Plato's Republic

Course No. 4537
Professor David Roochnik, Ph.D.
Boston University
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Course No. 4537
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Course Overview

It is the first work in the history of Western political philosophy and, arguably, the most influential—so influential that the entire European philosophical tradition has been described as being nothing more than a "series of footnotes" to its author. Yet Plato's Republic, more than 2,000 years after its appearance, and in spite of the many provocative directions those footnotes have taken, still remains astonishingly relevant in its own right.

It poses one question after another that might well have been drawn from the headlines and debates of our nation's recent history:

  • What sort of person should rule the state? Is it ever permissible for a ruler to lie to the citizens? Should women be given the same political opportunities as men? What is the role of education in politics?
  • Should citizens be allowed full freedom when it comes to sexual relationships and private property?
  • Are all citizens equal before the law?
  • Is censorship of music and literature ever justifiable?
  • Should everyone have equal access to health care?

And these questions, no matter how vital they may be on their own, are only intellectual stepping stones along the pathway of Plato's greater inquiry—the question of defining justice itself and the reasons why a man or woman would choose a life aligned with that virtue.

In Plato's Republic, Professor David Roochnik leads you through the brilliant dialogue Plato crafted both to define and examine the issues with which political philosophy still grapples.

Chapter by chapter—what the Republic presents as "books"—Professor Roochnik introduces you to Plato's literary recasting of his own great teacher, Socrates, and the dialogue through which Socrates and the Republic's other characters create the hypothetical ideal city. It is by dissecting life in this presumably just city—the "Republic" of Plato's title—that the nature of justice itself can be examined.

Explore Justice through the Socratic Method

Socrates presents question after question, refuting each in a manner that leads to still another question, as Socrates's—and Plato's—ideas about the nature of justice and the society necessary for justice's emergence gradually unfold.

Many of those ideas will startle contemporary readers, who may recognize in them the foreshadowing of some of humankind's darkest moments.

Plato, for instance, has Socrates present what has come to be known, notoriously, as the "noble lie," the assertion that human beings are not born of their parents but of the city itself. Moreover, those men and women are born into three predetermined social classes—with souls containing gold, silver, or bronze—that must never mingle.

Preserving that purity of class—very similar to a caste system—also means the careful supervision of reproduction. If a bronze-souled child, for example, is born to a gold-souled woman, it is taken away to be raised by citizens of like soul.

If this sounds suspiciously like what we have come to know as the eugenics once offered as a route to racial purity, making you uncomfortable and suggesting why some have called the Republic the "great-great-grandfather of all totalitarian experiments," then Professor Roochnik would be far from disappointed.

Indeed, that discomfort with one of the great names in philosophy—literary character or not—is something he believes is a very good thing.

"Socrates's proposals will cause readers to object. They will find, however, that even if they disagree with what Socrates recommends, developing arguments against his proposals is a most valuable exercise," he says.

"They will be forced to think through basic assumptions concerning politics. For example, almost all of us believe political freedom is a good thing, and that all citizens should be counted as equal before the law. But why? Plato will encourage us to defend our most cherished beliefs."

Repeatedly, Plato puts those beliefs to the test.

Can You Defend Your Beliefs Against Plato?

Do you believe in freedom of the press and in an artist's right to set forth the ideals he or she believes in?

Socrates's ideal city is one in which cultural activity, because of its central role in forming the character of its citizens and developing the city's guardians and leaders, must be strictly censored and controlled. He notes that it is "imperative for the rulers of the city to supervise the makers of tales."

Do you believe there should be universal access to medical care, and that the infirm, or those with less to contribute to society, deserve to be treated?

