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founding

When we study ancient history, the first reference we make in mind is where it lies on the dimension of time. If the pre-Socratic thinkers (like Democritus, et. al.) were only a century before Socrates came on the scene, then that is an extremely short period of time of change in how we perceive the cosmos and gain knowledge. This is a major paradigmatic shift for mankind. It doesn’t even compare to the shifts between any of the last four centuries--and we speak of them as the greatest changes in history. Socrates is not condescending, he realizes this importance of this major shift and that we must keep it in my mind with our contemporaries. This is quite insightful. 😊

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What a great way to start Monday morning! I particularly appreciated the historical context you gave, Massimo, because until that point, I was wondering "why is Socrates making such a big deal about rhapsodes and poets, and whether they are interpreters of interpreters?". The "new kid on the block" explanation and the distinction between the Pre-Socratics' natural philosophy vs. the "theology" of Hesiod and the like illuminates the differences.

However, this raises a more important question, at least to me: how can I go about reading "The Republic" without having read a primer on Greek history/philosophy prior to so doing? Surely there will be many meanings I will miss, such as this case, because I didn't make a connection to the historic background. In college, I was required to take 3 philosophy classes, and in 1 of them our professor had us read and discussion dialogues from "The Republic", and in one class I recall him saying "you simply have to sit down and just start reading it; jump right in!"

I wonder about your thoughts on my question and my professor's suggestion.

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Daniel, I respectfully disagree with your professor. If you just "jump into" ancient texts you are likely not only to miss something, but, worse, to misunderstand something else.

That's why good modern translations come with plenty of annotations, to set the historical and philosophical context. That's also why, immodestly, people like yours truly and many others write about this stuff.

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Thanks for the response. Makes sense. Would you be able to make a recommendation, then, for "The Republic"? Are any particular texts more authoritative than others?

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author

Daniel, here are the top three translations: https://fivebooks.com/book/republic-by-plato/

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Aug 28, 2023Liked by Massimo Pigliucci

Thanks!

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Agree...the other useful thing I’ve found in reading the classics is to download to a Kindle eReader from a link like Gutenberg Project-which allows a reader to tap to a ‘Wiki-link’ to look up context, and/or unfamiliar words. Frankly , when reading’hard copies’ I was very often too lazy or time pressed to do that, and missed a great deal...

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Aug 28, 2023Liked by Massimo Pigliucci

That's a good point, but for as much as I've tried, I can't get into audiobooks OR ebooks. I prefer the print stuff. So this means I have to choose high-quality texts that contain lots of additional contextual information.

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I don’t like audiobooks either, and always preferred a “real book”… but for the reasons I mentioned I now enjoy the benefits of e-readers

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Audiobooks are not my preferred format because I can’t take note or easily find interesting passages again. But they’re good when I go for my daily constitutional power walk around the neighborhood. I only listen to fiction, though.

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I usually listen either to the news, or a few favorite podcasts doing those types of things. Listening to a book , I just never caught on to that, tho I’ve tried 🤷‍♂️

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Yup, that’s one of my main reasons for sticking to e-books. That and the fact that my apartment in Brooklyn just isn’t suitable for a large library…

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Same here😕

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