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.
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?