In Socrates's ideal city—which he is constructing, remember, to examine the definition of and reason for justice—doctors exist to further the well-being of the city. If those who are less useful to the city, or no longer useful at all, must therefore go without care, even to the point of death, so be it.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Plato’s Life and Times
    Lecture 1 moves from a brief overview of the course to a discussion of Plato's life and times, and the influences his world would have upon his work. x
  • 2
    Book I—The Title and the Setting
    In addition to introducing the characters of Plato's dialogue, this first book also introduces Plato's basic questions about justice and the person and method of Socrates. x
  • 3
    Book I—Socrates versus Thrasymachus
    The central debate of Book I takes place between Socrates and the Sophist, Thrasymachus. Though much of the latter's relativism is refuted, the questions at the heart of their dispute remain unanswered. x
  • 4
    Book II—The City-Soul Analogy
    Socrates introduces the city-soul analogy, the individual soul "written large," and we look at the first of the cities that will be constructed as a means of defining justice. x
  • 5
    Books II and III—Censorship
    Socrates argues that since the cultural world plays the central role in forming citizen character, music and literature of all kinds must be censored in a just city. x
  • 6
    Book III—The Noble Lie
    Socrates's censorship program culminates in the "noble lie," in which the city itself—where the predetermined social classes of birth should not mingle—is the parent. x
  • 7
    Book III—Socrates's Medical Ethics
    Socrates presents a radical view of the practice of medicine and the allocation of medical resources in his just city, and the student is challenged to articulate a response. x
  • 8
    Book IV—Justice in the City and Soul
    We see Socrates complete his city-soul analogy—including the "four cardinal virtues "—and then discuss Plato's psychology, especially his notion of the harmony of the soul. x
  • 9
    Book V—Feminism
    Do Socrates's conditions for justice make him a feminist? We examine his proposals in a contemporary light before moving to another condition: that a just city requires rule by philosophers. x
  • 10
    Book V—Who Is the Philosopher?
    A long intellectual detour moves us on our first step towards what is typically called "Plato's theory of Ideas," the cornerstone of his philosophical worldview. x
  • 11
    Book VI—The Ship of State
    A famous parable reveals one of the most pessimistic interpretations of "real world" politics ever conceived, along with a great irony about the role of philosophers in the real world. x
  • 12
    Book VI—The Idea of the Good
    Socrates finally reveals the answer to the question he has been evading all along: What does the philosopher-ruler actually know? x
  • 13
    Book VI—The Divided Line
    A single short passage turns out to be the most concise summary of Plato's conception of reality. Although it never becomes crystal clear, discussion does make it accessible. x
  • 14
    Book VII—The Parable of the Cave
    Perhaps because he realizes the difficulty of understanding both the Idea of the Good and the Divided Line, Socrates tells another parable: that of the cave. x
  • 15
    Book VII—The Education of the Guardians
    In answering why mathematics is so important to the education of the guardians, we complete our overview of Plato's "theory of Ideas" and his conception of education. x
  • 16
    Book VIII—The Perfectly Just City Fails
    As we begin our return to the discussion of actual politics, we learn a surprising irony about Socrates's conception of the perfectly just city: it is doomed to fail. x
  • 17
    Books VIII and IX—The Mistaken Regimes
    The fourth and final part of Plato's Republic, unlike earlier sections, is neither philosophical argument nor historical analysis; it is an explanation of how regimes change. x
  • 18
    Book VIII—Socrates's Critique of Democracy
    This lecture addresses what is perhaps the most politically charged issue found in this course, and addressing Socrates's challenges it should sharpen students' understanding of the regime that they likely think best. x
  • 19
    Books VIII and IX—The Critique of Tyranny
    Socrates offers a lengthy condemnation of tyranny, the worst of all possible regimes. We test his analysis by looking at the most notorious tyrant of our generation: Saddam Hussein. x
  • 20
    Book IX—The Superiority of Justice
    Socrates argues that the life of the just philosopher is happier and more pleasant than that of the unjust tyrant, returning to a key question posed in Book I. x
  • 21
    Book X—Philosophy versus Poetry
    Socrates returns to a subject first raised in Books II and III—this time with a critique even more severe. x
  • 22
    Book X—The Myth of Er
    Socrates tells a poem of his own, going directly to the issue of how human beings should live their lives and returning the Republic, full circle, to its opening theme. x
  • 23
    Summary and Overview
    In this lecture, we will review the journey we have taken through the ten books of Plato's Republic, trying to summarize the great achievements of this extraordinary book. x
  • 24
    The Legacy of Plato's Republic
    Whitehead characterized all of the European philosophical tradition as a "series of footnotes to Plato." We examine this wild exaggeration to see if, indeed, it holds any truth. x

