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The Republic Paperback – January 13, 2015
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It is also significant that when at the University of Chicago, Bloom, who was a member of the Committee on Social Thought, attempted to gain a joint appointment as well in both the Classics department and Philosophy departments. Neither would have him, neither thinking him qualified to teach at an institution such as the University of Chicago. No doubt some of the problem was political, since Bloom was an extreme conservative of the old school (the type which people lament that we have no kings and no aristocracy, yearning for the days of serfs and masters, a conservativism that is definitely not currently in vogue). I can personally attest to his unbelievable incompetence as a scholar. As a new grad student at the U of C, and not yet knowing his reputation as a weak scholar, I sat in on the first day of a class he was teaching on Tolstoy's ANNA KARENINA. On that day he he made the astonishing statement that there had been no great Third World literature. I sat there somewhat stunned while another student raised their hand and asked, "What about Garcia Marquez?" Bloom turned in his direction, glared for a second, and waved a hand in the air, dismissing the author of what is almost universally the greatest work of literature of the second half of the Twentieth Century.
So what translation should you read instead of this wretched one? Interestingly, in both of the classes I took on THE REPUBLIC, the translation that each recommended was one by another University of Chicago professor, albeit one from much earlier in the Twentieth Century, Paul Shorey. His translation can be found in two places. One is the one volume COLLECTED DIALOGUES of Plato edited by Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns. The other is in its original source, the Loeb edition of THE REPUBLIC. Other good translations include that by Grube in the Hackett edition and Robin Waterfield's more recent translation in the Oxford World's Classics edition. Unlike Bloom's translation, which strives for a word by word translation, which thereby distorts the sense of the text by ignoring idiom, these attempt to be faithful to the original Greek in all its senses. If one wants an older translation, that by Benjamin Jowett remains an excellent one.
I own all of these translations and have profited by them. I had the Bloom translation at one point, but I sold it after finding it to be so difficult to use and after hearing what low esteem it was held by actual classicists. Do yourself a favor and get instead of this the Hamilton and Cairns edition of the Dialogues. You'll get not only the best translation of THE REPUBLIC, but all of Plato's works in solid translations.
I have a few reasons to be suspicious about Bloom's work here:
1. As a student of Strauss, Bloom learnt well the power of esotericism. That means to me he is both aware of (and possibly) uses esotericism as part of the translation. I didn't like the idea of ideologues such as the Straussians having anything to do with a text that is already pregnant with esoteric meaning. Read Strauss if you wish (I did) to develop one's understanding of The Republic but read another translation as one's reference. It will help you come to your own conclusions about this towering and radical work of philosophy.
2. I've applied a very quick litmus test of "safe" translations by going straight to 362a of the text to determine whether the translator has used the word "crucified", "crucify" or similar when referring to the punishment meted out to the just man. Some texts go further by "clarifying" that the translation should "literally" read 'impale' and from my point of view, use of the concept of crucifixion is way too close to what is to my mind a completely unnecessary and misleading Christianisation of the text. Interestingly, Bloom is credited with removing the long standing tradition of Christian-Platonic readings via the Straussian re-interpretation of Plato. However this version of The Republic by Bloom repeats this very significant mistranslation and puts into doubt the whole project undertaken by him.
Similarly, I rejected the penguin/Jowett versions that come from this same tradition.
So, what are my recommendations? I have to go with Grube/Reeve versions. They are atheistic/pantheistic, uncoloured but still poetic and powerful translations. One of Reeve's versions comes with the dialogue broken up against each character to assist with reading [...] but either version is excellent and I strongly recommend them over Bloom's version.
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+Timeless issues that are very relevant today
-Slow read that takes a long time to get to the point