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Plato's Republic

Plato’s classic work…

I tried to read it twice as a 18 year and failed miserably. I jsut don’t think I was intelligent and smart enough.

I got about 40 pages in each time and my attention and desire just died. I’ve been reading alot recently thru various genres so I’ve decided to bust out my copy of Republic now that I’m 3 years older and wiser.

Anyone got any tips to make it a success this time around??

Depends on whether or not your someone who likes to have to “figure it all out” for yourself or if you don’t mind a little guidance to grasp the ideas.

http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/republic/

This definetly helped me get through Intro to Ethics this past semester.

-MAtt

[quote]Matgic wrote:
Depends on whether or not your someone who likes to have to “figure it all out” for yourself or if you don’t mind a little guidance to grasp the ideas.

http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/republic/

This definetly helped me get through Intro to Ethics this past semester.

-MAtt[/quote]

Wow… first response and it’s pretty much everything I could ask for!!

It’s so much effort to put into a book that I’m reading for pleasure. I hope it’s worth it.

Considering I won’t read most of my college books—the reading that I do end up doing tends to be more because I enjoy it rather than it being assigned to me. :slight_smile:

Not sure if you’ve got much in the way of Sparknotes in Ireland. Welcome to the ways of the American college student. Almost any relatively classic book you read will be up there.

-MAtt

[quote]Hanley wrote:
Matgic wrote:
Depends on whether or not your someone who likes to have to “figure it all out” for yourself or if you don’t mind a little guidance to grasp the ideas.

http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/republic/

This definetly helped me get through Intro to Ethics this past semester.

-MAtt

Wow… first response and it’s pretty much everything I could ask for!!

It’s so much effort to put into a book that I’m reading for pleasure. I hope it’s worth it.
[/quote]

We get shit all!! I’ve never seen notes like that in my life. Amazing to say the least. How would you recommend reading them…??

Read everything to Book 1, then re read the notes on book 1 after I’ve read it in the book.

Then Book 2 before beginning the actual chapter and refer back again when finished??

etc etc

I’d say read each Chapter or Book before you read sparknotes. Think about it for yourself, then see what Sparknotes has to say and what you may have missed.

[quote]Hanley wrote:
We get shit all!! I’ve never seen notes like that in my life. Amazing to say the least. How would you recommend reading them…??

Read everything to Book 1, then re read the notes on book 1 after I’ve read it in the book.

Then Book 2 before beginning the actual chapter and refer back again when finished??

etc etc[/quote]

Dear Lord, why would you read the sparknotes for a book you are “only” reading for pleasure?

Read the book once through quickly. You can probably do it in a weekend. Make sure you have a good translation… the Bloom translation is very good. Don’t read the notes. Just read through it, and if you find your mind wandering, put it down for fifteen minutes and do something else.

That will give you a taste. If you want to understand it more deeply, limit yourself to a few pages per night. Puzzle over them. Ask yourself after each sentence “why would Plato put this here, and in this way?” Some people believe - and this is tough to swallow at first - that Plato wrote with logographic necessity. That is, everything that he wrote was intentional, and precisely placed. There are no extra words, no meaningless phrases, no fluff that isn’t important to understanding the work as a whole. Every action and circumstance (e.g., the dialogue beginning with Socrates coming back from a religious festival, and then being held against his will by the agents of a wealthy interlocutor) is planned and a necessary part of the whole.

When you ask yourself these questions, you won’t be able to answer many of them. Without a great education in classics, or indeed without having lived in Plato’s time, there will be some things that are simply impossible for you to know. But you will profit greatly from entering into a dialogue with Socrates and his companions, and posing questions back to them as they pose questions to you. Plato wrote dialogues instead of treatises for a reason.

And if you really want to learn more, read Alan Bloom’s excellent introductory essay to the text, and read some other secondary works by greats such as Seth Bernadete. Of course, you’ll have to read all of the dialogues to more completely appreciate what you read in one; that’s just how it works.

Sorry if this seems overly complicated, but Plato didn’t want it to be easy for you! Stretch yourself, push yourself! Philosophy isn’t without struggle.

You’ll understand Philosophy much more if you read Ayn Rand’s works BEFORE delving into Plato, Kant, Hegel, and so forth. She explains (in her non-fiction work) the basic principles and how to understand what’s being said. Try her ‘Philosophy: Who Needs It?’ for starters.

Note: most people will rip on Rand because she preaches the values of personal happiness. She places your happiness as a rational being to be the goal of your life. This conflicts with most others’ views.

[quote]Headhunter wrote:
You’ll understand Philosophy much more if you read Ayn Rand’s works BEFORE delving into Plato, Kant, Hegel, and so forth. [/quote]

This assumes that Rand understands Plato well enough to interpret him without unintentionally distorting him.

I second Nephorm’s post. Just read the thing, and think of it as a play rather than a philosophical treatise. If you think of it as a treatise, Plato looks like an idiot, because the arguments are, for the most part, pretty bad. Some of them are just awful. Nobody wants to read hundreds of pages of bad argument just because it was historically influential.

Where it’s at is the drama–the purpose behind the way each of the characters acts, and, to put in a modern way, the character development that takes place over the course of the dialogue. It’s all very subtle, but in my experience, if you can figure out what effect the dialogue has on the participants, the whole enterprise of reading Plato will be both more enlightening and more pleasurable.

I wasn’t referring him to a book about Rand explaining Plato, but about her explaining what philosophy is all about.

What is a concept? What is epistemeology and why is it important? These, and many other issues, are explained in very simple terms. You can then read Plato or Kant, and say, “Ah, so that’s what he means!”

