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Simon Blackburn - Plato's Republic

The term Utopia wasn't invented until 1516, when Thomas More published his now classic rendition of an ideal society. But the general concept had already taken place almost two thousand years earlier, when Plato wrote his Republic, a philosophical masterpiece exploring the nature, importance, need, justification and maintenance of a just society. Along the way, however, Plato devotes a substantial amount of pages to considering and proposing various arguments, allegories and thought experiments concerning issues as diverse as the nature of justice, the theory of Forms, the role of philosophers in society (hint: they're in charge), the importance of being an ethical person, the relationship between art and the state, a communal conception of parenting, arguments regarding equal opportunities based on sex/gender, and many, many more.

That's not to say that there haven't been powerful critiques of Plato's Republic. It has been credited, for instance, and by philosophers as influential as Karl Popper, of paving the philosophical road to totalitarian states such as those embodied by Hitler and Stalin, and with providing justification for the violation of individual rights in the name of the state. And in the following excerpt from Simon Blackburn's delightful book on Plato's Republic, narrator Simon Vance masterfully conveys these fascinating ideas with the sophistication, the pathos and the elegance for which he has become one of the most influential, memorable and coveted readers of our generation in the English-speaking world.

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