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Your professor

David Roochnik

About Your Professor

David Roochnik, Ph.D.
Boston University
Dr. David Roochnik is Professor of Philosophy at Boston University, where he teaches in both the Department of Philosophy and the Core Curriculum, an undergraduate program in the humanities. He completed his undergraduate work at Trinity College, where he majored in philosophy, and earned his Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Roochnik was awarded Boston University's Gitner Award in 1997 for excellence in teaching...
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Plato's Republic is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 53.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Becoming to Being...happy Dr Roochnik's detailed discussions of Plato's 'Republic' was an indispensable guide to reading and understanding the book, providing insight and guidance, while encouraging the listener to 'think for yourself', particularly in some of the more outrageous books within 'The Republic'. I followed along using a translation different from the one recommended by Roochnik, but found only minor variances (e.g. using the 'necessary lie' instead of 'necessary falsehood') that changed little the overall meaning of the text. The good Professors measured style and clear-speaking manner helped to pace myself through some of the convoluted dialogues. The following are just a few point that I take away from 'The Republic'...some of them are 'forms' created with the help of Roochnik...some are from my own interpretation of the text. First... If you're going to read along you need a very well-done translation (Roochnik recommends several). Reading a contemporary style of the dialogue makes it easy to follow (not so with the concepts, however) and allows the reader to understand what is being said, rather than trying to wade through some pretty archaic prose that exists in some lesser translations. Second...I sympathize with those reviewers who criticize the 'straw-man' approach, making the discussion into a very one-sided diatribe by Socrates, particularly in the blueprint for the perfect city (kallipolis). But, I believe that this is an intentional device used by Plato to lay the groundwork for the examination of other forms of government (Aristocracy,oligarchy, democracy and tyranny). So many other questions are really (intentionally) overlooked or ignored by Socrates because this isn't the right dialectic in which to examine deeper meanings. The discussions about the evolution of those various forms of governing are amazingly salient to our present political environment, particularly the advent of a populist leader (demagogue... defined either as "a leader or orator who espoused the cause of the common people" or "a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument"...modified from Merriam-Webster) in the latter stages of a democracy. I found the transition from demagoguery to tyranny particularly frightening. The thinly veiled reference to Alcibiades (a very colorful character in Athenian history) is particularly entertaining. Any analogies to be made with our current president are strictly up to the reader. Third...It may be that Socrates/Plato never intended the "Republic" to be about politics, per se, but rather about the character of an individual and the personal striving for that individual to become the philosopher-king of his own balance intellect (wisdom) with spirit (enthusiasm) and desire, in order to live a just life. This is best exemplified by the 'Myth of Er' at the end of Book X, in which the 'soul' is defined as immortal and undergoes examination after a life-cycle to determine whether the soul is punished or rewarded (for thousand year intervals!) before transitioning into the next earthly life. It's got the concept of 'karma' written all over it. In the end, it seems, Socrates/Plato sums it all up by saying "Hence, both in this life and on the thousand-year journey we've described, we'll do well and be happy." Finally...Dr Roochnik closes with a discussion about Plato's influences of later, even contemporary philosophers (well, those not writing 2400 years ago) and shows how his influence is very much alive in our day and age. These lectures and Plato's masterpiece are highly recommended. A wise man would wait for a sale...and a coupon.
Date published: 2018-03-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Plato Has Lessons for Today It has been many, many years since I have read “The Republic”, or any of the other dialogues for that matter. And from the little I can remember I must admit that I considered them to be intellectual arguments of little benefit or practicality. Ah the callowness of youth. In listening to Professor Roochnik’s 24 lectures on the work, I came away with fresh, new insights, especially regarding moral questions of today. For example, during the debate over the ACA one argument that those in opposition gave was the “death panels” that would come into existence and that would determine who would receive medical assistance and who would not. Even though no such panels came into existence, the amount and expense of care given towards the end of life continues to raise moral vis-a-vis resource questions today. Just so in “The Republic” where Socrates proposes who should receive