Contemporary philosophers still wrestle mightily with Plato’s Republic. A common reading has it that in the Republic, Plato’s character Socrates defends a conception of justice according to which reason should rule the soul and philosophers should rule the city. On all accounts, the Republic is centrally concerned with the question of what philosophers are and how they come to be. A standard reading contends that the multiple discussions in the Republic of the nature of the philosopher all aim to depict the very same kind of creature.
In her new book, Philosophers in the Republic: Plato’s Two Paradigms (Cornell University Press, 2012), Roslyn Weiss challenges this view. She argues that the Republic depicts at least two distinct kinds of philosopher. She then employs this analysis in discussing several puzzles that emerge from the text concerning, for example, the absence of the virtue of piety in the Republic, and the curious similarities between Socrates’s conception of justice and moderation. The result is a fascinating examination of the Republic that has much to offer both to Plato scholars and more casual readers.