Monday, February 9, 2015

Plato's Republic

The assignment for February is only for two books of the Republic, books 6 and 7.  Back in year one, when after reading books 1 and 2, I didn't like how the conversation cuts off in the middle.  This year I decided that I'd go back and start from the beginning.  Kind of get a running start so I'd be ready for the part that is actually assigned.  Observations:
  • Socrates is slippery.  There are so many analogies and syllogisms that desperately need to be untied.  After some struggle, I decided to simply let them be and let the whole of the conversation wash over me.  I don't know if that's best or not.
  • The Republic is an incredible book.  Socrates decides to work towards a definition of justice by creating a state that is just.  He talks about how people would work, how they would be raised, how they would fight and so on and so on.  He makes a fairly honest attempt to give the state some heft.  Over the centuries, people must have looked at its arguments as they tried to figure out the best way to rule and be ruled.
  • He puts women on an equal footing with men, which must have been incredibly controversial at the time.  
  • There is just an incredible amount of meat there.  I bet you could read any two pages at random and come up with enough material to argue for and against that you could satisfy any thesis committee.
  • As a general rule, Socrates is brilliant when asking questions and profoundly foolish when making statements.  I say this with full acknowledgment that he was much smarter than me.  However he is without the knowledge of the last 2000+ years of human history.
  • If I had my druthers, I'd spend about a year going over this with a small group (fewer than ten).  We'd do about four pages a week and we'd argue gloriously.  Then we'd record and publish those arguments so other people could argue over them.
Would I recommend read The Republic?  Yes.  But bring some friends.  And a drink.  You'll need both.

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