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An Introduction to Plato's Republic Paperback – 3 Sep 1981

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Product details

  • Paperback: 372 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; Reprint edition (3 Sept. 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198274297
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198274292
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 1.8 x 14 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 170,348 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Can be warmly recommended to teachers of the Republic....Annas' book, with its candor and skillful treatment of the issues, will add freshness and excitement to the study of the Republic; it will also provide students with an excellent model of philosophical scholarship."--Teaching Philosophy"It is obvious that many years of study and teaching of Plato's treatise lie behind her account. Only a first-rate philosopher can bring difficult passages in the Republic to life; Annas us equal to the task."--Choice"This book is likely to be of value to readers of the Republic regardless of the degree of familiarity with the text. On the one hand, it provides an accessible introduction. With a minimum of technical language, Annas systematically takes the reader through the Republic, showing how the various problems with which Plato is concerned frequently run deeper than first appearances suggest. And she is careful to tie the array of issues taken up to Plato's basic objectives, thereby revealing the remarkable coherence of the text itself. But this book is more than just an introduction. Those interested in the more technical aspects of the text will find a fountain of fresh ideas in Annas's discussions. Drawing on (and frequently taking issue with) many of the recent contributions to this area of Platonic studies, Annas develops novel and intriguing approaches to those aspects of the Republic often found so vexing."--The Philosophical Review"Reading this is as exhilarating for the mind as rock climbing is for the body."--Dennis Lamb, Professor of English, Edmonds Community College

About the Author

Julia Annas is at University of Arizona, Tucson.

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The Republic is Plato's best-known work, and there are ways in which it is too famous for its own good. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By T. Blackburn on 8 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Annas is one of the foremost and important scholars on the subject of Ancient Philosophy, and this book is a seminal work for anybody studying the Republic. It gives a great overview as well as analyzing some of the most important issues in depth, and with great clarity. Expensive to buy new, a second hand copy comes cheap as you get for such an important work of academic philosophy.
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By Mr Bryan H Oakes on 2 Mar. 2015
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Amazon.com: 4 reviews
26 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Better look elsewhere! 28 Jan. 2005
By Mr. S. Koller - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book grew out of Annas' experience of teaching Plato's Republic to students in a course that's all about evaluating Plato's arguments for their philosophical merit. She aims for this goal so single-mindedly as to deprive herself from providing to her audience any further profits a book on Plato's Republic may provide - profits such as, fuel the reader's sheer enjoyment of reading Plato, or learn at a more accurate level what Plato's views were.

For instance, this book makes a case for Plato being a mysogynist (women-hater) and favoring dictatorship of the (almost) worst kind. Unless you happen to favor those views yourself, this won't add much to making Plato an enjoyable read for you. What's worse, however, is that the book doesn't actually spend sufficient time arguing for those interpretations, let alone addressing countervailing ones. And on that level it achieves the very opposite of what it set out to do, namely make people engage critically with a set text.

You see, the idea might have been to make people read Annas so as to engage with Plato critically. The problem however is that people who aren't critically minded to begin with won't start to become so simply by being told - a point Plato's Socrates was fully aware of but this book (apparently) isn't. Rather, what I repeatedly find in student essays on the Republic is that they swallow Annas's claims, enjoy the short lived pleasure of scoring cheap points in the game called "acing your exam essay", without ever engaging critically with either Annas or (for that matter) Plato.

To see what a vast difference an author can make to encourage readers to engage with his book critically, have a look at Burnyeat's "Theaetetus", a fine work on many levels, and an outstanding example of what writing on Plato can be without being mindless praise.

Personally I'm glad there are more rewarding books to recommend to students of Plato's Republic these days, and if you're interested at all, I suggest you have a look at the multi-authored "Cambridge Companion to Plato's Republic" (2007) and "Blackwell Guide to Plato's Republic" (2006).

[Beginning of Dec 2013 edit]

Having recently worked on Republic Book X, and its discussion of poêsis, I must say Annas book has not aged well. Her chapter on the material shows all the usual faults that run through the book as a whole. Lack of engaging the primary text in favour of attending to personal axes to grind, focus on secondary literature (such as it is) with a narrow Anglophone focus on all but the most recent scholarship, and on the whole a tone that is offensively condescending to Plato ("hopelessly bad arguments", p. 344). The first and third of these really make for a poor reading experience overall. Take Annas' claim (p.335) that book X does not relate that well to books I-IX, that book X "itself appears gratuitious and clumsy, and is full of oddities", from which she concludes (!) that "Plato failed as a literary artist".

