can waste away. The other most memorable discussion concerned the progress through and traits of the major systems of government (dictatorship, democracy, etc.) I found the Republic to be an interesting discourse, containing some fascinating major points (about the soul, the motivations of men, and the organization of states) as well as some interesting sidetrips into other matters.
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LibraryThing member mattries37315
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member BrynDahlquis
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
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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).
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LibraryThing member mikebridge
Waterfield's version is an outstanding translation of the Republic. I had read this a few years ago in a "classic" translation, but was baffled by what seemed like a bizarre political theory and never thought about it any further. Waterfield's introduction and complete notes (like his translation
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of Herodotus) made Plato inspiring to me for the first time. I now realize what should have been obvious the first time around: the Republic is more than anything an invitation to thought, not the dogmatic philosophical treatise I thought I was reading before. This is a compelling examination about how an individual should live his life to the fullest. The issues that Plato raises and Waterfield clarifies in the book follow me around as I sit in my own house and walk in my own city.
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LibraryThing member brikis98
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,
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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".
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LibraryThing member simon_ives
Plato's 'The Republic' is a timeless addition to any library. Molding philosophical ideals for centuries and influencing the creation of Political systems and ideologies that shape the modern world, 'The Republic' is a must for any serious philosopher.

This edition of the famous Jowett translation
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is introduced by Francis R. Gemme and has very well informed and lucidly written notes by David Masson.
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LibraryThing member bookworm12
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
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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.”
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LibraryThing member melissagagnon
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member TakeItOrLeaveIt
a classique. allegory allegory everybody's coming to get me. i got out of the cave back in the mid 00's.
LibraryThing member 06nwingert
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
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them, they continue to enjoy the cave. This is not a very comforting thought.
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LibraryThing member mikefitch
A wonderful translation of Plato's masterpiece.
LibraryThing member Sourire
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member jmcdbooks
Rated: C+
The New Lifetime Reading Plan: Number 12

Guess 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
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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."
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LibraryThing member Danie_Jorgenson
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.
LibraryThing member cbmilne33
Read it as a powerful book in Major Theories of the State I course in Waikato University.
LibraryThing member Audacity88
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.

Subjects

Language

Original language

Greek (Ancient)

Original publication date

c. 380 B.C.

Physical description

467 p.; 19 cm

ISBN

0140440488 / 9780140440485
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