The Republic of Plato - Allan Bloom, Plato It seems somewhat silly to rate The Republic. Despite what one thinks about the book, it’s impact is unquestionable on Western thought. There is temptation to give it 5 stars with little elaboration to hint at its profound transfer of wisdom or 1 star to show how modern thought has made Plato irrelevant.

With those disclaimers out of the way, I give it 4 stars.

To the casual reader, such as myself, The Republic is not an easy read. However, it is much easier to digest than many of Plato’s other works. The Republic challenges Socrates to create a value system rather than simply dissect others which seems more prevalent in the majority of Plato’s dialogues. Most people are familiar with the Socratic method, but the simple fact remains that dialectical arguments flow much better in conversation than in writing. Plato’s insertion of spurious arguments and presuppositions can slip in unnoticed if one doesn’t remain diligent in reading.

But what makes this book great, at least this particular edition, I credit Allan Bloom. I specifically sought out Bloom’s translation as I had heard it was considered the definitive translation. His translator notes stress the importance of translation without interpretation. He doesn’t fall into the hubristic trap of believing that the modern reader (or translator) has moved past Plato’s arguments and therefore is in a position to interpret and present a condensed, or more succinct, version of Plato’s position. Bloom provides ample endnotes providing valuable explanations as to phrases and societal references. I would have preferred that they be inserted as footnotes for more seamless reading, but that is a minor editorial complaint.

However, it is Bloom’s 130 page interpretative essay included at the end which was most informative. Having dissected this work word-for-word, Bloom provides a narrative return through The Republic. While going through Plato’s writing, it’s easy to feel, as Dennis Danvers stated in The Watch
"Let's start with The Republic," he says, and does, and continues on from there without pausing for my Let's not. I try to listen, but it all sounds to me like it's just another lemming trek down the it-doesn't-matter-what-you think, only-how-you-think road over the it-doesn't-matter-what-you-do precipice to drown in a sea of precious pointlessness.
But there is more. There is irony. There is sarcasm. There is a response to societal criticism. With Bloom’s careful assistance, I saw layers to The Republic that I would never have seen otherwise. Yes, there is the metaphor of the cave, talk of justice and forms of government. But there is much more that a true critical reading of this book can reveal. And though few of us will ever bother to gain the same level of familiarity with the times and thoughts of Socrates, Bloom willingly shares his.