The Republic is widely recognized to be Plato’s masterpiece, but for centuries it has been the subject of much debate: is it about the ideal state, or the soul, or art, or education, or something else altogether? Interpretations have been many and various, for three main reasons: 1. studies have tended to concentrate on parts of this very long dialogue to the exclusion of other parts; 2. some of the opinions expressed in the dialogue are routinely regarded as being those of Plato himself; 3. the manifestly problematic inconsistencies and faulty argumentation are discussed and occasionally corrected as philosophical problems in their own right, and not as an organic part of the conversation. This book analyses the dialogue as a dialogue, a conversation between the characters presented in it, and examines the dialogue in its entirety. The result is a holistic interpretation making sense not only of the dialogue as a whole, but also of its parts, including the peculiarities. Each character is a paradigm representing an aspect of the central theme of the dialogue (apparent good), and it is because of what they represent that the conversation takes the overtly rambling and unstructured course that it does, while actually having a tight and well structured dynamic. Embracing the peculiarities rather than ignoring them, explaining them away, or correcting them piecemeal, is the first step on the way to understanding a Platonic text. Indeed, in general it is counter to philosophical thinking to impose on a text what one considers should be its meaning, rather than to examine and explain what is actually there.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Corrigendum. The son is not the father...

p. 97 of my book.

Here's a philologically interesting mistake (aka, an incredibly stupid slip of the keyboard):

On both occasions, the chain of events leading to the diversion begins with an elaborate description of the way Polemarchus uses physical means to attract attention — in both cases, by catching hold of a person’s tunic. In the first instance, it is Polemarchus’ slave who does this, but at the instigation of Polemarchus; in the second, it is Polemarchus himself:

327b2-5 Observing us from afar as we were setting off homewards, Polemarchus, the son of Cephalus, ordered his slave to run and order us to wait about. And the slave, behind me, catching hold of the tunic, said, “Cephalus orders you to wait about.”

The second appearance of "Cephalus", outlined here in red, should of course read "Polemarchus". The mistake seems to have occurred because "Cephalus" has just appeared in the preceding line, after many appearances of "Polemarchus". I am still astounded at my failure to spot this, since the whole point of the argument here is that Polemarchus diverts, the first diversion leading to the discussion as a whole, the second diversion leading to the "digression" of books V-VII.