So you've asked some of the tough questions. You've questioned your teachers, you've questioned your parents, you've questioned yourself (you never thought to ask your boss), but no one seems to know--and you want answers. The Republic is not the book for you to read--unless you're willing to try to arrive at your own conclusions.
What is Justice? Minding one's own business, of course. If only Socrates had come upon this idea when he was young, the rest of us might have been spared all the torment. In the "Republic," however, he comes upon this conclusion before we are1/3 of the way through the book, and before the real summit of the dialogue. So, with regard to the fact that Socrates seems to be disobeying his own advice (being patently unjust), what could he mean by his definition of justice?
Why is life, your life--your only life, perhaps,--best led in pursuit and obeyance of reason? Why not something else? What else is there to pursue/obey? What's the difference between a poet/artist and a philosopher? Don't the artists have a better time? Should a ruler lie to his/her constituents? His/her children? How important is family? What is inherent in a person? What isn't? How much control do we have and how should we use what we have? What political structure would be best for people? Do the ends justify the means, especially if no one sees the means? Is Justice good in itself? Like dancing or great love making? And is Justice good for its consequences? How should I live my life? Why? Why? WHY???
How do we begin to understand our place in the world?? How do we begin to understand the world??
The Republic will not answer any of these questions for you--unless you believe everything your parents told you. But this book will help you to understand much more closely what you believe about all of these questions and many more. It will encourage you to come up with reasons of your own for your opinions. And it will point out some starting points for the last couple questions.
How can someone give The Republic 3 stars? You just press a button, move the mouse, and press it again. I'd give it 5 stars if I thought that anyone would reconsider reading the book because they saw that the average review was a mere 4 1/2 stars. But, of course, it will only get the number of readers that any other great but difficult book gets--not enough.
Is Bloom's translation the only responsible way to read The Republic? No. It would be entirely possible to read the book in greek without reading it responsibly. The only truly responsible way to read the Republic is to read it attentively with the use of all of one's faculties. Whether you agree or disagree with each question/statement is of paramount importance, as is the relation between your tentative conclusions. The difficulty of reading responsibly, however, fatigues even professional scholars whose reputations are on the line (although that may not be the most important of wagers). Luckily, one of the beauties of the Republic is that it really does cater to every level of engagement, except non-engagement, and tries to stimulate each person to further thought.
The Republic will not be too much for you. Or, rather, it will be too much, but that only means you're human. And, though it will challenge your beliefs and opinions, shock--even scare--you, and throw much of your clarity and order into confusion, I believe you will be a better person for having honestly asked these questions. And that you will become better by trying to answer them.
Life demands that you live by your answers to these questions and many more like them. They are worth asking.
Plus, the overall structure of the ideas contains a beauty seldom seen in any human creation.
Altogether, a really good book. A life changer.
What is so fascinating about this translation and the essay is that it deviates in important ways from the typical Christian Platonist conception of philosophy. Bllom is engaged in a war of sorts, it is stunning oh so many other academics fail to recognize how Bloom undermines their common assumptions about 'The Republic' and philosophy itself. Note the absence of comment on the 'Divided Line' of Book VI, and the entire discussion of the 'Theory of Forms' get short shrift. Why? There is a reason, if you follow the interpretitive essay, a parenthitic expression sends shivers- did Bloom really suggest 'The Just City in Speech' is not the best regime? Haunting. This view of 'The Republic' is deeply dependent on Leo Strauss' earlier groundbreaking sensitivity to irony. This is easy to say-IRONY- Plato was ironic, "The Republic' is ironic, but what does that really mean? An excellent read, and read, and read again.