“Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of the world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils, — no, nor the human race, as I believe, — and then only will this our state have a possibility of life and behold the light of day.” Socrates
James V. Schall, S.J. (S.J. stands for Society of Jesus – a Jesuit) wrote an excellent book titled, Another Sort of Learning, with a significant sub-title; Selected Contrary Essays on How Finally to Acquire an Education While Still in college or Anywhere Else: Containing Some Belated Advice about How to Employ Your Leisure Time When Ultimate Questions Remain Perplexing in spite of your Highest Earned Academic Degree, Together with sundry Book Lists Nowhere Else in Captivity to Be Found.
If that subtitle doesn’t attract your attention I am not sure what will! It caught my attention about 20 years ago and in the years since, I’ve enjoyed some of the recommended great works, though not enough of them. Another Sort of Learning is an excellent book for those of us who like to read and intellectualize what we have read. This book is a road-map to some of the best literary classics western civilization has to offer with a focus on reaching for the higher things. Schall masterfully guides the reader to the great texts of western philosophical thought. Among Schall’s insightful recommendations are various classics from antiquity; Aristotle — On Ethics, Plato — The Republic, to Cicero and then on to 13th Century, scholarly works of Thomas Aquinas to the writings of C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton, those uncompromising intellects of the early 20th Century.
I know full well that my writing skills are simply inadequate to review any work of classic literature. Neither is it my intention to review Schall’s book, or any other. I merely wish to direct readers to some of the titles listed above. Of particular note and deserving special attention, to Plato — The Republic. To fully appreciate the depth and magnitude of the work, The Republic should be read, digested, read again and perhaps again. I have been told that the story really comes alive if read in Greek (the mother language of the scribe, Plato and the kindly old gentleman, Socrates). The Republic is timeless. It is filled with truths that have survived the ages. Quite simply, The Republic cannot be fully appreciated with only one reading. The book (actually 10 books combined into one) is monumental in it scope.
The painting titled, “The Death of Socrates“, by Jacques-Louis David, painted in 1787. Depicts the choice that the great philosopher accepted with tremendous stoicism. He was offered the option to renounce his teachings and beliefs or drink the hemlock (poison) as punishment for “corrupting the young”.
Many authors have written volumes analyzing The Republic. Here is a brief list of them;
- Annas, Julia (1981). An Introduction to Plato’s Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Benardete, Seth (1989). Socrates’ Second Sailing: On Plato’s Republic. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Blackburn, Simon (2007). Plato’s Republic: A Biography. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press.
- Bosanquet, B. (1895). A Companion to Plato’s Republic. London: Rivington, Percival & Co.
- Cairns, ed., Douglas (2007). Pursuing the good. University of Edinburgh Press.
- Craig, Leon (1994). The War Lover: A Study of Plato’s Republic. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
- Cross, R.C. (1964). Plato’s Republic: A Philosophical Commentary. London: Macmillan.
- dixsaut, monique (2005). études sur la république de platon. france: vrin.
- Ferrari, ed., G.R.F. (2007). The Cambridge Companion to Plato’s Republic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Howland, Jacob (1993). The Republic: The Odyssey of Philosophy. Philadelphia: Paul Dry Books.
- Kraut, ed., Richard (1997). Plato’s Republic: Critical Essays. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.
- Levinson, Ronald (1953). In Defense of Plato. Cambridge: Harvard.
- lisi, francisco (2007). the ascent to the good. London: ACADEMIA VERLAG.
- Mayhew, Robert (1997). Aristotle’s Criticism of Plato’s Republic. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.
- McNeill, David (2010). An Image of the Soul in Speech. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.
- Mitchell, Basil; Lucas, J.R. (2003). An Engagement with Plato’s Republic: A Companion to Plato’s Republic. Aldershot: Ashgate.
- Murphy, N.R. (1951). The Interpretation of Plato’s Republic. Oxford: Oxford U.P.
- Nettleship, Richard. (1898). Lectures on The Republic of Plato. London.
- Nettleship, Richard. (1935). The Theory of Education in Plato’s Republic. London: Oxford.
- Ophir, Adi (1991). Plato’s Invisible Cities. London: Routledge.
- Pappas, Nikolas (1995). Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Plato and the Republic. London: Routledge.
- Purshouse, Luke (2007). Plato’s Republic. London: Continuum.
- Reeve, C.D.C. (1988). Philosopher-Kings: The Argument of Plato’s Republic. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
- Rice, Daryl H. (1998). A Guide to Plato’s Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Roochnik, David (2003). Beautiful City. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
- Rosen, Stanley (2005). Plato’s Republic: A Study. New Haven: Yale University Press.
- Santas, ed., Gerasimos (2006). The Blackwell Guide to Plato’s Republic. Oxford: Blackwell.
- Santas, ed., Gerasimos (2010). understanding Plato’s Republic. Oxford: wiley-Blackwell.
- Sayers, Sean (1999). Plato’s Republic: An Introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
- Sesonske, ed., Alexander (1966). Plato’s Republic: Interpretation and Criticism. Belmont: Wadsworth.
- Sinaiko, Herman (1998). Reclaiming the Canon. New Haven: Yale University Press.
- Strauss, Leo (1964). The City and Man. Chicago: Rand McNally.
- White, Nicholas P. (1979). A Companion to Plato’s Republic. Indianapolis: Hackett.
- Wild, John (1946). Plato’s Theory of Man. Cambridge: Harvard.
- Wild, John (1953). Plato’s Modern Enemies and the Theory of Natural Law. Chicago: University of Chicago.
Schall asserts that “Plato is his own best teacher. You are sad on finishing The Republic and The Apology because you know that such literary power will not be found again in any subsequent political philosophers — except perhaps Augustine”. He continues, “If you read Plato only once, you have failed Plato. And if you have failed Plato, you have failed yourself.” Schall also cites Salvador de Madariaga, who recommended that “our culture should give to each man and woman, when each reaches the age of voting, a sturdy, elegant book containing an account of the death of Socrates and the death of Christ, the two men in the ancient world who never wrote a book, the two who were killed by the state.” Schall concludes that “Plato wrote The Republic, because the best state killed the best man. This is what began political theory.”
So, Dear Reader, I hope you will approach The Republic and embrace the wisdom that Socrates so eloquently shared with his friends and students.