PHI6780 - Plato


The Philosopher and Mathematician A N Whitehead once characterized western thought as a "series of footnotes to Plato". The thought of Plato and his teacher Socrates, who both lived in Greece around 400 years before the start of the Christian era, set the agenda for much subsequent philosophy and did much to define our ideas of what philosophy is. This course will introduce students to the study of the philosophy of Plato through a close and critical study of some of the most important dialogues in English translation.


The set text for this course is:

  • Plato: Republic.

There are many translations. I strongly recommend the Hackett edition translated by G. M. A. Grube, revised by Reeve.

If you fancy a fun introductory read before the course starts you might enjoy:

  • Simon Blackburn: Plato’s Republic: A Biography

There are a number of useful commentaries. If you want to buy just the most useful I recommend:

  • Julia Annas: An Introduction to Plato’s Republic

Next most useful I think are:

  • Nickolas Pappas: Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Plato and the Republic
  • C. D. C. Reeve: Philosopher-Kings: The Argument of Plato's Republic

And there is a lot of help to be found in:

  • G. R. F. Ferrari: The Cambridge Companion to Plato’s Republic
  • Gerasimos Santas: The Blackwell Guide to Plato’s Republic
  • Nicholas White: A Companion to Plato’s Republic

The set text for this course is the Republic. You should aim to know this in great detail, inside out. The secondary literature is not compulsory reading. You would have to be very keen (and I very much hope some of you are!) to read all of it. But you would also be very foolish to read none of it and I would strongly recommend you do some secondary reading for every topic. Annas’s book in particular is worth reading right through.