Without doubt the greatest and most provocative work of political philosophy ever produced in the West, The Republic is here presented in the stately and melodious Jowett translation-a perfect mirror of the beauty of Platos style.
Beginning as an inquiry into justice as it operates in individuals, The Republic soon becomes an inquiry into the problems of constructing the perfect state. Are the masses really qualified to choose virtuous leaders? Should the rulers of a state receive a special education to prepare them to exercise power virtuously? What should such an education consist of? Should artists who do not use their gifts in a morally responsible way still be allowed a place in society? The Republics answers to these and related questions make up a utopian (or, perhaps, dystopian) program that challenges many of the modern worlds most dearly held assumptions-and leads us to reexamine and better understand those assumptions.
Plato (c. 427-347 B.C.) was born into a wealthy and prominent family, and grew up during the conflict between Athens and the Peloponnesian states. The execution of his mentor, Socrates, in 399 B.C. on charges of irreligion and corrupting the young, necessitated Platos leaving Athens. He traveled to Egypt as well as to southern Italy, where he became conversant with Pythagorean philosophy. Plato returned to Athens c. 387 B.C. and founded the Academy, an early forerunner of the modern university. Aristotle was among his students.
The most important of the Socratic dialogues, The Republic is concerned with the construction of an ideal commonwealth and thus is the earliest of utopias.