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The Last Days of Socrates (Penguin Classics) Reissue Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0140449280
ISBN-10: 0140449280
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About the Author

Plato (c.427-347 BC) stands with Socrates and Aristotle as one of the shapers of the whole intellectual tradition of the West. He founded the Academy in Athens, the first permanent institution devoted to philosophical research and teaching, and theprototype of all Western universities. 

Hugh Tredennick was Dean of the Faculty of Arts at London University.

Harold Tarrant is Senior Lecturer in Classics at the Univesity of Sydney.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (April 29, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140449280
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140449280
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,369 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An amazing book, although I have my reservations about the translation style. The author tried make it contemporary, and while I appreciate that there is a limit on what you can do without destroying the actual spirit of the writings of Plato. I managed to read an older translation (circa 1969) and appreciated that version much better. There seems to be a hot-bed of argument regarding the translation process of books the farther you go back in time. I don't intend to get into a philosophical debate when rating this as it is the matter of the book and not what is inside. If you prefer to read books with a more modern slant on translation then certainly this book will suit your needs. However if you desire for a more older English that reaches a larger vocabulary palate then I suggest looking somewhere else.
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The Last Days of Socrates is a essential reading for anyone with an interest in philosophy or Western culture. What I find so amazing about and most ancient philosophy is that the questions it raises are still relevant today. For those readers not familiar with Plato, the author of the four dialogues that make up the book, he lived during the fourth century BC. Plato is credited with founding the Academy in Athens, which was essentially the first institution devoted to philosophical research and teaching. Many scholars claim it was the prototype of all Western universities.

It's interesting to note that, Plato was a student of Socrates. And much like Jesus Christ, we have no written documents from Socrates himself. Strangely, this isn't the only similarity between Socrates and Jesus Christ either. Whatever the reason, it seems that many people in modern society believe that the philosophy of the ancients is not relevant to them. I believe the contrary and I'm not sure we're any wiser in the modern era. In fact, I'm quite sure that we aren't. Yes, technology has changed, but life's most important questions have not. And we still don't have answers to them. If anything, there are more distractions and noise that keep us from pondering the mysteries of life today.

Anyway, this book is a collection of four early Socratic dialogues: "Euthyphro," "Apology," "Crito," and "Phaedo." Translator Harold Tarrant explains in his introduction that most scholars do not believe the events depicted by Plato actually happened, but rather, they are Plato's depiction of Socratic philosophy in action. It's also worth noting that the Socratic dialogues were not unique to Plato.
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THE DEATH OF SOCRATES is a very inspiring book to read, especially now, when many of us may be facing the same situation he faced--though with a crucial difference. Whatever distortion of the real Socrates may have been introduced by Plato or other writers, enough comes through to paint a portrait of the first true individual in history-- the first person to be guided by his own individual conscience to do what is right, regardless of the consequences. Reading the Apology, one thrills to Socrates intransigence in the face of the Athenian jury which sentenced him to death. CRITO presents the best argument for government under law ever offered, and thus the beginning of the tradition of civil disobedience later taken up by Thoreau, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. When Socrates' friend Crito urges him to flee, saying that most people will think he was really guilty if he does not, Socrates says, "Why should we pay so much attention to what most people think?" Then he engages in a symbolic dialogue with the Law of Athens, which can be thought of as comparable to the US Constitution. It is clear that he is grateful to the Laws for having given him the opportunity to be a dissenter. The crucial fact is that they have permitted him the right to attempt to persuade his fellow citizens by permitting him free speech. Even when he was arrested for his teachings, he was allowed to speak in his own defense. Although the verdict was unjust, he was a victim not of the Laws but of his fellow men. (p. 95)

However, the tradition of civil disobedience which Socrates founded is only meaningful in a democracy, where people have the right to dissent and to have a fair and public trial. And it is rapidly becoming obsolete.
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Format: Paperback
Karl Popper hated Plato. He had good reason. See his "The Open society and its enemies". Thomas Jefferson hated Plato. He had good reason as well. Boogle his letters, or, if you still live in that era, go to the library and demand his complete correspondence and work your way through it. It may be time better spent than reading the complete "Dialogues" of Plato.

But read this before for you do that or something like it. Plato mattered, whether we like it or not. He appealed to Christians and Muslims (I've heard that the Ayatollah Khomeini wrote a commentary on the Republic), and you will note, over time, that his appeal was usually greatest for those who had an inherent attachment to command-and-control societies. There were some exceptions, though: Bertrand Russell, for example had many kind things to say about Plato, though not much, as I remember, in connection with Plato's daffy notions of statecraft. There were reasons for such exceptions.

Plato may have been the greatest prose writer we've ever gotten, among those who were not writing fiction. Or at least not those whose principle aim was to write fiction; Plato himself works characterization, plot and drama into his pieces. Plato is certainly the greatest Greek Prose writer. If you are young and don't read Greek, learn it. If you don't have time (meaning old, there's no other excuse), read this book.

This short book includes four "dialogues". I put the word in quotation marks to indicate (for those not already aware) that Plato's works are normally called "dialogues" in English parlance, and to indicate that I don't believe that the word is, usually, appropriate to what Plato was doing.
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