One year ago on Round and Square (10 May 2011)—Around the World in Eighty Days
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And, just for the record, regular readers probably already know that I will post the actual lectures not long after they have been given. This week's posts focus on the preparation process, and tackling Allan Bloom's arguments should get your blood pumping. Today's text comes from the preface to the second edition of his incomparable translation of Plato's Republic. It is a "do-over" that builds upon Bloom's spectacular success with The Closing of the American Mind. It is also a "do-over" in another respect. Bloom makes the argument—a specific argument—for looking again at Plato and his Republic.
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The plan has been to go "in order," so we have looked at Shakespeare's Politics (1964) and the first edition of Plato's Republic (1968). We are skipping ahead to 1991 today precisely so that we can juxtapose the prefaces. We'll go back to the 1970s tomorrow, but today's text is a perfect lead-in to my position on Bloom. I may have disagreed with the bulk of his argument about Western canons and intellectual fodder, but his translation of the Republic and the Emile (which we will consider tomorrow) is a gift to learning that makes him—to my mind—a truly significant figure in the world of letters. I will have much more to say about these matters in the coming days.
Plato's Republic—Preface to the Second Edition
Allan Bloom (1991)
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But, above all, the Platonic text is now gripping because of its very radical, more than up-to-date treatment of the power of the philosophic imagination, Plato treats the question as it was never again treated up to our own day—proving thereby that reason can penetrate to the essentials at any time or place. Perfect justice, Socrates argues in the dialogue, can be achieved only by suppression of the distinction between the sexes in all important matters and the admission of women on equal footing to all activities of the city, particularly the virtual suppression of the bodily differences between the sexes and all the psychic affects habitually accompanying those differences, especially shame, which effectively separates women from men...
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Finally, in terms of my own experience of these last twenty-five years, after the Republic I translated Rousseau's Emile, the greatest modern book on education. Rousseau was one of the great readers of Plato, and from my time on that work I gained an even greater respect for the Republic. Emile is its natural companion, and Rousseau proved his greatness by entering the lists in worthy combat with it. He shows that Plato articulated first and best all the problems, and he himself differs only with respect to some of the solutions. If one takes the two books together, one has the basic training necessary for the educational wars. And wars they are, now that doctrine tells us that these two books are cornerstones of an outlived canon. So, I conclude, the Republic is always useful to students who read it, but now more than ever.
 Plato, Republic [Translated with an introduction by Allan Bloom] (New York: Basic Books, 1968),vii-x.
Plato, Republic [Translated with an introduction by Allan Bloom]. New York: Basic Books, 1968.
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