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Read The Book Online

  • Yes, you can! Just click the image below for a full-screen page view. You can read the book online. Nice, flash-based interface. Very readable. You can also download this fine Plato text from the Issuu site itself. (That requires that you sign up for Issuu, but it's free and won't take but a minute.) If you download the PDF you will find that it is print-locked but otherwise fully functional.

About the Book

  • Politics and persuasion, reason and religion, science and success, appearance and reality, belief and knowledge, ethics and egoism. Reason and Persuasion provides a new look at old issues through the lens of three classic dialogues by Plato: Euthyphro, Meno and Republic, Book I. These dialogues appear here in fresh translations, by Belle Waring, with general introduction, commentary chapters and illustrations by John Holbo. The text is lively, accessible, and intended for use as an introduction to philosophy, but is substantive enough to be of interest to the more advanced students as well.

    Reason and Persuasion asks the question philosophers and non- philosophers have been asking each other, and themselves, from the start: why should I listen to you?

About the Authors

  • John Holbo is an assistant professor of philosophy at the National University of Singapore. He is married to Belle Waring, the translator, who got at MA in classics at the University of California, Berkeley. John's CV is here. Belle spends much of her time these days refurbishing vintage furniture. (Here are the pictures to prove it.) We blog at John & Belle Have A Blog. Also at Crooked Timber. John also blogs at the Valve. (Are you starting to see a pattern?) John is also publishing his webcomic, Squid & Owl, as a Flickr set. Updates daily.

About This Site

  • John Holbo is your webmaster and host. But I'm married to Belle so I can pass along questions and comments about the translations efficiently. We call it 'spousecasting'.

    I'm planning to maintain this blog as a permanent supplement/appendix to the book. It will contain updates, corrections, free teaching materials, links, that sort of thing. We're hoping to collect informal reviews and commentary on the text by others - by you, maybe. The formal sort are welcome, too, of course. One problem with introductions is that they are, well, too ... introductory in a lot of ways. They ignore stuff, proceed as if things are simple. That's their job. But I'm thinking it might be nice to collect a bunch of 'here's what Holbo leaves out of chapter 4' type pieces. It would be nice for me to be able to point students to that sort of thing.

Reason and Persuasion Illustrations


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A lovely blog (you know how to make typepad sing) and a gem of a blog post. It all reminds me of the way films are now made and packed, a serious effort being made with the supporting material that goes into the DVD.

I really like your 'odd angles' approach, being far more likely to engage than any titan match-up.

I think and hope the book will be a big success--it seems to me that you have done such a good job that I have difficulty imagining it to be otherwise (though incidental matters like publishing it in Asia may count for more than they should do). I have said some really quite nice things about it in a short article my new and (alas) unvisited blog.

Scialabba it isn't, and being my blog I have stitched it into the blog's narrative, which is to say some very rude things about modern approaches to ethics, and I am afraid some of that may have splashed onto your lovely book. But I am really envious and know I will be pleased if I ever write anything half so good.

My blog article on 'Reason and Persuasion' can be found at:

PS: I have posted an apology of sorts for my saucy comment at:

Hi Chris, thanks for your comment. You quote a commentator who takes a different line:

"There is nothing ambiguous about this. In Republic Plato is not primarily interested in politics in the real world: he is constructing an imaginary community, to serve as a paradigm. The primary purpose for any political exploration in the book is a ‘soft’ purpose—to help understand an individual."

You suggest that mine is the standard approach and that this other one is more contrarian. I do agree that I disagree with this author. But who's right, eh? In my view he or she is downplaying politics too much by ignoring an obvious third possibility: Plato is not primarily concerned with real world politics (this is obviously true), nor just with understanding individuals (this claim by your author seems to me, not obviously false, but implausibly strong); rather, Plato is interested in politics in an ideal sense, as distinct from any real world sense. He is interested in ideal states and ideal individuals, and the relationship between them. This is a pretty standard reading, and I'd need to see some serious explaining away of a lot of evidence to be budged from it.

That is, the book is called Politeai - political stuff. And, since there is apparently so much in Republic about politics (in an ideal sense, as opposed to a practical sense); and since the Cave lends itself so readily to being read as ideal political allegory, what is your author - Robin Waterfield's - argument against that apparently appealing reading? Plato's "Political Stuff" is about political stuff?

Why couldn't the book really be largely about what it appears to be about: politics AND the individual. And the relation therebetween. Rather than mostly about the individual and not really about politics?

I think my own mild departure from orthodoxy is in emphasizing that Plato never really loses his interest in Athens herself, which entails a lingering interest in practical as opposed to pie-in-the-sky ideal politics. It's easy to see Republic as about ideal political arrangements and forget how many specifically Athenian details are retained in the set up: starting with the obvious 'these are all Athenians, and this little play is set in Athens, and we are invited to remember what happened next in Athens' sort of way.

Anyway, as I said: thanks for the comment and the kind words (cheeky comments are par for the course and hardly even register on the blog richter scale of rhetoric, so no worries there.)

Hi John,

As I think you have probably guessed my ideal course on Republic would have yours _and_ Waterfield's as the set texts.

I find our contemporary way of reading Plato very interesting and worth thinking about as a vital philosophical issue in itself.

I find the current received interpretation highly symptomatic of the move away from personal ethics in the Enlightenment: much too messy and anyway associated with the discredited priests.

To the Enlightened thinker, man is fallen, but the problem lies in the environment, and this is where the problem should be fixed, by extending the sciences into the humanities.

I have written a post on my blog arguing that we are now looking at Republic through the lens of The Social Contract.

The first thing I do is to go back to the text and see what Plato is saying (this takes up the bulk of the article). For sure Plato discusses ideal communities and their interaction with ideal people, but he says repeatedly that this is to facilitate his rational argument for ethical action.

It is worth reading the post: I can't really do justice to it in this little box!

I appreciate the discussion.

Hey Prof. Holbo,

Just thought I'd mention that my copy of R&P shipped today from Amazon. I look forward to reading it. (I read parts in the PDF, but for a full book, I prefer reading paper.)

Thanks Chris and Brock. Glad to hear that the stuff is shipping. (Sorry to be a bit slow responding to comments here.) I mean to give this site more attention in the near future.

My copy arrived today!

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