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Plato's republic shocked the world

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Plato's Republic shocked the world. Do you agree? The philosopher Plato lived from 488-348BC. He was Greek and an Athenian. Although he himself was of noble descent, in Athens, there was a democratic government. Plato himself despised democracy - it had been a mentor that had executed his mentor, Socrates. He describes it in the Republic as a 'great beast'. As he sees democratic society as being imperfect, 'it's an agreeable anarchic form of society, with plenty of variety, which treats all men as equal, whether they are equal or not'1, Plato seeks to find a perfect society. This happens in the Republic - represented as a dialogue through Socrates (acting as Plato's mouthpiece) and others. The Republic begins with a discussion whether it is better to be just, but appear unjust or be just, but appear just. This develops into a discussion on the nature of justice and whether it can be found in the big (the community), in order to be seen in the small (the individual). ...read more.


Many commentators have come to forward the idea it was Plato's intention to express his ideas only partially, with the full interpretation only open to a few. However, most commentators argue that Platonic Philosophy cannot be fully appreciated if read, alone. It has to be engaged with - the Republic is a dialogue after all, 'Plato felt that philosophy was more a matter of an activity than one of absorbing or learning a static body of doctrine'5. Another feature pointing to the Republic, as being a book that shocked the world, is the vast amount of commentary, whether supportive or in disagreement, that it has received. It has been commented, that 'the history of readings of the book is itself an academic discipline'6. This importance is shown further as 'for centuries it has been the one compulsory subject in the philosophy syllabus'7. Not all commentaries of the Republic are positive. Francis Bacon sees Plato's work as an example of 'premature and precipitate haste'. He goes on to say, 'The disputatious and sophistical kind of philosophy catches the understanding in a trap, but the other kind, the fantastic, high-blown, semi-poetic philosophy seduces it.'8. ...read more.


It is in this sort of society, that Socrates may have been executed much more quickly than in the actual democratic one. Plato has turned the fictional Socrates of the Republic as a supporter of totalitarian Government. It is shocking, this contrast to the earlier, perhaps more historically accurate, Socrates - who was the amiable and patient character, to the Socrates that we are presented with now. It is this Socrates, which we can take as being a likeness of Plato himself - a bitter, democracy-hating, Aristocrat. Regardless of whether the argument is in praise of the Republic or in disapproval of it, there is no doubt that it deserves the argument. When the Republic was first written it was a radical text - it promoted a complete reformation of Society, it challenged the roles of society members and a redistribution of the balance of power. Today, the governments described are still so far away from their modern equivalent that they remain radical. The views on matters such as state-control and the restriction of personal liberty are still incredibly shocking today. It is for these reasons, that the Republic is a text which shook the world. ...read more.

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