The Republic

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Republic
by Plato
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.”


Anonymous said...

I read The Republic for "Ancient and Medieval Political Thought" my senior year of college (I minored in Poli Sci). Most of my classmates thought I was weird because I enjoyed it so much. :) I'm already using the Socratic method with my kids. They probably get sick of me turning their questions back on them. ;)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

abibliophilesstyle - I remember learning a lot about it in my college Philosophy class, but I'd never read the original text. I really enjoyed it!

Unknown said...

I've never heard of Socratic method, but the way you described it made it sound so interesting! I hope I may take this up in school as I grow up! I'm really into things in social studies and all (even if I'm bad at it a bit haha) especially when it opens up about society :) Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I'm always impressed by the wide range of genres you read. I need to revisit some of the classics (the REAL classics) soon. I actually minored in Classical Studies in college but haven't read much from that era since reading Xenophon's "Anabasis" a couple years back.

I've never read The Republic front to back, but certainly read passages many times for other work.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jillian Lopez - It's a great way to learn!

bibliophilica - Thanks! I like to keep things diverse in my reading, it makes me use different parts of my brain. I loved Classical Studies in college!