26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on July 5, 2008
I've been using the Oxford World's Classics edition of Republic for three years now to teach freshmen, and Waterfield's translation and endnotes are great. His choice to render dikaiosyne as "morality" rather than "justice" allows a range of discussion with American students that travels outside the courtroom and into the purpose of life and what translation means, and his crankiness in the endnotes (he talks about Plato as an old lover talks about his beloved) allows some great lessons about editorial practices and what's involved in the production of a scholarly edition.
Perhaps more important to my students than anything, this edition of Plato is right at ten bucks, a steal compared to their other textbooks and an invitation to mark up, use, and abuse the margins. I'm sitting at my desk, my battered copy of the 1998 printing sitting next to my keyboard, and I'm thinking that perhaps this fall I'll pick up a copy of this blue-sky beauty.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on February 25, 2010
Among all the translators of Plato's Republic who claim that their translations are intended to be readable, Robin Waterfield seems to be the only one to have truly fulfilled the pledge. His translation has demonstrated a simple belief that Plato meant for his Greek to be as readable and fluent as in an everyday conversation and that is exactly what Mr. Waterfield is doing with his modern English --- without assuming that there is a built-in difficulty in all the classic literatures. Because, he believes, "reading Plato should be easy; understanding Plato can be difficult." A rare combination of the knowledge of classic philosophy and the writing of children's fiction to his credit must have contributed to the admirable achievement of clarity and directness.
In addition to readability, Waterfield has also made a unique contribution by abandoning the traditional "ten books" design (which was not made by Plato himself anyway) and regrouped them into "fourteen chapters" following the natural flow of the internal arguments in the texts. It is therefore only too logical for him to give each of his fourteen chapters a title and a brief introduction, not only for convenience but also to provide an overall scope of the book, which is in fact the longest and most complicated of all Plato's dialogues. Of course, he has no need to give up the standard means of reference to passages in Plato and the reader still feels quite at home with the conventional setting started as early as in 1578. To an avid reader, this new translation in Oxford World's Classics is an invaluable addition to his existing collection, large or small.
One more point deserves our special admiration. While most translators think Republic is about justice in the sense of politics more or less, Waterfield alone chooses morality for the Greek word dikaiosone, which refers to something larger than justice and that "encompasses all the various virtues and is almost synonymous with virtue in general" (Aristotle Ethics). This intrinsic quality of justice does not, however, show up to give him support until in the last two Books (IX and X), or Chapters 12-14 in our case, where the issues of happiness, or unhappiness, and immortality of the soul are brought up. At this point Waterfield needs waste no time to prove that the book title Republic is rather inadequate, if not a misnomer, for being taken directly from the Greek word politeia, which means the public life of a community and has little or no apparent relationship to the idea of republicanism as we understand it today.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 26, 1998
the other reviewer gave this book a 9 and recommended it because it is worth reading. i am a bit surprised. perhaps his standard is high, but as far as i'm concerned, books don't get better than this, not even those written by plato himself. the republic poses the greatest challenge to almost all of the facile assumptions common among the educated today. it demands the closest reading and rewards the patient reader nothing, other an emerging ability to think, an activity that is becoming increasingly rare, buried by a great deal of post-modern sophistry.This translation is one of the more faithful ones, preserving plato's thought while striving to be readable. it should provide an inviting introduction for the beginner.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 2013
Plato's text is easy to read, but difficult to understand, which is why this edition is so good. I have a hard copy and Kindle version of Waterfield's translation which was also used by Simon Blackburn in his own book on the Republic.
Here's my take on the book after multiple readings of this and other translations.
There are two ideas of the 'good' at play in the Republic.
Firstly, the idea of the 'good' as doing the right thing; what we call ethics or justice, this is the traditional idea of the Good presented by Glaucon in the Republic. Plato shows this to be inadequate at the beginning of the dialogue. The other, is the idea of the 'good' as something constituted, in such a way, that it can fulfil a particular purpose; this something, might be a household implement, an individual human being, or a community of human beings. The function of a knife is to cut, while the function of human beings, is to live and prosper. In order to cut, the knife must be sharp, and easily handled; in order to live and prosper, human beings must be healthy, and well provided for. Plato goes on to show, that this idea on its own, is also inadequate, and that the two types of 'good' are integral to something, much broader and deeper, than just ethics or function. This broader and deeper conception of the Good is Plato's imaginative project in the Republic; but before he can present his ideas, he looks to understand, how human beings are constituted, and how ethics or justice, have been formulated, to facilitate life and prosperity.
Justice is the 'business of everyone performing their task ... the principle that each single individual is to perform his own task without troubling himself about the tasks of others'. Morality is how we treat others; if we respect the fact that each person has a different task to perform, we will also respect, the resources they have at their disposal, in order to complete these tasks. How are human beings constituted? According to Plato, the mind or soul, is made up of three faculties forming a pyramid structure, with rationality at the apex, a passionate nature forming the middle, and a desiring appetite the base. 'The desirous part, is the major constituent of an individual's mind and is naturally insatiably greedy for things', 'the rational part is wise and looks out for the whole of the mind', and should rule, with the passionate part as its subordinate ally. 'The rational part will do the planning, and the passionate part the fighting'. Plato argues that communities reflect this tripartite structure of the human mind. When the human being or community is well-regulated it is able to sustain life and prosperity.
In this way, morality is both ethical and functional. The most rational part of the human mind, and the most rational part of a community, must rule in order for mankind to fulfil its particular purpose. Plato's broader and deeper conception of the Good, draws on these ideas, but at the same time relegates, life and prosperity, to the status of a common concern. It is the task of the philosopher to move beyond these concerns and search for the ideal form of the Good.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2014
Like other Waterfield translations, this one is great in that it gives you:
--A helpful introduction
--A translation which emphasizes readability and flows nicely
--PLENTIFUL endnotes on various passages in the text. These explain various points of potential confusion, elucidate references Plato is making, and in general answer a lot of questions you might have when reading the text.
But as a big bonus, this translation gives you section summaries every few pages, describing what's going on in plain language!
If you're a student looking for a good edition of Plato to study with, this is highly recommended.