Plato’s Republic

ISBN: 087113957X
ISBN 13: 9780871139573
By: Simon Blackburn

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About this book

Plato is perhaps the most significant philosopher who has ever lived and The Republic, composed in Athens in about 375 BC, is widely regarded as his most famous dialogue. Its discussion of the perfect city  —  and the perfect mind  — laid the foundations for Western culture and, for over two thousand years, has been the cornerstone of Western philosophy. As the distinguished Cambridge professor Simon Blackburn points out, it has probably sustained more commentary, and been subject to more radical and impassioned disagreement, than almost any other of the great founding texts of the modern world. In Plato’s Republic, Blackburn explains the judicial, moral and political ideas in the Republic with dazzling insight and clarity. Blackburn also examines Republic’s remarkable influence and unquestioned staying power, and shows why, from St. Augustine to twentieth century philosophers such as Ludwig Wittgenstein and Henri Bergson, Western thought is still conditioned by this most important, and contemporary, of books.

Reader's Thoughts


Absolutely inspiring book! A must-read for every citizen. If only we live our life according to the letter of this book, the world would be close to utopia.

Nikki Mcgee

One of the most readable and accessible introductions to Plato I have read in a long time.Whilst Blackburn is a Plato critic I think that he is a fair one and he is open about his stance from the beginning of the book. Hs use of modern day examples makes Plato come alive and seem particularly relevant to today. I have found in the past that commentaries on Plato make you feel relieved that you do not have to read the original, in this case I feel inspired to return to the original texts. I have recommended this to some of my A Level students, particularly the chapters one the cave and belief and knowledge which are particularly easy to read.


The philosophers are classified by the community. No financial perspective. Their opinion, the basis analysis and Plato and Karl Marx are included. Plato to lead Society wise man accepts. al-Farabi , full human supernatural, and Karl Marx collective wisdom.Plato imagines society as a pyramid board. Gold, silver, copper, characters and symbols in this scenario.Wealth is not a the criterion.The elements individuals than intellectual value, classification society. Obviously, pure thoughts and the rational are Society golden section. intellects and much more. Above in this Society, being rich is not. Instead individuals gold, must decisions and welfare of the community are valued. These golden ideas of, are shared., But this the process can be seen only on paper,Action in the outside world, wealth and power, politicians such as Alchemist, ideas, copper, gold as shown., And Society deluded., And communities in democracy and equality will not. Justice and the quality of justice from Plato, equality not numeric., but the truth equality talent, does publication of justice in society., and will create a utopia. if, context is equal to the golden creative idea.

Maughn Gregory

The actual title of this book is "Plato's Republic: A Biography"; it's one in the Grove Press "books that changed the world" series. There surely are books that can be said to have lives or careers worthy of biography, and this one, in addition, surely did 'change the world.' (I also loved Hitchens on Paine.) Blackburn did a masterful job: laying out the grand argument-by-analogy that a well-ordered soul / life can be understood in comparison to a well-ordered society, showing where the analogy lapses into full-on political theorizing, relating each of the three parts of the soul Plato distinguished to the contemporary human condition (including Bush 43 and Bertie Wooster!), explaining three historical interpretations of the soul's ascent (religious, poetic and scientific) and their lasting cultural impacts, adding his own arguments with and against Plato, and frequently noting the nature of Socratic pedagogy -- all in a mere 170 pages. Blackburn's writing is exemplary for non-technical philosophy:"It is one thing to suggest that we ought to pursue our lives as far as possible in the light of what we know and what we take to be true. Perhaps that is obvious enough, although one might test it by wondering whether sometimes illusions are necessary for us to preserve our sanity. But it is entirely a different thing to give the desire for knowledge and truth a monopoly amongst human desires, so that in the best form of life it is the only desire on which the agent acts. Only sleight of hand gets us from the one, quite ordinary thought, to the other almost insane thought. For only a little reflection shows that a psychology in which the desire for knowledge and truth is the only desire is incapable of most of what makes human life recognizable, let alone enjoyable. Furthermore, it is likely to be crippled in its own terms, having no compass, for example, to distinguish between important and unimportant truths, useful and useless knowledge, and relevant and irrelevant facts" (p. 142).


Meh. I have no idea why the Atlantic Monthly Press would publish this. He starts out by saying he wasn't really enthusiastic about the project, then over the next 150 pages he does nothing to convince me otherwise. I picked this up because the title followed Jack Miles' excellent God: A Biography, but aside from a few pages in Chapter 11, this didn't really deliver.