BTW: Many people disparage her philosophy, but she writes clearly and simply. She tells people that they have a right to be happy, as a rational being. Guess that pisses off lots of folks…

[quote]Headhunter wrote:
I wasn’t referring him to a book about Rand explaining Plato, but about her explaining what philosophy is all about.

What is a concept? What is epistemeology and why is it important? These, and many other issues, are explained in very simple terms. You can then read Plato or Kant, and say, “Ah, so that’s what he means!”[/quote]

On of the great charms of Plato, in my opinion, is that his works make you confront the sort of questions that epistemology, phenomenology, ontology, and philosophy attempt to answer–as questions, rather than as doctrines.

Moreover, there is in simple introductions to ancient philosophy an almost irresistible temptation to make the ancients into confused and somewhat dull versions of modern thinkers. For instance, Plato does not have ‘concepts.’ ‘Concepts’ are Kant’s. Nor is it clear that Plato recognizes a science of epistemology that can be radically separated from what we would call aesthetics and jurisprudence (the questions of what is right and what is noble).

Long story short: If Plato had wanted his readers to have a bite-sized intro to philosophy, we would have put just such an introduction at the beginning of his book.

[quote]Headhunter wrote:
You’ll understand Philosophy much more if you read Ayn Rand’s works BEFORE delving into Plato, Kant, Hegel, and so forth. She explains (in her non-fiction work) the basic principles and how to understand what’s being said. Try her ‘Philosophy: Who Needs It?’ for starters.

Note: most people will rip on Rand because she preaches the values of personal happiness. She places your happiness as a rational being to be the goal of your life. This conflicts with most others’ views.[/quote]

Most people rip on Rand because she was a hack.

Another suggestion:

Get your feet wet with some of the shorter works first. Try Crito, Meno, Ion, Phaedo, etc. They’re much lighter and deal with more accessible subject matter. Enjoy them and then tackle Symposium and Republic.

I counter-advise starting with Ayn Rand: both Rand and Plato present to the world logically incosistent systems; however, at least Plato is able to create a suspension of disbelief (possibly unwillingly) which is not there with Rand because, Rand’s philosophical aim was as expansive as the age in which she lived. There is no need to blame her for this charateristic, but we (or, at least, I) feel safe thinking that it’s not a defining trait of Philosophy, which is usually linked either to the classical world, or secondarily to the medieval/renaissance tradition.

I strongly suggest reading the original text as Neophorn says. If you are serious about it, and enjoy doing so, take a block-notes and a pen with you. Start trying to synthetize the thoughts displayed during the discourse, and start developing your arguments and counter-arguments for each side. I find philosophy much more enjoyable when, in the process of discovery, I am able to add something personal, even if it’s never to be shared with the rest of humanity.

[quote]Ross Hunt wrote:
Long story short: If Plato had wanted his readers to have a bite-sized intro to philosophy, we would have put just such an introduction at the beginning of his book.[/quote]

But you see, if you want your philosophy to have an impact, why keep it a secret? Why write so that only a few can follow what’s being said? Most will simply give up, say that it’s not for them, and then live with out ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, and so forth. Why not make it possible for everyone to read and enjoy (and apply) a philosophy? Why all the mystery?

[quote]ExNole wrote:
Headhunter wrote:
You’ll understand Philosophy much more if you read Ayn Rand’s works BEFORE delving into Plato, Kant, Hegel, and so forth. She explains (in her non-fiction work) the basic principles and how to understand what’s being said. Try her ‘Philosophy: Who Needs It?’ for starters.

Note: most people will rip on Rand because she preaches the values of personal happiness. She places your happiness as a rational being to be the goal of your life. This conflicts with most others’ views.

Most people rip on Rand because she was a hack. [/quote]

Here’s an example.

There are a few good introductions to The Republic, which can be of help for historical background etc. The one by Julia Annas and the one by Simon Blackburn are both particularly good.

I agree with the suggestion to read through the whole thing first, then read through again more slowly.

Follow Wittgenstein’s advice to philosophers:
“Take your time.”

[quote]Headhunter wrote:
You’ll understand Philosophy much more if you read Ayn Rand’s works BEFORE delving into Plato, Kant, Hegel, and so forth. She explains (in her non-fiction work) the basic principles and how to understand what’s being said. Try her ‘Philosophy: Who Needs It?’ for starters.

Note: most people will rip on Rand because she preaches the values of personal happiness. She places your happiness as a rational being to be the goal of your life. This conflicts with most others’ views.[/quote]

There are far better introductions to philosophy than Ayn Rand.

Many philosophers preach the value of personal happiness, but they differ with Rand as to how to achieve personal happiness.

I don’t disparage Ayn Rand, but I do disparage her philosophy. The reason? It has nothing to do with her preaching personal happpiness, and more to do with the fact that I belive she was wrong.

After all, what is philosophy about but the search for truth?

[quote]Headhunter wrote:
But you see, if you want your philosophy to have an impact, why keep it a secret?
[/quote]

Perhaps it is more responsible for the philosophy to NOT have a direct impact.

Well, it probably isn’t for them. But there are all sorts of institutions in a working society that make it unnecessary for its members to work out every ethical problem in advance.

Make things as simple as possible, but no simpler.

one thing i liked to do through my lit. classes was get several translations, line them up one on top of the other, and read through them all one idea at a time. might be even one paragraph at a time. this way you read the idea THREE times and each time get it with different wording. it takes time, but it opens up ALOT of doors in your brain. it’s surprising how different the translations can be.