Saturday, October 29, 2005

Review of Pappas' Plato and the Republic

Plato’s Republic is a challenging book to read and to teach too. There is much there that is generally unfamiliar and new especially when encountering the Republic for the first time. Nickolas Pappas wrote a really good guide book that really helps sort out what is going on in the Republic. The Republic is written as a dialogue. Pappas carefully goes through all the main arguments and offers a very sympathetic reading of Plato. Sometime I felt that he was saying what Plato would have been saying had he wrote in English prose instead of Ancient Greek play.

The book is divided in to three parts. The first part offers some preliminary background material on Plato and the Republic. The second part is the bulk of the book. This goes carefully through the argument of the republic piece by piece. There is first the question about what justice is, and then what it is for. Then it goes through Justice int he city, justice in the soul, politics, metaphysics and epistemology, returning to injustice in the city and soul, and then finally to the question of art. The book is mostly broken up thematically, but at the same time it follows the order of the republic, though it does not follow exactly the breakup of the book in to the ten books as we have it.

The third pat deals with a few general questions that one may have when looking at the whole book. "Is Plato really akin to a modern totalitarian?", "Is Plato's use of the Forms consistent?" "How does Plato relate the various kinds of censorship he advocates?". All of these are things we might inquire about Plato when we are done, and so they make up a small part of the book, the last section.

There is also a good breakdown of the main premises that the Republic uses in its arguments that seem pretty handy.

Pappas' Plato and the Republic is well done. It is a great guide to the Republic, the best I've seen yet, and I daresay even to Plato's work in general. If you are ever studying the Republic or you are intimidated by it, start here. It is extremely rewarding.

(Incidentally, I read the first edition. There is now a second one out and I am pretty sure that it does not differ substantially.)

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