177 of 188 people found the following review helpful
on July 27, 2000
Plato's Republic is unparalleled in its coverage of all areas of life. While Plato addresses metaphysical issues, he does so with language and analogies that most people can grasp with studious reading. But Plato talks about much more than metaphysics. Marriage, music, war, kings, procreation and more are all topics of discussion for Plato's dialog. In addition to the teachings about life, this book also offers a great introduction to philosophy. The famous "cave story" illustrates not only the purpose of philosophy, but also the inherent difficulties. While this book is absolutely necessary for students of philosophy and religion, I think there are golden truths for all people no matter what they do.
So, why this particular translation of the work? This translation offers the best ease in reading while mainting a tight grasp of the original Greek meanings of Plato's text. Besides, it isn't that expensive.
This book is clearly a timeless classic, and if you can't read classical Greek, this translation is probably the best you will get.
42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2014
This is a review of Christopher Rowe's new (2012) translation of Plato's masterpiece, the Republic (ISBN 0141442433). It is not a review of Plato's Republic as such, but solely of the merits and demerits of Rowe's translation.
I've never quite trusted Rowe as an exegete of Plato, as he's got too much of his own personal agenda intrude on his analysis. His joint book with Terry Penner on the Lysis, for instance, falls far short of giving us an unbiased, expansive, authorative commentary on the dialogue, especially when compared to more sober competitors like Michael Bordt's in the Göttingen Plato.
But as a translator, Rowe has proven time and again that he's singularly scrupulous, and attentive to technical detail where it matters. His renderings of Plato's Politicus (Statesman) and Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, the latter published with Sarah Broadie, are probably the most authoritative around.
The same can be said for this newest of his translational efforts. In general, translations of the Republic usually err on the side of either trying too heavily to recreate the literary qualities of the original, or miss out so much of that detail because they try to be super exact on technicalities, that in either case the English falls far short of giving us a good understanding of Plato's Greek. The solution, so far, is to read Plato's Republic with (at least) two translations side by side. For instance, on the literal I've found Desmond Lee's quite good, and on the literary, Tom Griffith's stands out. Among the older ones, Paul Shorey's is particularly good on the literary side. Others, like Cornford, Waterfield, or Grube (even when revised under Reeve) can be safely avoided, for having the translators' hobby horses intrude on and mar the main text.
It's a bit hard to place Rowe on this spectrum from the literary to the literal, because he's consistently improved the situation on both sides of the spectrum - and I can think of no higher praise.
For one, Rowe has certainly outdone the rest of field by giving a more lively rendition of the flow of the dialogue, by paying more attention to the flow of the individual characters' speech. Although his translation follows the new Oxford Classical Text by Slings (2003), the punctuation is often Rowe's own and, I feel, often the superior choice. The dialogue becomes a lot more lively, and we get greater accuracy.
At the same time, Rowe's translation comes with seven hundred footnotes, and these are meticulously researched and show him on top of the current scholarly game. His translation is probably the first to unequivocally get the tricky lines in 596a correct. Mistranslations of these lines have encouraged generations of interpretors to saddle Plato with the view that one can posit a (Platonic) Form for each general term, no matter how gerrymandered. That rendering is simply false, and Rowe's note explains why. (He credits David Sedley with the point, and while Sedley's arguments are a welcome addition to the literature on this point, I wish Rowe had also mentioned Burnyeat's, on p. 298 with 298n.4 in Gail Fine's anthology 'Plato 2'.)
This increased accuracy also pervades a lot else in the translation, and I for one am grateful for it. Particularly the connecting particles, so important to the Greek flow of arguments, are given their due.
At times, however, Rowe falls short. A Platonic dialogue proceeds, usually, with (alternating) dominant speakers eliciting agreement or disagreement on particular points from their interlocutors. A great deal of text, therefore, is taken up by Plato expressing how the interlocutors express themselves on that point. Not just a 'yes' or 'no' - or the occasional, 'I don't understand, please repeat the question/point' - is in order. STRENGTH of (dis)agreement is just as important, for the respective next steps in an argument to go through. Plato's interlocutors signal their at times cautious dis/agreement on a point, with the occasional 'Perhaps...?' or the vehement 'In now way!'. The questions put to them, however, at times signal how strong the main speaker expects his dialogue partner to agree with him - with how many points just made, and how strongly. Thus at 479e5-6 we have the exchange 'ê ouch houtôs; - houtô.' Which means, 'Or is it not in (exactly) this way? - [No,] it is in exactly this way.' Which comes after five lines of contentious arguing. In Rowe, we get 'Right? - Right.' which is at once too casual and uncommittal.
