Rigorous and humble, admiring and dismissive—a clear and accessible introduction to philosophy’s first superstar.

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PLATO’S REPUBLIC

Plato’s most influential text gets a going-over in the latest addition to Atlantic’s Books That Changed the World series.

Blackburn (Philosophy/Cambridge; Lust, 2004, etc.) summarizes the Greek philosopher’s principal arguments and considers their contemporary relevance. He begins by undercutting Alfred North Whitehead’s famous statement that all European philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato, then moves to clarify the distinction between the “worldly” Aristotelian view and the “other-worldly” Platonic value system. These and other introductory matters (including some historical background) out of the way, the author launches into his exegesis, examining closely Plato’s views on might and right, on ruling elites, reason and passion, knowledge and belief. After a chapter on Republic’s best-known portion, the Myth of the Cave, Blackburn devotes his most compelling and significant pages to examining how three traditions have employed this famous allegory. Christians folded its ideas into their own theology and expelled Plato. Poets like Wordsworth and Shelley saw the allegory’s enormous metaphorical and spiritual richness. Mathematicians and scientists were perhaps those whom Plato had in mind all along, for Blackburn notes that they alone understand “the unchanging within the changing” that lies at the heart of the parable. The author reluctantly leaves the cave and looks at Plato’s “descending staircase” of political systems, with the philosopher-kings occupying the summit and absolute dictators lurking in the pits. Here and throughout Blackburn is forthright about his own political views. He repeatedly bashes Bush, Blair and neo-conservatives; he grieves that we are in the grip of a new oligarchy of the wealthy, who control the media and thus the ballot box. His final chapters deal with Plato’s silly dismissal of painters and poets and with the “charming, and poetic” Farewell Myth of Er.

Rigorous and humble, admiring and dismissive—a clear and accessible introduction to philosophy’s first superstar.

Pub Date: July 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-87113-957-X

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2007

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THE WEIGHT OF GLORY

The name of C.S. Lewis will no doubt attract many readers to this volume, for he has won a splendid reputation by his brilliant writing. These sermons, however, are so abstruse, so involved and so dull that few of those who pick up the volume will finish it. There is none of the satire of the Screw Tape Letters, none of the practicality of some of his later radio addresses, none of the directness of some of his earlier theological books.

Pub Date: June 15, 1949

ISBN: 0060653205

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1949

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REFLECTIONS ON THE PSALMS

Internationally renowned because of his earlier books, among them tape Letters, Surprised by Joy, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis making religion provoking, memorable and delightful is still more latest Reflections on the Psalms. Though he protests that he writes learned about things in which he is unlearned himself, the reader is likely thank God for his wise ignorance. Here especially he throws a clear lightly or not, on many of the difficult psalms, such as those which abound with and cursing, and a self-centeredness which seems to assume' that God must be side of the psalmist. These things, which make some psalm singers pre not there, have a right and proper place, as Mr. Lewis shows us. They of Psalms more precious still. Many readers owe it to themselves to read flections if only to learn this hard but simple lesson. Urge everyone to book.

Pub Date: June 15, 1958

ISBN: 015676248X

Page Count: 166

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1958

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