I guess you get out of this book what you bring to it. Having already been familiar with most of Plato's teachings, as well as his times, I found this volume to be a delightful refresher course. Instead of a dry, condensed outline it is a humorous and original comprehensive overview. Cavalier obviously knows his dialogs- I found no "dumbing down" here.
Those teachers of mine that stressed that if one wanted to be "truly educated" one had to be familiar with Plato's teachings were absolutely correct. When you start digging into subjects of true and lasting worth you always end up back at Plato. When I was younger I would have laughed at the idea that some "dry as dust" greek philosopher could ever be meaningful to me. You see, I confused Plato's philosophy with the "dry as dust" approach that passes for philosophy in modern times. Plato himself not only asked what Truth, Justice, and Beauty were- he actually knew that they really existed as Ultimates. The same with Good- he knew it existed. Plato accepted the validity of omens, dreams, the mysteries, and the pre-existance of the human soul, as well as, an afterlife. It was Plato who gave us the concept of "heaven." In fact, if you examine the words that were put in Christ's mouth in the New Testament you find that every statement is a paraphrase of Plato.
As for political matters, Plato believed that concern over one's own wealth and power was the source of most conflict, and that the goal of any system of laws and government should be making all people as happy and friendly as possible- and not merely a privaleged elite.
I can't help but speculate on how different western culture would have been if Plato's undiluted teachings, or even Plotinus' neoplatonism, had been the real spiritual core of our civilization.
Like other "for Beginner" books, the Plato version is also an excellent and concise overview for those who want a quick read. Illustrations aren't anything to marvel at, but they do make for a more interesting book. Despite the negative criticism in other reviews (such as that posed by the Seattle reader,) I recommend the book highly. As for spelling mistakes, that is easily explained because it is meant foremost for a British audience where words such as center are spelled centre. No big deal. TLC