Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Plato (380 BCE/2012): The Republic

What is it about?

This is one of the major philosophical works of the ancient Greece. It mostly discusses about the nature of justice and a just society.

In addition, there are some other well-known ancient philosophical concepts or ideas put forth such as the theory of universals (or Platonic ideals) and pleasure or happiness as the absence of pain.

The most characteristic feature of the book is that it is mostly written as a 'Socratic dialogue', i.e. a dialogue between Socrates and his various discussants.

Was it good?

The key ideas put forth certainly resonate (e.g. the theory of universals, or the the notion of a theory or a concept). However, the dialogue format started to become a major distracter after the first third of the book. Namely, the bulk of the book reads something like this:

Socrates: Argument
Discussant: Well, you are entirely correct there
Socrates: Further argument
Discussant: Oh, how could it be otherwise -- now that you have explained it
Socrates: Rhetorical question
Discussant: I don't know, but please do not keep us any longer waiting for the answer
Socrates: Further argument
Discussant: Yes, of course -- your reasoning is beyond our capabilities

Thus, perhaps a better way to really digest what is said in the book would be to read a modern commentary/interpretation of it.

The main take-away for me?

I really don't know why, but the notion of the absence of pain as pleasurable or happiness caught my attention. Even though in my interpretation Plato/Socrates does not advance it as a definition of happiness let alone a life goal, I think that there is something worthwhile in that humble notion: "absence of pain".

Who should read the book?

I think that this book in its 'raw' form is appealing to only those who want to read what Plato actually wrote (admittedly translated, of course). For an average reader, I would suggest a derivative work such as Plato: A Very Short Introduction by Julia Annes, published in Oxford University Press' "Very Short Introductions" series.

The book on Amazon.com: The Republic

No comments:

Post a Comment