I'm sorry, but I have a hard time to see how anyone can uphold such a view twenty years on. More recent work on book X by Myles Burnyeat (Tanner Lectures 1999, available for free online), Verity Harte (Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, 2010), or the aforementioned 2007 Cambridge Companion to Plato's Republic show rather unkindly how Annas' work has passed over many nuances of book X to arrive at the slamming verdict she does. Her chapter on book X is rife with misreadings or - as in the omission of female guardians - omissions (e.g. the whole psychology-audience, of which Burnyeat and Harte make so much in their analyses, is simply passed by). But it's those misreadings and omissions that make it often possible for Annas to attribute certain philosophical positions ('errors') to Plato at all. This is why, I feel, whatever philosophical insights one takes away from Annas have precious little to do with Plato.

In saying this, I don't mean to slam Annas as an author. Indeed, I value her books on Hellenistic Ethics (Oxford 1994) and on the Middle Platonists (2000) very highly, because she allows herself much more time with the primary texts, and shows what amazing insights can be gleaned if one engages the full secondary literature beyond Anglophone binders (such as her discussion of French scholarship on the Stoics).

Annas herself has set these standards in subsequent work. Measured against such standards her 1980s work on Plato simply falls short. Unless other readers have concrete points to the contrary, I uphold my view that people wanting to understand Plato's Republic will 'better look elsewhere'.

[end of Dec 2013 edit]
47 of 71 people found the following review helpful
A Misguided Mish-Mash of Academic Conceit. 22 Feb. 2000
By Michael Russell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is profoundly flawed. The author is oblivious to the implications of her admitted license. For instance, she uses the term 'moral' while admitting that it comes from a tradition post-dating Plato ('Introduction' p.11) and uses it to smear across distictions Plato himself found necessary. Professor Annas refuses to deal with the core concepts, as core concepts specific to Plato's time and place, and substitutes them playfully with her own modern day conceits. I quote: "I shall use 'morality' for the area of practical reasoning carried on by an agent which is concerned with the best way for a person to live." Why does she need to do this? If one was to say 'the best way to live' as Plato himself does, is that not sufficent? Does the reader/student really need a professor to explain that Plato really means 'morality'?. Baffling is why so much time is spent on non-Platonic terminology. To continually butcher 'The Republic' with these artificial terms, such as 'moral', 'values', 'society', and 'state' is to assume 'we' know more than 'they' did. This is a historical prejudice , and it does an injustice to the unsuspecting reader/student. Moreover, Professor Annas seems to be obtuse to the dramatic quality of the dialogue. An educated reader of this book cannot help but think this when the author stumbles across (454d-e) of 'The Republic'- quoting Socrates "the male begets, the female gives birth." Professor Annas then evaluates the statement, "This is an admirable argument as far as it goes; for Plato has removed any possibility of treating women as inferior as a class...but the argument suffers from being too generally stated" ( 'Plato's State', ch.7,p. 182 bottom). The author goes on to give her opinion on why it is too general- i.e: her considered views on the merits of a gender equality argument- which is fine and worth reading on it's own terms, if it was offered as such, but it is not offered as such. This is suppost to be a book on 'Plato's Republic', thus the title. Ask yourself- is that true? Is the only difference between men and women that men mount, or begat, and women bear, or give birth? That is what Plato and Socrates are asking? If the author of a commentary on 'The Republic' does not take that question seriously, and goes on to sum up her interpretation on the dramatic episode as: "Plato is confused." (p. 184), how can a reader take it seriously?
10 of 17 people found the following review helpful
A wonderful study of the Republic 15 Nov. 2002
By Thomas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
What is wonderful about this study by Julia Annas is the personal tone of her writing; her profound knowledge of ancient Greek philosophy and Plato is constantly confronted with her own views as a modern philosopher of our times, at times she admires Plato and at others she is shocked by his extremism. The only other study written this clearly is Nicholas Whites' "A Companion to Plato's Repbulic."
The only thing I miss is a discussion of the literary, theatrical aspect of the text, the question being: are all of Socrates' views in the Republic really Plato's own? Is not Socrates a mask, an actor for Plato? Julia Annas automatically ascribes Socrates' views to Plato in her study. But this is of course an option that is possible, although not shared by all scholars.
11 of 23 people found the following review helpful
an excellent book on the Republic.. 5 Aug. 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The Republic covers many subjects and it's not possible for someone to write a comprensive book on the Republic. Most of the book written on the Republic usually focus on few particular subjects (the most notable one is justice). An Introduction to Plato's Republic is one of the few exception. Julia Annas doesn't interpreted the Republic from one point of view. She presented the Republic as Plato intended.. In the others words, the Republic is not the book about Politic only; it is also the book of metaphysics, educations, morality. Every chapters are very thorough and extensive but simple enough to read..
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