Was the author's summation and views on the book, which was rather...dull. (Audio book version btw, no time to read anymore)


Quick summary: Very approachable text explaining why we still read a book from 2,500 years ago.Blackburn's book is meant to explain the importance of "Republic" to philosophy and is not meant to explain the arguments of "Republic" itself. Many, many thinkers have produced scholarship in response to "Republic" and Blackburn traces some of the most interesting supporters and detractors throughout history. His approach pointed me in the direction of several scholars I might never have found otherwise, but one of the purposes of Blackburn's biography is to explain why there is still so much effort put into studying Plato.Blackburn being a philosopher himself, he does spend some time pointing out serious issues with Plato's vision of the perfect city and the perfect mind. As Blackburn points out, it is not that Plato got everything magically right so long ago, but it is how we argue today about what he got right or wrong that matters.


They did not actually have the copy I read on this site. I have heard that Simon has a decent interpretation so I am going with that copy. Like most philosophy books it encompasses a wide range of life views. I have currently lost it. :( I may end up reading Blackburn's version any way. If you like philosophy, odds are you will enjoy just about anything Plato has to offer.

Sarah Mansour

The book is incorrectly labeled "Biography" when it should be clearly named "critique".Before reading this book make sure you read The Republic first. While Blackburn is clearly criticizing almost every aspect of Plato's books, his actual opinion is only revealed in the last page. Enjoyable read.


Plato is perhaps the most significant philosopher who has ever lived, and The Republic, composed in Athens in about 375 BC, is widely regarded as his most famous dialogue. Its discussion of the perfect city-and the perfect mind-laid the foundations for Western culture and, for over two thousand years, has been the cornerstone of Western philosophy. As Simon Blackburn writes, 'It has probably sustained more commentary, and been subject to more radical and impassioned disagreement, than almost any other of the great founding texts of the modern world.'Listen to Plato's Republic on your smartphone, notebook or desktop computer.


Light-read for those who don't want to bother with the actual text. I appreciate Blackburn's approachable take on the subject, but most of the time I had to grapple with remembering the point he was making. I asked myself countless of times why he had to bother writing about a subject he is not very interested in/ an expert of.


Blackburn is a very readable philosopher - not a common thing. This book is very enjoyable and Blackburn does a great job of picking out the main points of interest in Plato's masterpiece and discussing them in an intelligent and easy style. However, it seems fair to say, he isn't particularly sympathetic to Plato, and this occasionally leads him into uncharitable readings, I think (e.g. the accusation that Plato denied the possibility of social mobility in his ideal society). Also, the book is less historically informative than other books in this series (e.g. Janet Browne's excellent book on Darwin's Origin of Species). However, highly recommended.


I'm scanning my brain trying to remember interesting tidbits from this book. None of it seemed to relate to Republic of Plato in a way that helped me understand it better. I suppose that I should read a different book for that. Come to think of it, I can't really remember anything about this book that is of any use to me. Next time I'll just read Plato again.


It was very difficult to read, although illuminating I couldn't get through it.


hmmmmm........Having just read the Republic I read this hoping to gain a clearer but deeper understanding of the it. I rarely read secondary texts and went in with fairly high expectations, thinking that clarifying and expanding was kind of the point of secondary texts.But this book seemed to be aimed at doing two other things: it seemed to want to point out how wrong Plato's conception of just about everything is, and also to offer a lighter alternative for people that didn't want to read the Republic itself. Not only do I think that these two approaches seem to be at odds with each other, but I urge anyone who is interested in the Republic to at least read the sun, divided line and cave bits of the Republic: they are well written, short, really bloody famous and give a very good meditation on the nature of a priori truths and their relation to epistemology.A lot of the time I felt that Blackburn was reluctant to get into the very philosophical parts of Plato, preferring a lot of the time to modernise the arguments and then deal with these modern versions. I also felt at times that Blackburn was lazily dismissive of Plato appealing to a supposedly enlightened common sense to a degree that was at times Moorian. However there is an over arching thesis to this book that I think is quite impressive in which he points out the inconsistency of - again modern - Platonists. In one example he shows how at times Platonists will play down a lot of the dodgy political theories by defending that they are only their to represent their ethical counter parts, but it could hardly be expected that we should read the Republic with no political message at all.overall I think Blackburn spends too much time pointing out obvious bad arguments in the and doesn't spend enough time playing with the much more tricky but much more thought provoking truths at the heart of the Republic.Incidentally the translator's introduction by Desmond Lee in the Penguin edition managed to achieve a great deal of what I was hoping Blackburn would, and also I think gives a much more two sided, fair handling of the beardy old sage and his charming barmy book.

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