medical care and who should not based criteria he sets forth. Or his critique of democracy, which for me, states explicitly what has happened in some democracies historically and recently. Certainly there are many more examples that could be cited, but for me, listening to Dr. Roochnik’s analysis of Plato carefully made me realize that there is much to be learned about ourselves and our society that can be applied today. However my favorite lecture was actually not so much on Plato and “The Republic” as it was in his using later thinkers who have considered some of the same issues. The last lecture (The Legacy of Plato’s Republic) discusses Aristotle, Kant, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Marx and John Stuart Mill who all wrote about some of the same issues as did Plato, often in opposition to his views. A most fascinating lecture and all of which (the comparisons) were new to me.
Date published: 2017-12-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating and beautifully taught The content of the course was absolutely fascinating, and dealt with the many aspects that are mentioned in other courses I have taken; but in this course there is time and Professor Roochnik is very deliberate in explaining the subtleties of the key themes such as the Platonic forms, the parable of the cave, and the step by step building of the perfectly just city led by dictator philosopher kings. Professor Roochnik suggests quite compellingly that perhaps this logical building of the “perfect city” is simply one more example of Plato’s famous irony – and we cannot know whether these are really his beliefs or whether he is trying to convey that there cannot be a perfect construction of a just city, even if constructed by the most brilliant minds. I have heard many TGC courses on Greek Philosophy: the current Professor’s survey course on Greek philosophy, Professor Bartlett’s course “Masters of Greek thought” dedicated to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, and Professor Surgue’s course on Plato’s dialogues. I found this course to be the best of them for two main reasons: Professor Roochnik did an absolutely outstanding job in explaining the subtleties, complexities and ironies of Plato’s thinking. Though I enjoyed the courses given by Professor Surgue and Professor Bartlett, I found Professor Roochnik’s courses be the most profound and insightful. The other reason is that this course is devoted to one single great book, albeit a very long one – indisputably Plato’s most important and profound work… The other courses all had a wider scope of interest and so – did not provide as fine an analysis. This has been one of the most fascinating and enjoyable courses I have taken – great professor, great content!
Date published: 2017-09-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome and in-depth I've skipped over this course foe a long time because I thought I understood the Republic, having been compelled to read it in college. But I finally bought the course, and it is possibly the best course The Great Courses has produced. I think the strength of the course comes not only from the fantastic professor, but from being such an in-depth course over one seminal book that has several topics. Although many of the Great Courses are great and cover topics or ideas to a good extent, few cover a single book, with such depth and insight. This course got me excited to explore some of the other courses that focus a single book. I would like to recommend the Great Courses produce more courses that focus on a single book, whether of a philosophical or literary nature.
Date published: 2017-07-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding! Very thorough. Very fair. In depth but clear and maintains interest. All the lectures are great but the last two really end the course on a high.
Date published: 2017-06-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Introduction This is an excellent introduction to a great, if flawed work. Professor Roochnik is a very well organized, competent, but not necessarily dynamic lecturer. The lectures are well organized to cover all the major books and themes of "The Republic". It is easy to tell that Dr. Roochnik has an excellent, even masterful, command of the material. Given Plato's immense contribution to, and influence of, Western Philosophy and Political Theory, this is an excellent primer on, arguably, his greatest work.
Date published: 2017-05-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Can't live well without it! Plato's thoughts have lived for centuries. I have trouble pulling wisdom from translation, but this course explains things nicely. You get a sense of why his thinking has lived so long.
Date published: 2017-05-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Plato's Republic I found this a little dry. I enjoyed it but I can not say I enjoyed it immensely as I have other courses. I would recommend it to friends.
