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Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

Time Event
11:59p
Duty ...
This book review is brought to you by the heavy hand of OCD ... I just couldn't allow myself to "take a pass" on doing a review because I had decided some years ago to write a review for every book I read. (Now I just need to work on the concept of timely reviewing, still having a dozen waiting-to-be-reviewed books going back as far as last November ... yeah, my impressions on those will be real fresh, not!)

One of things I've observed about myself that I have a hard time synching with my self-image is that I really don't care for Philosophy. I love reading a wide range of non-fiction, and as anybody who's meandered through my LibraryThing catalog can tell, I have a fairly eclectic taste in what I'll pick up, but every time I find myself in a "philosophy" book, I can't wait to get done with it, and then can't find much to say about it once I'm finished.

Anyway, as I've noted in this space previously, I've been trying to "plug some holes" in my basic education, finding that in a lot of cases I know about something but have not read the actual texts involved (hence the amount of Nietzsche I've plowed through in the past year or so). Sure, I could blither on about Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and hit most of the high points, but I probably only got through text-book excerpts back in highschool and college and now find myself vaguely shamed to have not read the books. This nagging self-doubt had me launching into Plato's The Republic some months back.

Sure, I realize and appreciate that this is a formative book for Western Civilization, and that the main players have largely defined the core elements of what I would consider a rational world-view, but man ... after reading this I totally understood why the Athenians wanted Socrates whacked!

Frankly, my expectations were probably tainted by my "text book excerpt" exposure, where the "significant bits" get highlighted, contextified, and discussed. This book, however, went on and on and on and on, and Socrates sure did seem to like to hear himself talk. My take-away from the "dynamics" of the book were that he was like a modern Rap star with his entourage, and would be playing to this particular audience of admirers who'd be responding primarily with the Ancient Greek version of "tru dat!" and "yo! you da man, Socrates", etc. Needless to say, I'm glad I never had to write a paper on this as "A Blowhard and his Assembled Sycophants" (the latter term coming from Ancient Greek!), as that would have been something that would have likely had a negative impact on my admittedly, uh, "gentlemanly" GPA.

Once again, I had a bunch of small bookmarks in here that I have no idea now what I wanted to convey via (most were in the "politics" sections, so I might have been intending to comment on the unfortunate election of the US's first Communist overtly Socialist government) ... so at least you're spared that rant.

Needless to say, there are significant parts to this book ... and it's one of those things that Should Be Read ... but the format is strange (imagine that in a book that's nearly two and a half millennia old, in a translation that was done over a century ago), and the ideas get chopped up into discussion fragments, and, well, it's philosophy.

So, if you don't want to go through life with this particular hole in your education, do by all means pick up a copy of The Republic and make yourself read it. Heck, you might like it. One of the "happy things" about this "Dover Thrift Edition" is that it's a 320-page book with a cover price of just $3.00. It's in print, but good luck on getting your local brick-and-mortar to order it in for you (you figure the profit margin on this) ... so, your best bet is to keep it in mind for the next time your Amazon or B&N order is twenty-two bucks and you need something "small" to make it into the free-shipping promised land.


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