Episode 30: Introducing Plato’s Republic
Plato’s Republic is long, complex, and full of ideas: utopian politics; an innovative and radical theory of the human soul; microcosmic/macrocosmic relations between the soul and the utopian society; a transcendent form, the form of the Good, which makes knowledge of the other forms possible, but which itself remains somehow beyond human knowledge; a psychedelic journey through the otherworld revealing the fate of the human soul after death and a visionary cosmic model.
This episode introduces the dialogue from a basic structural perspective: what happens when, how does Plato frame the dialogue narratively, how do the different parts of the dialogue relate one to the other? Along the way, we discuss the ancient literary genre of chiasmus, sometimes known as ‘ring composition’, which characterises the structure of the Republic, and which will feature in the discussions in Episodes 31 and 32. We also go through Plato’s Myth of Er, an innovative philosophic myth at the dialogue’s end, which is amazing and very strange.
Works Discussed in this Episode:
- Andersson, Benny and Ulvaeus, Björn, ‘Dancing Queen’, 1976.
- The reference to Plato’s multiple revisions of the first sentence of the Republic can be found at Dionysios of Halikarnassos, De comp. verb. 25.
- The lamentable exclusion of Plato’s obscure mathematical passages alluded to in this episode can be found in the otherwise admirable translation of Cornford (1941. The Republic of Plato Translated with Introduction and Notes. Clarendon Press, Oxford).
If you would like more information on the hard philosophy going on behind the scenes of this and the next episode, check out the History of Philosophy Podcast’s discussion of the Republic, parts one and and two.
- Annas J., An Introduction to Plato’s Republic, Oxford 1981.
- Cross R.C. and Woozley A.D., Plato’s Republic: A Philosophical Commentary, London-New York 1964 (repr. London 1979).
- Gerasimos Santas, ed. The Blackwell Guide to Plato’s Republic, Oxford-Malden MA 2005.
- White, N., A Companion to Plato’s Republic, Oxford 1979.