Date published: 2016-10-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Prof. Roochnick Does Justice to Plato This was truly an eye-opening course. Prof. Roochnik does the seemingly impossible by providing a concise overview of a long difficult text, and yet he still finds that time in his lectures to delve deeper into some of the variously enigmatic and controversial aspects of this foundational text in Western thought. Prof. Roochnik lectures with energy, humor, and gravitas, making this series a true delight, rather than the slog that such dense material can sometimes produce. I further appreciate his commitment to alerting the listener to the portions of lectures that are his own interpretations of the text or interpretations of other scholars. He is always quick to encourage the reader to come to his or her own conclusions. I highly recommend this course to anyone wishing to gain a clearer picture of Greek--indeed, Western--philosophical thought.
Date published: 2016-07-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from I have become a fan of Professor Roochnik and thought his delivery of the content was good. I just wasn't as interested in the subject as I thought I'd be, I suppose I purchased it more to listen to his presentation style and the humor he works in (like he did in "An Introduction to Greek Philosophy") vs. the topic. The Professor's explanation of "The Good" was excellent. I hope he does another course.
Date published: 2016-07-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great course This is a great course--clear and well-balanced. I took a class on the Republic and have read the book more than once and written a paper on it, but it's only now, thanks to the guidance of Professor Roochnik, things are becoming more lucid. Professor Roochnik offers his own ideas and interpretations, but always forewarning that they are his and we the students should try to arrive at our own. He gives proper credit to other scholars when he uses their ideas. Listening to a lecture (usually in the car) may present special challenges, for example, the speed with which the professor speaks or the simplicity of his sentences. I have found Professor Roochnik's presentation very satisfying in this (technical) aspect too. I would like to thank Professor Roochnik for a job very well done. I am now moving on to his Greek Philosophy course and very much looking forward to it. Many thanks!
Date published: 2015-02-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Superficial and lacking philosophical richness I purchased this course (over 30 now) on the strength of the other reviews but was disappointed by the content and a somewhat annoying cadence to Professor Roochnik's voice. I overcame the latter and found some sections well done ... but, I found the presenter's comments to reveal his own bias and to be superficial and lacking a proportional sense of contrasts with the traditions of that time. Professor Roochnik trivializes metaphysics and he makes broad and unproven claims such as, 'it is truth that we don't have souls...we are just bodies'. His interpretation of the soul is poorly done, reductionist and ideologically grounded. His claims that Socrates would be pro-choice and pro-euthanasia are revisionist, unnecessary and do not stand against Plato's commentary on Socrates in other texts.
Date published: 2014-07-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Presentation Thorough, well written and fascinating commentary about the most important work in Western Civilization. For anyone who is interested in philosophy, history, political science, ethics or mathematics, this would be a rewarding course.
Date published: 2014-07-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Remembering The discussion of Plato's Republic reminds us all of what great a great didactic presentation sounds like. For those of us long-since removed from academia, it makes us long for the type of interchanges we had with a golden few professors who "reached" us and made us want more. Though Professor Roochnik is not Lord Richard Attenborough, he is clearly an expert of the subject matter and is a superb teacher. The mysteries of The Republic (the definition of justice, the analogy of the cave, the divided line and the Myth of Er) are clearly elucidated. Enjoyable, informative and reflective.
Date published: 2014-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Now I Understand! Over many years I have dipped into The Republic here and there, daunted by its length and sometimes confused by its complexity and seeming obscurity. This summer I decided I was going to force the matter, so I got an audio download of Professor David Roochnik’s course. What a richly rewarding experience this has been. He is a very well-organized and careful thinker and speaker, bringing a wealth of knowledge to bear on perhaps the most important work of Western philosophy, Plato’s Republic. At the end of the course, Professor Roochnik expresses the hope that he has brought The Republic “alive” for listeners. I reply, mission accomplished! I took Dr. Roochnik’s advice and got a copy of The Republic translated by Allan Bloom in 1968, a text that is regularly referred to in the lectures. It has the Stephanous page numbering that makes following Professor Roochnik easier as he quotes from The Republic. Other translations also have this standard page numbering, but are not literal versions as that provided by Bloom. They are more elegant, but less faithful in some cases than Bloom’s. In the 1991 second edition I bought are excellent notes and index, and a 130 page “Interpretive Essay.” (Though outside this discussion of the TC course, I should add that Allan Bloom is also author of The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students (1984). This is a Platonic critique of American society, that Professor Roochnik notes has “…comments about what he takes to be the harmful effects of contemporary music [that] are particularly interesting” (Course Guidebook, Bibliography, page 85), as they echo negative views on music expressed in The Republic.) Professor Roochnik makes it clear that The Republic is not a “blueprint” and it is not really about government at all (though it does speak to those matters at great length). Rather, it is about “the human soul ”(Course Guidebook, page 67). This is where Plato (speaking through Socrates, as he does throughout The Republic) expresses antipathy to music and literary culture in general as corrupting influences requiring censorship. The Republic is also the repository of Plato’s mature philosophy, which Roochnik admirably describes and explains. I especially appreciated his treatment of the Parable of the Cave (which I thought I understood well enough) and the Divided Line (which I had no idea how to figure out). Regarding the portions on government, I burst out laughing at how well Roochnik handled the inevitable failure of Plato’s perfectly just city, mathematics defeated by Eros ( the latter being a “hidden theme” of the Republic, Course Guidebook, page 54). Though Professor Roochnik’s lectures treat The Republic book by book, he admirably shows how it all fits together, referring not only to how material from one book relates to another, but also how the introductory book is key to the whole, foreshadowing what is to follow. The Republic is an even richer and more complex work than I could have imagined. A course like this is needed in order to more fully appreciate Plato’s thought and achievement. I could go on at greater length about this course and how Professor Roochnik addresses Plato’s ideas on such contemporary matters as medical ethics (Plato’s a shocker here), feminism (he’s for it, sort of), and democracy (more positive about it than one would expect) and how Plato has impacted Western philosophy to this day. I am going to stop here, however, and invite you to benefit directly from Professor Roochnik’s excellent course. You are in for a treat.
Date published: 2013-09-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An invaluable companion to the text I read Plato’s Republic in college, but now wish I had Professor David Roochnik's lectures from the start.
Date published: 2013-07-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant As a newcomer to Plato's Republic this course was a guiding light. The lectures were well presented with clear references to the text allowing me to read along and gain a useful overview of the text. A course worthwhile for a (potential) philosopher.
Date published: 2012-08-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course This is a great course. I did not find The Republic easy to read, but the instructor makes it easy. He also adds much that can be found in the text, but I would have missed. For example, he points out that Socrates was a jerk to ask Cephalus if he thought that justice was paying back debts. After all, Cephalus was answering the question, "What's it like to be old and near death?" not "What is justice?" The course is full of insights like this, which could be noticed in the text, but probably wouldn't be. I have listened to it three times and found it very interesting each time.
Date published: 2012-04-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not enough philosophic discussion I'm a little bit puzzled about the comment by a reviewer "Plato's republic is straight-forward" (paraphrase). What? Are we reading the same book? The one about being and becoming, theory of forms etc.? Plato as a philosopher is anything BUT straight-forward. You no doubt need a helping hand while reading this, and Prof. Roochnik is a good start. Since every lecture correspond to one book, it's probably as thorough as you can get on an audiobook-based lecture. Roochnik is clear and focused, but there is a little too much just rehashing the story, rather than exploring the deeper philosophical implications. Some of the interpretations seem very pedestrian and a little bit simplistic, but it's a good start to listen along whilst reading The Republic
Date published: 2012-02-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Stating the obvious Plato's Republic is not a difficult book to read and follow. I listened to these lectures while reading the book and it seemed that the professor was just retelling the story as it went along - putting it into different words. Most translations of the Republic already contain a long introduction that gives background information and puts the book into context - so that part of his lectures was also duplicated by reading the book. All in all. If you want to know about Plato's Republic, better just to read Plato's Republic!
Date published: 2011-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent teacher and arguments This is the best introduction to Plato's Republic. In order to gain the best value of this course, it is recommended that you read the Republic several times and listen to his course. Prof. Roochnik provides a very compelling arguments on 2 topics: First, that the Republic is NOT a blue print for how to build a city, rather it is a description of an ideal individual and a just soul. And Second, his position that Republic is a critique of exteme political views. For these 2 insights, I am giving this course a perfect score.