Other passages show similar lapses in attention to detail. Plato's discussion of artefacts in book X has plagued commentators forever, because it's unclear why or how Plato can correlate human artefacts to (allegedly) timeless Forms. While Rowe's notes are characteristically informative of what's going on in these passages, and warn readers of the potential inconsistenties on artefact Forms, his translation looks rather unsure, tendentious even.
Plato's discussion of artefacts, especially of furnitures, centres on the term skeuê, which has a broad and a narrow meaning. On the narrow one, σκευή means furnishing, specifically `equipment, attire, apparel' (LSJ s.v.). In Republic, book X, translators like Lee (1974) and Griffith (2000) render σκευή, not as furnishing, but as furniture, given that Plato illustrates the term by the examples of a table and a couch.
On the broader meaning, conveyed by the cognate adjective σκευαστός, the term conveys the entire class of things `prepared by art, artificial' (LSV s.v.), and is opposed to natural things, things produced by and in nature (φυτευτός), in Republic 510a and 515c.
Plato's discussion moves from the narrow usage (in 596b1, b5) to the broader one (596c6). Traditionally, translators convey this by translating the first use as 'furniture' (e.g. Lee and Griffith) and then go to 'artifice'.
Rowe, however, is less clear. He begins with the fully generic translation of skeuê as `product(s)' for 596b, picking up the term from his equally tendentious translation of μῑ́μησις in 595c8 as `<the production of> imitation<s>' (brackets mine to indicate his additions), and at 596c Rowe changes gear to render skeuê as `manufactured items'. No attendant note is given, and readers are left to wonder, as they have for generations, what explains this sudden change of pace.
I'm not sure Rowe's approach is superior or inferior to Lee's and Griffith's, but it indicates to me abundantly that one can't rely on his translation without comparing it to others. I doubt he would disagree. At the same time, his earlier efforts on Statesman and Nicomachean Ethics have, in my opinion, done just that - become so authoritative that one can reliably work on their basis alone.
For those reasons, I'd heavily recommend customers interested in Plato's masterpiece to purchase Rowe's translation. It's clearly superior to many competitors out there. At the same time, Rowe will supplement, but not supplant, earlier efforts, particulary those of Lee and Griffith.
As far as the publisher is concerned, Penguin can be congratulated for sponsoring a new translation so soon after revising Lee's twice in the past ten years, under the careful leadership of Melissa Lane and Rachana Kamtekar.
At the same time, something is lost in the transition. I can't speak for Lane's, but Kamtekar's version of Lee offered helpful diagrams and illustrations in notes and appendices. Undergraduates, not to mention lay readers, find a lot of Plato's text hardgoing without the occasional image to explain how things 'hang together'. Plato's simile of the Line in book V, for one, is incredibly densely presented, as is the 'Spindle of Necessity' in Book VIII. Kamtekar's edition had helpful illustrations on such points, and retained Lee's wonderful introductions to sub-sections of the main text, which set the scene and pre-empted some of the more current misunderstandings that twentieth and twenty first century readers are prone to. This is now replaced by Rowe's own (3-page) synopsis of the dialogue, which is frankly a poor man's substitute for Lee.
For reasons beyond me, Penguin decided to kill this material. Rowe's notes and appendices are entirely devoid of imagery.
And, while we are at it, Rowe's reading list is, if anything, twice as short as Kamtekar's, and no longer comes into neatly categorized themes of the Republic. Writings on aesthetics had to suffer in particular. While I'm glad to see Verity Harte's and Myles Burnyeat's efforts recognized in this area, Alexander Nehamas' older - and equally good if not superior - offerings have been chopped off. The same is true for a great many other essays and books that, I feel, deserves mention to a first time audience coming to Plato. Rowe sees fit to mention Julia Annas' work on Plato. As I said in my review of her 'Introduction', this reputation is frankly undeserved and compares very poorly against recent alternatives, most of them omitted by Rowe.
In the end, then, the book is a mixed result of the very variety I've come to expect from Rowe. Top notch translation, but a tad tendentious when it comes to the work of other scholars. Still, I'm very happy with the purchase, and would recommend it warmly to others.
42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on February 11, 2006
This translation, the Grube-Reeve, was recommended to me along with Bloom's. I chose this. It is very readable with chapter summaries by the author.
