Part of the Hero Classics series
“I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.”
The Republic, a pioneering work of political philosophy, is a dialogue that does not feature Plato directly as at the heart is Socrates – his teacher. Even though the conversations between Socrates and Athenians as well as foreigners take place thousands of years ago, the questions Plato addresses in the volume are far from archaic. Should men and women have equal rights? Should rulers be responsible for the well-being of their citizens and the healthcare system in general? Is it ever acceptable to lie, especially if it is a so-called ‘noble lie’? And of course, how far can we stretch social mobility? Although many of Plato’s ideas are utopian and will be regarded as immensely positive aspirations by contemporary society, some conclusions drawn by the thinker might arouse our questioning or even disdain. In particular, Plato argues that censorship can underpin the citizens’ goodness and orderly life of the whole community – an affirmation that is unlikely to be embraced by modern-day democracies.
Because the philosopher prefers to construct an imaginary city in order to regard his ideas, his political ruminations can be read with a pragmatic mind but also for its artistic richness and literary thrill as Plato does not shy away from metaphors and allegories. The text is one of the most studied and referenced after the Bible and akin to the Holy text it does not have to be read in a single sitting but rather carefully revised and meditated upon to grasp its nuances and their applicability to our modern lives. It is an insight into the history of human civilization and the functionings of an individual within society – the read that is likely to be worthwhile for an advanced bibliophile and casual reader alike.