Date published: 2011-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb Teacher This is the second series of Professor Roochnik that I have listened to recently, the first one being his more general course on Ancient Greek Philosophy. The review I gave there, applies here as well, so no sense repeating it here. The only thing extra I will say here, is that the Professor gave a good explanation as to why the charge made of Plato's totalitarianism may be misleading and even incorrect. This is quite an important point, given how all of philosophy is a mere footnote on Plato's thoughts.
Date published: 2010-05-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The most influential book in western philosophy This course by David Roochnik on Plato's Republic is what I truly wish was the typical Teaching Company production, on so many levels. Can you imagine hundreds of these close-readings on the most important and influential books ever written? This is no survey course, but an in-depth look into perhaps one of the most essential reads in one's life. Yet it's not an easy-read, to be sure. I was assigned to read it in my college philosophy class, and can remember not getting too far before I was frustrated enough to not continue. This is a book that is much easier to understand if you have some help. Well David certainly comes to the rescue in that sense, so some 25 years afterward, I can now say that I realize what I had so very much misjudged. I also now know how much worse off I would be, if I hadn't had this second chance. So that is the positive spin to be emphasized here. Anyone who doesn't know Plato's Republic, or forgot it and wants to rediscover it, should view this course as a "must." It's just that simple, because no matter how many times you hear the quote from Whitehead about the development of western philosophy being a series footnotes to Plato, until you read and understand it, the famous quote means so little compared to what you get out of reading the actual book! David Roochnik is the ideal teacher for this course, and I have to say it's a bit shocking he hasn't been back for more courses after this one. He is an incredibly compelling lecture, yet so accessible at his moderate pace, that most anyone should be able to follow him. I say this, because the Republic is full of instances where you think Plato has dreamed up some incredible scenario that simply cannot be defended, but then David makes a convincing argument that it's not as bad as one would think, or that it's even acceptable. Now I mean that in a good way, because David is not trying to make us think a certain way, but he's just showing another side to the story. Now to be honest, it can get to the point that one may be a little tired of having David stick-up for Plato so very much throughout the course. Yet that never stops you from wanting to finish the lectures. It's obviously that David believes what he is teaching, so he naturally is going to have a passion for promoting Plato as much as possible, since there are so many that try to do the opposite! Yet David always seems to have a reasonable and plausible answer to the potential flaws in the book. I think it's important to know these arguments, regardless of what one personally believes. So in my opinion, there is nothing in these lectures that isn't worth learning. I have to say that this is the 2nd or 3rd time I've viewed the course. This time I really went through it slowly and did the readings, which makes all the difference. I can say it really opens up so many doors into understanding many of the other Teaching Company courses, including topics like Phillip Cary's course on Western Philosophy and Religion, or Louis Markos' course on literary criticism, to name a few. Again, regardless of what anyone believes on these subjects, it's so important to know the influences and how they work. So I consider David Roochnik's course as truly invaluable, because of that reason of influence alone. Yet of course there are so many more good reasons as well! But talk about a book that can change your life! That is what the Teaching Company is all about!
Date published: 2010-04-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very effective introductory level treatment David Roochnik specializes in teaching philosophy to beginners. Plato's Republic is arguably the best work with which to commence the study of Western philosophy. But The Republic is a difficult work for anybody to follow on first reading. It is dense. It demands an understanding of its historical context. It is generally recognized to require multiple readings before rewarding the reader -- a requirement few beginning students will meet. In 24 lectures, Roochnik greatly facilitated my efforts and enhanced my understanding of The Republic. Roochnik has both a deep understanding of this work and, clearly evident, lots of practice in teaching it. The Republic still demands close reading to provide reward, but you'll be much more satisfied if you listen to these lectures along the way. Having also taken his other Teaching Company course, "Introduction to Greek Philosophy", I'd say that the hallmark of Roochnik's teaching is a continual effort to relate Ancient Greek philosophy to the history of Western civilization and to the issues of modern life. In contrast, other lecturers in Greek philosophy place relatively more emphasis on improving understanding of the original works for its own sake. Given its reputation for timeless relevance, The Republic is a perfect fit for Roochnik, making it come alive by expanding its context. So, the course helped me not only to make sense of the text, but also to better understand why The Republic is so influential to Western thought.