The physical quality of this edition was a bit of a dissapointment. Hackett puts out editions cheaper than most, but usually they are of better quality than this. The paper is one step from newsprint. Not awful, but I would have liked something better.
65 of 72 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2006
I won't waste time trying to summarize Plato's "The Republic". Most people (I would guess nine out of ten) who have read this colussus of classical philosophy, read it because they were forced to by their college instructors. This is unfortunate because "The Republic" is a compelling and enduring philosophy of how life should be lived, how justice should be approached, and how leaders should lead.
What recommends this book, really, is the bargain price: under five bucks. As one of those college instructors who makes their students read this, I always recommend this edition. Sterling and Scott's translation is as good as anyone else's, so why not save my students a few bucks? And, if you're one of those one out of ten who is considering reading this on your own, you've only got five bucks to lose, but an awful lot of rewarding reading to gain!
College of New Rochelle
34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 2001
In the "Republic," Plato may or may not have accomplished what he set out to do, which is to define justice and prove that it is superior to injustice, irregardless of either's consequences. However, what he DID do is set the foundation for over two thousand years of thought. Read this work slowly; within each of the seemingly-simple discussions there is a world of though to be discovered. Anyone with the least bit of background in philosophical readings can literally read page-by-page, discovering the sources of many of the greatest philosophers of all-time. The "Republic" is not so much a work of literature as it is an explosion of thought; a ten-book brainstorm of one of the greatest minds of all-time. By the work's end, whether or not you feel Socrates to have successfully answered Glaucon's challenge is almost irrelevant, for the argument will have already left your mind reeling.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on June 13, 2000
F. M. Cornford is possessed of the rare distinction among translator's of being not only a philologist but a celebrated historian and a deeply philosophical scholar. His English translations of Plato are unparalleled if only because he understands the subject matter better than any historian, and understands the language better than any philosopher. His work is consistently above par.
An eminently readable edition of a classic and essential text.
31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on August 20, 2008
This version of the Republic (translated by Tom Griffith) is pleasant and readable; it definitely has its moments and would probably be a good way to first encounter the dialogue. But do not use it for serious study, since the translation can be quite free and sometimes confusing. For instance, the word usually translated as "advantageous" (sumpheron) in Thrasymachus's argument is rendered as "good for." This is a nice attempt to capture the meaning in a natural way - but I personally wouldn't play around with the word "good" in a translation of the Republic.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
This review is of ISBN-10: 0-87220-136-8, Plato * Republic, translated by G.M.A. Grube and revised by C.D.C. Reeve.
I somehow made it through high school and college learning about Plato and Socrates without reading any full-length works. That's changing this spring as I'm taking a discussion-based class on Plato's Republic. This text was recommended by our instructor, and I can see why. The translation is not cumbersome by striving for sheer literalness, but instead seeks to capture the flavor of the discussions Socrates had with others that Plato as a youth observed.
Footnotes are provided to explain the occasional word that has a different classical than contemporary meaning -- and yet you can read each of the 10 books (chapters) that comprise this volume first without attending to the footnotes, then re-reading the books along with their footnotes.
After having seen what gifted vs. pedestrian translations can do to the vigor and beauty of classic works (Beowulf, the Epic of Gilgamesh and The Odyssey come to mind), I can understand why Grube's translation is highly regarded. According to the scholar who performed the revision, no such work was called for until 20 years after publication (I am guessing to introduce more current English idiom and turn of phrase). The person who conducted the revision was encouraged to do so by the translator's family, which speaks to continuity.
Given its impact on Western philosophy and thought, the book may at first seem slender to you. Keep in mind that much of it is in the form of dialog -- presented for the most part without space-consuming "I said"s and "he said"s; clarity is preserved with paragraph indents. The brief italicized introductions to each book help ensure ready comprehension without spoonfeeding any philosophy.
The index and bibliography also are clear, well-presented and helpful. Note that the latter is toward the front of the book.
I applaud the price point; however, I think purchasers would have been better served by paying a buck more for better-quality paper stock. This is a book that cries out to be kept on one's bookshelf well past the completion of a particular class or a once-over reading. Unfortunately, the paper stock already suffers from read-through, even before being subjected to the pencil/pen jottings that many readers will be compelled to make. Those of you who tend to use a highlighter, I'd advise to do so with caution because the paper seems pretty absorbent.
