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City and Soul in Plato’s Republic

Tracing a central theme of Plato’s Republic, G. R. F. Ferrari reconsiders in this study the nature and purpose of the comparison between the structure of society and that of the individual soul. In four chapters, Ferrari examines the personalities and social status of the brothers Glaucon and Adeimantus, Plato’s notion of justice, coherence in Plato’s description of the decline of states, and the tyrant and the philosopher king—a pair who, in their different ways, break with the terms of the city-soul analogy.

In addition to acknowledging familiar themes in the interpretation of the Republic—the sincerity of its utopianism, the justice of the philosopher’s return to the Cave—Ferrari provocatively engages secondary literature by Leo Strauss, Bernard Williams, and Jonathan Lear. With admirable clarity and insight, Ferrari conveys the relation between the city and the soul and the choice between tyranny and philosophy. City and Soul in Plato’s Republic will be of value to students of classics, philosophy, and political theory alike.

130 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2003

Ancient Studies

Literature and Literary Criticism: Classical Languages

Philosophy: History and Classic Works


"The good thing about this little book is that it is controversial. Ferrari is not afraid to stick his neck out, and he forces one to re-examine what one thinks oneself."

John Dillon | Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"This book is a model of interpretation as regards its sensitivity to dramatic context, its attention to what Plato writes and does not write, and its repect for the political, psychological, and metaphysical questions raised in the Republic."

Richard Polt | Classical Bulletin

"Anyone interested in understanding the central feature of Plato’s Republic is well advised to come to terms with this slim but substantial book."

Rachel Singpurwalla | Ancient Philosophy

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. The Brothers
1. The house of Cephalus
2. The values of a gentleman
3. Why govern?
4. A real man
5. The values of a philosopher
Sources and Scholarly Contexts for Chapter 1
Chapter 2. City and Soul: Misunderstandings
1. A fork in the road
2. Williams’ challenge
3. Lear’s dilemma
Sources and Scholarly Contexts for Chapter 2
Chapter 3. City and Soul: A Metaphorical Understanding
1. A proportional metaphor
2. Timocracy, oligarchy, democracy
3. Why metaphors matter
Sources and Scholarly Contexts for Chapter 3
Chapter 4. Tyrant and King
1. An asymmetry
2. The tyrant
3. The philosopher-king
4. The city and man
Sources and Scholarly Contexts for Chapter 4
Index locorum

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