The Republic

April 11th, 2007

I've never read a philosophical argument before I started Plato's The Republic. The book is basically one long argument, it's quite interesting. Socrates is debating (or explaining, rather) his thoughts on justice to his friends. That's the core of the argument. From there on, he touches on a plethora of other issues, all of which is tied together to fit his rather succinct argument.

For the most part it's quite straightforward reading, you just have to make sure you have a clear understanding of the terms that are used, because they are meant in the full capacity of their meaning. In parts, especially when he explains what is good, it's harder to follow and it takes some concentration.

What strikes me about this kind of argument is that it could easily be criticized on its lack of completeness. I suppose it is inevitable that if you want to pursue a philosophical argument, then you have to agree to accept certain claims in the argument to be completely true, even though you wonder if you could find counter examples. This is what Socrates's friends do, they accept every claim to be true in its full meaning, even when sometimes I don't necessarily support that conviction.

Plato writes with a great mastery of expression. He repeats things once or twice, for ease of recollection, but never more than that. He always uses words exactly to their meaning, never having to digress to explain something that could have been said in one word. This kind of succinctness (but at the same time broad enough to follow easily, not cutting too much) is quite remarkable to witness.

In terms of practical results, Socrates describes facets of man, like justice, wisdom, knowledge, and how they interrelate. He uses many comparisons to sketch the similarities between a just man and a just city. These characteristics of man are examined on the scale of a city, and then applied to man. In this way he describes different forms of government, and the perfect form of government (and by implication - of man).

It's a book that contains a great richness of thought, knowledge, and wisdom. So for a complete appreciation I believe it should be digested and analyzed piecemeal.

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1 Responses to "The Republic"

  1. erik says:

    "It’s a book that contains a great richness of thought, knowledge, and wisdom."

    Agreed, I liked it a lot myself.