90 of 108 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 2001
Plato's Republic is the fount from which nearly all Western thought flows. Pretty much everything written in that tradition either borrows from Plato or refutes him, and the Republic articulates his philosophies more fully than any of his other works(although the Timaeus is more mature and the Symposium is an amazing discussion on a single point). I must disagree with both of the main camps on this site; it is neither just a work of political philosophy NOR just a work of moral psychology(how to order your mind). Plato thought that all things should reflect the ultimate good, so that the ideal society would be ordered in the exact same way that the ideal human being would be. Thus, every part of one's psyche would correspond to a part of society(it's a microcosm!), and the "higher" parts of one's mind would be mirrored in the Guardians, the "higher" parts of society.
With that said, it is easy to see that the Republic proposes many things that disgust most modern human beings: censorship for political stability, ostracism of those with "weak" (read: human, sensitive, or some equivalent) emotions, killing young children, government regulation of sexual activity, and such. Even when Plato tries to give women equal rights, an _extremely_ radical idea in Ancient Greece, his ancient prejudices show up when he calls them "equal but weaker in all ways(morally, intellectually, and physically)".
Despite all of its shortcomings, the Republic was the work that singlehandedly separated the real from the ideal in Western civilization, and it also defined the kinds of questions that Western philosophers would try to answer until the 20th century. Pick up a book of Western philosophy at random, and I guarantee you that some issue introduced in the Republic will hit you within the first five pages. Even the Communist Manifesto rips off his discourse on women and his notion of work defining human beings. The Republic was the first work of real philosophy in the conversation of ideals that continues to this very day in fields as diverse as politics, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, and religion. (PS: If you think Plato's an idealistic fool, read Aristotle. So did he.)
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
It has been said that all philosophic work of the past 2400 years stands as footnotes to Plato's writings. 'Do the ends justify the means? What is justice? Whom does it serve? Who should serve as its guardians? Is it absolute or relative?'
Plato's protagonist is his old teacher, Socrates. The arguments are presented as dialogues and thus embody a literary aspect different from many, although certainly not all, subsequent philosophical writings. His object is "no trivial question, but the manner in which a man ought to live." The answers are seen to point to the manner in which a utopian society should be operated.
As a storied mountain calls to a climber from afar, Plato calls to the student of the art of thinking. This is why we read Plato, for the "neo-Platonists" -- Plotinus, Augustine, Descartes, Leibniz, Kant, Whitehead, Gödel, and others -- have certainly propounded improved philosophy. But it is Plato on whom they improve. Most thinkers (perhaps especially most mathematicians and logicians) yet agree with Plato, at least insofar as his understanding of "form" -- often adapted or restated as: ideas / perfection / consciousness / mind / or, 'the thing in itself'.
Plato's realm of [what he calls] "forms" acknowledges the mysterious, yet logically necessary, existence of non-material reality. In Republic he views this as the realm of reference in constructing his understanding of an ideal society. We find in the work of subsequent thinkers (and within Plato's Republic as well) that this non-material reality is perhaps more easily recognized in purer considerations of reason, aesthetics, mathematics, music, love, spiritual experience, and ultimately in consciousness itself, than in idealized human social institutions. Mathematics, for example, although readily practiced in material ways, is not itself material. Thus the understanding of the purity of reason as opposed to the synthetic (and uncertain) nature of empiricism, arises from the work of Plato (and is particularly well developed in Descartes' existentialism).
Modern readers should rightly find that Plato regards the State too highly; in pursuit of an ideal State his supposedly improved citizen is highly restricted and censored. His "utopian" citizens are automatons, bred by the State; unsanctioned infants are "disposed of." Where his ideas are wrongly developed, they are in fact important ideas, i.e., they are issues deserving serious examination. Should the ruling class be restricted to philosophers? Plato says yes, that wisdom and intellectual insight are more desirable in leaders than are either birthright or popularity. Of course we, in the democratic West, tend to see this idea as totalitarianism, but it remains an interesting argument.
Although the product of polytheistic culture, Plato is leery of the tangled accounts of the gods received from the poets, Homer, Hesiod, etc. His view of the divine -- that "the chief good" has one eternal, unchanging and surpassingly superior form -- which he also calls "Providence", hints strongly of the common ground which was to emerge between neo-Platonism and monotheism. Like Plato's proverbial cave dwellers, we perceive this transcendent entity through poorly understood "shadows" of the actual truth. Beside its philosophical, literary, political, and theological aspects, Republic is also important as a treatise on psychology, in fact the science of mind seems to have progressed very little beyond Plato's insights. Books 5-7 are particularly fascinating.