Plato's Republic

Simon Blackburn, Author . Atlantic Monthly $19.95 (181p) ISBN 978-0-87113-957-3

In this critical but judicious study, Blackburn (Truth: A Guide ) regards what's considered the greatest of Plato's Socratic dialogues as "the foodstuff of unintelligent fundamentalisms." Hitler, totalitarianism and neoconservatism can't be blamed solely on "time and circumstance, land, food, guns, and money, the economic and social forces," he argues, so it may be that Socrates' utopian republic, ruled by philosopher-kings, may also have influenced the world in the worst possible way. Blackburn explores the themes that support such an argument, from Socrates' defense of the right of armies to conquer and colonize, to his extolling the benefits of a caste system. Although Blackburn—a philosopher at the University of Cambridge who identifies more closely with Aristotle—admits that he "had never felt Plato to be a particularly congenial author," he presents a clear and sympathetic synthesis of approaches to the famous Myth of the Cave, and gives the Platonist defenders their due. He finishes by making the case that the most critical reading of the book may be the best defense against its insidious influences. Hardly a ringing endorsement, Blackburn's book is a provocative companion to an essential text. (July)

Reviewed on: 04/02/2007
Release date: 06/01/2007
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