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on 20 June 2012
Plato's Republic is one of the most important books ever written. (It's not often you can say that in a book review!) It's certainly one of the foundational texts of Western philosophy. It has had a profound and far-reaching effect upon philosophical literature throughout the ages. Plato, of course, wrote these dialogues to give voice to his mentor Socrates. Hence, the Republic resembles a play, in which the scene is set and characters are briefly introduced before Socrates embarks upon a prolonged philosophical debate about the ideal society, which also serves as a metaphor for the ideal organisation of the human psyche. The Capstone edition is an excellent gift. It's beautifully presented in a small hardcover edition, based on the classic 19th century translation by the Oxford scholar Benjamin Jowett. However, it is also prefaced with an excellent introductory essay by Tom Butler-Bowdon. Tom does a great job of introducing the text to the novice reader and providing an outline of its contents, highlighting some of the most important passages, such as the famous allegory of the cave and the curious myth of Er.

Tom is best-known as a self-help author. Indeed, I'd describe him as an expert on self-help literature, although he's also written about other subjects such as academic psychology. Is the Republic a self-help book? That might seem like an odd question to many academic philosophers. However, anyone who knows Plato's writings in detail will confirm that he thought of the practice of philosophy as a form of self-improvement, which aimed at the moral perfection of the soul and its wellbeing and liberation. The Republic, although superficially a book about society, is really an extended contemplation of moral virtue and the art of living in accord with wisdom and that which is absolutely good in itself. It's not difficult to recommend this book. Indeed it's one of the few books that I would suggest virtually everyone should read at some point. For many centuries in the past it was held in such high esteem and it continues to be relevant today.

As Tom's introduction notes, this is a book about one of the cardinal virtues, called dikaiosunç in ancient Greek. This is usually translated into English as the word "justice", although sometimes as "righteousness", and it in some contexts it appears to carry the connotation of personal integrity. As "justice" is the central concept explored by Socrates in the Republic, it's important to be aware that nuances of meaning may be obscured by any English translation. Jowett's translation is nevertheless a joy to read and this handy little book is beautifully presented. Don't hesitate to buy yourself a copy if you're thinking about reading Plato, I'm sure you'll enjoy it.
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on 14 June 2012
The translation used in this edition is from the 1908 edition of Benjamin Jowett's translation of the Republic. Jowett is worth reading on his own merits, but certainly it is an old translation in Victorian English. It is not written in the sort of medievalizing English favoured by some in the Victorian era, and I think it clear, but some might find a more contemporary translation clearer.
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Those who have read one or more of the volumes that comprise Tom Butler-Bowdon's "50 Classics" series already know that he possesses superior reasoning and writing skills as well as a relentless curiosity when conducting research on history's greatest thinkers and their major works. For these and other reasons, I cannot think of another person better qualified to provide the introductions to the volumes that comprise a new series, "Capstone Classics."

Unlike so many others, he provides more, much more than a flimsy "briefing" to the given work. In the 15-page Introduction to this volume, he poses and then responds to key subjects and related issues such as these in order to create a context, a frame-of-reference, for Plato's insights:

o The relevance to our own times of a book written almost 2400 years ago
o Plato's concept of [begin italics] justice [end italics] as expressed by Socrates
o Personal balance of reason (intellect), spirit (soul), and desire (heart)
o Interdependencies of the "state" (one's society) and the individual
o The defining characteristics of the "deal state"
o How and why a system of public education must empower the health of the state and its leaders
o Plato's views on the right of women and children
o The meaning and significance of "The Allegory of the Cave" in Plato's time and it relevance to our own

In his "Final Comments," Butler-Bowdon has this to say about "The Allegory": "Plato's parable of the cave is a precious reminder that most of us go through life chasing shadows and believing in appearances, when beyond the superficial world of the senses awaits timeless and perfect truth. Plato has Socrates make the case for philosophers being the only ones who can ascertain this truth through the study if the Forms, but today, of course, we all have access to education, books, and ethical or spiritual teachings, and each of us is equipped to contemplate the eternal."

As indicated earlier, Tom Butler-Bowdon's purpose in this introduction to this edition (translated with an analysis and introduction by Benjamin Jowett, Oxford University Press, 1908) is to create a context, a frame-of-reference, for Plato's insights. He does so brilliantly as well as in each of the other volumes in the "Capstone Classics" series that have been published thus far.
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on 30 April 2012
I read a different translation originally The Republic (Penguin Classics), but I lost my copy and decided to replace it with this nicer-looking hardback copy. I didn't know what all the fuss was about over different translations... but I quickly found out!

I was very pleased with my handsome new hardback, but when I started reading it, I was very disappointed. I would read a paragraph and then wonder what on earth I'd just read. Somehow, the words just felt unnatural and it was difficult to take in. At first I thought it was because I was tired, but then I realised it was the translation.

The paperback version (translated by Desmond Lee) is, by contrast, wonderful So smooth and easy to take in. I love this book. It has been a favorite of mine for years. I'm so glad to have my old friendly version back again. It turns out the translation makes all the difference.

I gave this book one star for its appearance... but only because there's no zero-stars option. The cliché is true: you can't judge a book by its cover.
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on 29 September 2012
I was compelled to read this book based on the reviews of Robert Morris and Donald Robertson, and also as I already possess most of the works of Tom Butler-Bowdon, which I value greatly. I concur with the excellent reviews given by Messrs Morris & Robertson and this excellent book now sits proudly in my library. I am now encouraged to buy more of the books in this excellent Capstone series, and look to 'be inspired'.
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on 3 June 2015
Fine addition to philosophy section of home library.
Thank you seller!
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on 18 October 2012
delivery of this book was free, as shared on the website. It was delivered within the promised timeframe. I am enjoying the book, and the commentaries promised inside the book have been met (receiving free commentaries from Tom). And, for sure, a new book is what l got delivered.
Thank you.
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