Date published: 2009-07-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Republic This course is outstanding stand alone or (a) pair it with his ancient greek philosophy course or (b) pair it with the Teaching Company's Aristotle's Ethics. I listened to this course while making a long tedious commute -- turned an annoying wasterful commute into a rich learning experience. This is a great prof--no talent for philosophy needed to enjoy it
Date published: 2009-07-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Lecture Series I have long had a strong interest in political philosophy and decided it was about time I explored the writings of the great minds that have addressed themselves to this area. I found the lectures very interesting and the presentation was excellent. Having never red the Republic prior to this I was somewhat surprised that a book from the cradle of democracy would argue for an essentially totalitarian state! Socrates' crushing attack on democracy contained enough truth to make you examine your own beliefs. I was not totally convinced by David Roochnik's lines of reasoning that the Republic is actually an argument against the perfect city state it outlines, but it is certainly a possibility. The exploration of the pure philosophical elements, such as the theory of the forms, the divided line and the parable of the cave was an unexpected bonus. If you want to explore this important work, I think these lectures are certainly the best place to start.
Date published: 2009-05-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good start I have listened or watched many courses from The Teaching Company. I would recommend this course to anyone who is interested in Plato. The reason I gave 4 stars is because of the American cultural bias that is apparent in this course just as in many others. To be more explicit, the professor assumes that we are all Americans or we subscribe to the common view most Americans hold. To illustrate my point in the booklet, the professor points out "Marxism seems to have been totally discredited by the events of the 20th century." I live in US and I am aware that seems to be the popular opinion but we do not share the same opinion (rightly or wrongly.) Besides this little annoyance to me, lectures are great and the professor sounds in command of his subject.
Date published: 2009-05-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I got in over my head ... ... but when you're in over your head, that's when you start learning. I was very uncomfortable with some of the subject matter, but so what? It made me think! The professor does a precise and admirable job carefully unpacking one of the most difficult books of all time. I will listen to it again, maybe in a few years. The lecturer often seemed a tad too serious, but this is serious stuff: justice, eugenics, democracy, the soul, etc.
Date published: 2009-04-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Extremely Helpul Course Dr. Roochnick is a very effective and interesting instructor. His courses (I've listened to his "Introduction to Greek Philosophy" a couple of times) make Philosophy easier to understand than I would have thought possible. Roochinick's course on Plato's Republic brought about a transformation in my understanding of Philosophy. I've been struggling with the study of Philosohy for years in the form of doing a lot of reading and, recently, listening to Teaching Company lectures. This course has enabled me to understand Philosphy, in general, far better than I ever expected to. As far as I can tell knowledge of Plato's Republic is necessary for one to understand much about Philosophy in general and this course makes Plato's Republic seem easy to understand. I can't recomend this course enough to anyone who, like me, is attempting to get a handle on, what I consider to be, the most profound course of study that exists (Philosophy).
Date published: 2009-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Made Me Want to Re-Read The Republic I went into this course thinking I already knew relatively well the content and relative importance of Plato's Republic. However, after listening to this course, I understood how much of this great book I simply did not pay attention to in my undergrad. philosophy course. In particular, the focus on the literary structure of Plato's Republic, and its importance when trying to interpret the "true" meaning of this work, was eye opening. I thoroughly enjoyed this course. My one minor criticism is that the parallels drawn between the Republic and contemporary world politics (e.g., Plato's discussion of the tyrant and Saddam Hussein), did not add much value (given how self-evident the comparisons were) and probably could have been avoided.
Date published: 2009-02-20
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