4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Best translation of Plato's masterpiece. Great introduction and notes.,
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This review is from: Republic (Oxford World's Classics) (Kindle Edition)
Plato's text is easy to read, but difficult to understand, which is why this edition is so good. I have a hard copy and Kindle version of Waterfield's translation which was also used by Simon Blackburn in his own book on the Republic.
Here's my take on the book after multiple readings of this and other translations.
There are two ideas of the 'good' at play in the Republic.
Firstly, the idea of the 'good' as doing the right thing; what we call ethics or justice, this is the traditional idea of the Good presented by Glaucon in the Republic. Plato shows this to be inadequate at the beginning of the dialogue. The other, is the idea of the 'good' as something constituted, in such a way, that it can fulfil a particular purpose; this something, might be a household implement, an individual human being, or a community of human beings. The function of a knife is to cut, while the function of human beings, is to live and prosper. In order to cut, the knife must be sharp, and easily handled; in order to live and prosper, human beings must be healthy, and well provided for. Plato goes on to show, that this idea on its own, is also inadequate, and that the two types of 'good' are integral to something, much broader and deeper, than just ethics or function. This broader and deeper conception of the Good is Plato's imaginative project in the Republic; but before he can present his ideas, he looks to understand, how human beings are constituted, and how ethics or justice, have been formulated, to facilitate life and prosperity.
Justice is the 'business of everyone performing their task ... the principle that each single individual is to perform his own task without troubling himself about the tasks of others'. Morality is how we treat others; if we respect the fact that each person has a different task to perform, we will also respect, the resources they have at their disposal, in order to complete these tasks. How are human beings constituted? According to Plato, the mind or soul, is made up of three faculties forming a pyramid structure, with rationality at the apex, a passionate nature forming the middle, and a desiring appetite the base. 'The desirous part, is the major constituent of an individual's mind and is naturally insatiably greedy for things', 'the rational part is wise and looks out for the whole of the mind', and should rule, with the passionate part as its subordinate ally. 'The rational part will do the planning, and the passionate part the fighting'. Plato argues that communities reflect this tripartite structure of the human mind. When the human being or community is well-regulated it is able to sustain life and prosperity.
In this way, morality is both ethical and functional. The most rational part of the human mind, and the most rational part of a community, must rule in order for mankind to fulfil its particular purpose. Plato's broader and deeper conception of the Good, draws on these ideas, but at the same time relegates, life and prosperity, to the status of a common concern. It is the task of the philosopher to move beyond these concerns and search for the ideal form of the Good.