Why you should read Plato’s The Republic | campus.sg

A 16th century painting depicting Plato’s cave, attributed to Michiel Coxie. Wikimedia Commons

Western philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato, the old saying goes. And The Republic (c. 375 BCE), featuring Plato’s teacher Socrates in dialogue with several friends, is unquestionably central to Plato’s thought.

There are few subjects that Plato’s masterpiece does not touch or play on: political theory, education, myth, psychology, ethics, epistemology, cultural criticism, drama and comedy.

Little surprise then, that The Republic continues to be claimed by people with the most diverse convictions and agendas.

The Nazis pointed to the text’s seeming advocacy of eugenics. Yet Martin Luther King Jr nominated The Republic as the one book he would have taken to a deserted island, alongside the Bible.

Karl Popper famously accused The Republic of being a blueprint for illiberal, closed societies. Yet today, we can hear its echoes in the dazzling hyper-libertarian utopias envisaged by the Silicon Valley set.

The Republic’s famous allegory of the cave, which suggests that people’s ordinary sense of reality may be illusory, continues to shape our cultural imagination. It has been revisited again and again in literature, as well as in classic sci-fi films like The Matrix.

So, how can we make sense of this extraordinary text today?

Divided into ten “books”, Matthew Sharpe (Associate Professor in Philosophy, Deakin University) elaborates on the main themes of utopia, dystopia, the cycle of regimes, and justice.

Read the full article on The Conversation.