"Book Report: The Republic"

The Republic by Plato book cover

The Republic by Plato

The Republic is a beautiful dialogue that takes place between Socrates and his friends as they explore the worth and profitability of a just man. Throughout the writing, our hero, Socrates, utilizes dialect to argue fundamental aspects of our soul and how its nurture or neglect affects us in life and society.

Socrates teaches us that we should spend more time learning about ourselves and the power of the Good. This in turn helps us understand what we must do:

For you have often heard that the greatest and most important study is the Idea of the Good, by which just things and the rest become useful and beneficial.

Socrates also points out that we must be strong in character if we are ever to be great:

A weak nature will never be responsible for great things, whether for good or ill.

I find that many of the points raised in _The Republic_are valid today. For instance, Socrates discusses the folly of excessive praise and flattering of promising youth:

When he becomes older, I suppose, his relatives and fellow citizens will wish to use him for their own purposes.

They will fawn on him with requests and honors, anticipating the power that will be his and flattering it in advance.

[Then] won't he be filled with an impossible hope, believing himself competent to manage the affairs of Greeks and barbarians alike, exalting himself to a great height, filled with pretense and empty pride without intelligence?

Then suppose someone came to a person in this condition and gently spoke the truth: that intelligence is not in him, but he needs it, and that it cannot be possessed unless he slaves for the possession of it. Do you think it will be easy for him to listen, in the midst of these great evils?

There is also a criticism of literature, music and poetry that I believe is especially applicable today:

Because we shall say, I presume, that poets and prose writers therefore speak badly about what is most important for men, claiming that many men are happy but unjust, or just but wretched, and that the doing of injustice is profitable if it escapes detection, while justice is another's good and one's own loss.

I think that describes a lot of what exists in pop culture today. It's ironic that the same air of ignorance exists today as it did over 2000 years ago. Have we learned nothing? Or is the ratio of wisdom to ignorance hard-coded in our genetics somewhere?

We can learn a lot by reviewing the ground Socrates covered in this dialogue. Plato wrote many other great dialogues as well that teach us just as much, but I place _The Republic _at the the top.

I own _The Republic _translated by R.E. Allenwhich is a modern translation of the Greek and is delightfully readable.

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