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The Republic by Plato, ISBN 0140440488 (alternate, search), also available online at the MIT [1].

A book that examines the term Justice in socratic dialogs. The exploration starts out with a discussion of a just state, continues on to an exploration of the soul, and touches upon justice in the afterlife.

The state depicted by Plato has been attacked by the proponents of an OpenSociety. It doesn't allow much freedom for the individual.

It is not entirely clear that Plato even intended the Republic as a discussion of the ideal state. He was clearly no great lover of democracy, and his travels to Syracus and his contacts with the local tyrant--the failure of which Plato himself describes in his seventh letter--have been interpreted as attempts to bring something like the Republic to realisation. On the other hand, in the dialogue, Plato has Socrates bring up the city explicitly as a model of the individual human soul, and it continues to be used this way throughout the dialogue. Further, the great bulk of the dialogue is spent discussing a city that Socrates states is not his ideal. Socrates begins the discussion with a brief description of a city in which life is simple and peaceful. When his interlocutors object to the lack of luxuries in this city, he moves on to a description of a "feverish" city (in contrast to the earlier "healthy" city). This city wins wealth for itself by going to war and winning land from its neighbours. This is the city discussed throughout the rest of the book, and most of the structure of the city--from the PhilosopherKing down--comes originally from the need to go to war. Thus, the dialogue itself casts doubt on the idea that the city it describes is either a practical political system or even an ideal.

See also BookShelved:TheRepublic


I am no Platonist, so edit at will. -- AlexSchroeder.

And I'm also no Platonist, just someone who's read a fair bit of Plato and thinks there's more there than Popper recognizes. Please correct any errors I added. -- MossCollum

Perhaps in this context, the respective discussion from the wikipedia is interesting, because it presents the main alternative view to that of Popper (who, it can be said, is taken with a fair grain of salt by classicists and (continental) philosophers in this respect):

The city of the Republic has struck many modern critics as unduly harsh, rigid, and unfree; indeed, as a kind of prequel to modern totalitarianism. Karl Popper is perhaps the today still best-known protagonist of that view, which is the view generally represented in introductory college textbooks on political philosophy.

The perhaps most important alternative interpretation is the one suggested by Hans-Georg Gadamer in his 1934 classic, Plato und die Dichter (and several other works), in which the city of the Politeia is seen as a heuristic utopia which should not be pursued or even be used as an orientation-point for political development. Rather, its purpose is said to be to show how things would have to be connected, and how one thing would lead to another - often with highly problematic results -, if one would opt for certain principles and carry them through rigorously. This interpretation, based i.a. on the recognition of its often ironic tone (for which to detect, of course, an unusually high-level of proficiency in Greek is required), allows one to take the Politeia much more seriously, and it and Plato's entire oeuvre as much less totalitarian, than the mainstream version would suggest. Clossius



Plato was definitely trying to create an ideal republic in Syracuse, at the invitation of a friend and pupil. He started off by trying to turn the tyrant into a philosopher, but his usual program started with lots of geometry to train people in the arts of reasoning, and after a little while the court got bored with this. Still, the fact that Dionysius accepted mathematics lessons in the first place should say something.


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