Plato's Republic

Overview


Plato is perhaps the most significant philosopher who has ever lived, and The Republic, composed in Athens in about 375 BC, is widely regarded as his most famous dialogue. Its discussion of the perfect city-and the perfect mind-laid the foundations for Western culture and, for over two thousand years, has been the cornerstone of Western philosophy. As Simon Blackburn writes, "It has probably sustained more commentary, and been subject to more radical and impassioned disagreement, than almost any other of the ...
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Plato's Republic: A Biography

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Overview


Plato is perhaps the most significant philosopher who has ever lived, and The Republic, composed in Athens in about 375 BC, is widely regarded as his most famous dialogue. Its discussion of the perfect city-and the perfect mind-laid the foundations for Western culture and, for over two thousand years, has been the cornerstone of Western philosophy. As Simon Blackburn writes, "It has probably sustained more commentary, and been subject to more radical and impassioned disagreement, than almost any other of the great founding texts of the modern world." In Plato's Republic, Simon Blackburn explains the judicial, moral, and political ideas in The Republic. Blackburn also examines The Republic's remarkable influence and unquestioned staying power, and shows why, from Saint Augustine to twentieth-century philosophers such as Ludwig Wittgenstein and Henri Bergson, Western thought is still conditioned by this most important of books.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In this critical but judicious study, Blackburn (Truth: A Guide) regards what's considered the greatest of Plato's Socratic dialogues as "the foodstuff of unintelligent fundamentalisms." Hitler, totalitarianism and neoconservatism can't be blamed solely on "time and circumstance, land, food, guns, and money, the economic and social forces," he argues, so it may be that Socrates' utopian republic, ruled by philosopher-kings, may also have influenced the world in the worst possible way. Blackburn explores the themes that support such an argument, from Socrates' defense of the right of armies to conquer and colonize, to his extolling the benefits of a caste system. Although Blackburn—a philosopher at the University of Cambridge who identifies more closely with Aristotle—admits that he "had never felt Plato to be a particularly congenial author," he presents a clear and sympathetic synthesis of approaches to the famous Myth of the Cave, and gives the Platonist defenders their due. He finishes by making the case that the most critical reading of the book may be the best defense against its insidious influences. Hardly a ringing endorsement, Blackburn's book is a provocative companion to an essential text. (July)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
Plato's most influential text gets a going-over in the latest addition to Atlantic's Books That Changed the World series. Blackburn (Philosophy/Cambridge; Lust, 2004, etc.) summarizes the Greek philosopher's principal arguments and considers their contemporary relevance. He begins by undercutting Alfred North Whitehead's famous statement that all European philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato, then moves to clarify the distinction between the "worldly" Aristotelian view and the "other-worldly" Platonic value system. These and other introductory matters (including some historical background) out of the way, the author launches into his exegesis, examining closely Plato's views on might and right, on ruling elites, reason and passion, knowledge and belief. After a chapter on Republic's best-known portion, the Myth of the Cave, Blackburn devotes his most compelling and significant pages to examining how three traditions have employed this famous allegory. Christians folded its ideas into their own theology and expelled Plato. Poets like Wordsworth and Shelley saw the allegory's enormous metaphorical and spiritual richness. Mathematicians and scientists were perhaps those whom Plato had in mind all along, for Blackburn notes that they alone understand "the unchanging within the changing" that lies at the heart of the parable. The author reluctantly leaves the cave and looks at Plato's "descending staircase" of political systems, with the philosopher-kings occupying the summit and absolute dictators lurking in the pits. Here and throughout Blackburn is forthright about his own political views. He repeatedly bashes Bush, Blair and neo-conservatives; he grieves that we are in the grip ofa new oligarchy of the wealthy, who control the media and thus the ballot box. His final chapters deal with Plato's silly dismissal of painters and poets and with the "charming, and poetic" Farewell Myth of Er. Rigorous and humble, admiring and dismissive-a clear and accessible introduction to philosophy's first superstar.
From the Publisher
"A clear and accessible introduction to philosophy's first superstar." —-Kirkus
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400103904
  • Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/1/2007
  • Series: Books That Changed the World Series , #4
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged CD
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 5.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author


Simon Blackburn is a professor of philosophy at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of ten books, including Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy, Truth: A Guide, and The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Simon Vance, a former BBC Radio presenter and newsreader, is a full-time actor who has appeared on both stage and television. He has recorded over four hundred audiobooks and has earned over twenty Earphones Awards from AudioFile magazine, including one for his narration of Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini. A twelve-time Audie finalist, Simon has won Audie Awards for The King's Speech by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Market Forces by Richard K. Morgan, and The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. Winner of the 2008 Booklist Voice of Choice Award, Simon has also been named an AudioFile Golden Voice as well as an AudioFile Best Voice of 2009.
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Table of Contents


Preface     vi
A Note on Translations and Editions     ix
Introduction     1
Convention and Amoralism     22
Might and Right     32
The Ring of Gyges     42
The Analogy     47
The Elite and the Artist     59
Glaucon's Challenge     68
The Man of Spirit     73
Specialization     80
Knowledge and Belief     86
The Myth of the Cave     95
The Religious Interpretation     103
The Poetic Interpretation     112
The Scientific Interpretation     119
Disorderly Cities; Disorderly People     130
The Exile of the Poets     149
The Farewell Myth     158
Notes     162
Further Reading     171
Index     172
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