Translated with an Introduction and Notes by Robin Waterfield 'What is at stake is far from insignificant: it is how one should live one's life.' The central work of the Western world's most famous philosopher, Republic is essentially an enquiry into morality, but it contains crucial arguments and insights into many other areas of philosophy. Socrates and others meet to discuss the ideal community, where morality can be achieved in the balance of wisdom, courage, and restraint. The dialogue is, however, as much about our internal life as about social morality, for these vital elements must likewise work together to create harmonious human beings.


I should say a few words about the strategy of the book. The translation is intended to be readable--as readable as I can make it and still remain true to Plato's Greek. We can only speculate on what kind of audience Plato wrote the book for: was it aimed at an intelligent lay readership or 'professional' philosophers? At any rate, his Greek is invariably readable and fluent, so I have tried to write the same kind of English.

Plato did not furnish his works with notes. Of course, his original audience would have detected more of his implicit references than most people will today; so it is incumbent on a translator to provide notes to explain as many of those obscurities as he can. But it is a virtue of end-of-book notes (as used in the World's Classics series) that one can read the translation without constantly feeling the need to interrupt one's reading to refer to what is printed at the foot of the page. In this sense one can simulate Plato's original audience, and that is for the best: like any great work, Republic has many facets, and a reader should enjoy it in the first instance for what he or she happens to get out of it.

Apart from the kind of explanatory notes mentioned in the previous paragraph, I have also occasionally indulged in critical and philosophical commentary. The chief purpose of this kind of note is to stimulate the reader to think more deeply about what he or she is reading; paradoxically, however, such notes in a volume like this are bound, for reasons of compass, to be rather dogmatic. A highly selective bibliography has been provided in case a reader is prompted to read further. These notes, then, should be understood to skim the surface of current scholarship on Republic. One thing I have avoided in the notes is cross-reference to other Platonic dialogues: Republic is so central within Plato's corpus that there would have been no end to it.

The Introduction is intended to provide some kind of overview of Republic and to develop one or two lines of thought at greater length than the notes would allow.

The two books I most frequently consulted were Sir Desmond Lee's translation, which always urged me to try to do better, and Julia Annas's modestly entitled 'Introduction', which constantly . . .

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