Books

Philebus

Plato

Taking the form of a discussion between the hedonist Philebus, his naïve disciple Protarchus and Socrates, Philebus is a compelling consideration of the popular belief that pleasure is the greatest attainable good. Here, Socrates speculates on the differing intensities of both pleasure and pain; explores the notion that they can be divided into pure and impure types; considers the relationship between the one and the many; and establishes knowledge as a far higher goal. A profound argument that true fulfillment can only be achieved by the pursuit of beauty, truth and moderation, Philebus is among the earliest and most fascinating explorations of one of the most fundamental human questions: how to lead a good life.

Socrates' Defence

Plato

'I'll stop doing it as soon as I understand what I'm doing.'

Somewhere between a historical account and work of philosophy, Socrates' Defence details the final plea of Plato's beloved mentor.

Introducing Little Black Classics: 80 books for Penguin's 80th birthday. Little Black Classics celebrate the huge range and diversity of Penguin Classics, with books from around the world and across many centuries. They take us from a balloon ride over Victorian London to a garden of blossom in Japan, from Tierra del Fuego to 16th-century California and the Russian steppe. Here are stories lyrical and savage; poems epic and intimate; essays satirical and inspirational; and ideas that have shaped the lives of millions.

Plato (474 BC-347 BC). Plato's works available in Penguin Classics are Republic, The Last Days of Socrates, The Laws, Phaedrus, Protagoras and Meno, Timaeus and Critias, Theaetetus, Early Socratic Dialogues, The Symposium and Gorgias.

Republic

Plato

An authoritative new translation of Plato's The Republic by Christopher Rowe, with notes and an introduction.

'We set about founding the best city we could, because we could be confident that if it was good we would find justice in it'

The Republic, Plato's masterwork, was first enjoyed 2,400 years ago and remains one of the most widely-read books in the world: as a foundational work of Western philosophy, and for the richness of its ideas and virtuosity of its writing. Presented as a dialogue between Plato's teacher Socrates and various interlocutors, it is an exhortation to philosophy, inviting its readers to reflect on the choices to be made if we are to live the best life available to us. This complex, dynamic work creates a picture of an ideal society governed not by the desire for money, power or fame, but by philosophy, wisdom and justice.

Christopher Rowe's accurate and enjoyable new translation remains faithful to the many variations of the Republic's tone, style and pace. This edition also contains a chronology, further reading, an outline of the work's main arguments and an introduction discussing Plato's relationship with Socrates, and the Republic's style, ideas and historical context.

The Last Days of Socrates

Plato (and others)

'Consider just this, and give your minds to this alone: whether or not what I say is just'

Plato's account of Socrates' trial and death (399 BC) is a significant moment in Classical literature and the life of Classical Athens. In these four dialogues, Plato develops the Socratic belief in responsibility for one's self and shows Socrates living and dying under his philosophy. In Euthyphro, Socrates debates goodness outside the courthouse; Apology sees him in court, rebutting all charges of impiety; in Crito, he refuses an entreaty to escape from prison; and in Phaedo, Socrates faces his impending death with calmness and skilful discussion of immortality.

Christopher Rowe's introduction to his powerful new translation examines the book's themes of identity and confrontation, and explores how its content is less historical fact than a promotion of Plato's Socratic philosophy.

Timaeus and Critias

Plato (and others)

Timaeus and Critias is a Socratic dialogue in two parts. A response to an account of an ideal state told by Socrates, it begins with Timaeus’s theoretical exposition of the cosmos and his story describing the creation of the universe, from its very beginning to the coming of man. Timaeus introduces the idea of a creator God and speculates on the structure and composition of the physical world. Critias, the second part of Plato’s dialogue, comprises an account of the rise and fall of Atlantis, an ancient, mighty and prosperous empire ruled by the descendents of Poseidon, which ultimately sank into the sea.

The Republic

Plato (and others)

One of the greatest works of philosophy and political theory ever produced, Plato's The Republic has shaped western thought for thousands of years, remaining as relevant today as when it was first written in the Ancient Greece. This Penguin Classics edition is translated by Desmond lee with a new introduction by Melissa Lane.

Plato's Republic is widely acknowledged as the cornerstone of Western philosophy. Presented in the form of a dialogue between Socrates and three different interlocutors, it is an enquiry into the notion of a perfect community and the ideal individual within it. During the conversation other questions are raised: what is goodness; what is reality; what is knowledge? The Republic also addresses the purpose of education and the role of both women and men as 'guardians' of the people. With remarkable lucidity and deft use of allegory, Plato arrives at a depiction of a state bound by harmony and ruled by 'philosopher kings'.

Desmond Lee's translation of The Republic has come to be regarded as a classic in its own right. His introduction discusses contextual themes such as Plato's disillusionment with Athenian politics and the trial of Socrates. The new introduction by Melissa Lane discusses Plato's aims in writing The Republic, its major arguments and its perspective on politics in ancient Greece, and its significance through the ages and today.

Plato (c.427-347 BC) stands with Socrates and Aristotle as one of the shapers of the whole intellectual tradition of the West. He founded in Athens the Academy, the first permanent institution devoted to philosophical research and teaching, and the prototype of all Western universities.

If you enjoyed The Republic, you might like Machiavelli's The Prince, also available in Penguin Classics.

Protagoras and Meno

Plato (and others)

Exploring the question of what exactly makes good people good, Protagoras and Meno are two of the most enjoyable and accessible of all of Plato's dialogues. Widely regarded as his finest dramatic work, the Protagoras, set during the golden age of Pericles, pits a youthful Socrates against the revered sophist Protagoras, whose brilliance and humanity make him one the most interesting and likeable of Socrates' philosophical opponents, and turns their encounter into a genuine and lively battle of minds. The Meno sees an older but ever ironic Socrates humbling a proud young aristocrat as they search for a clear understanding of what it is to be a good man, and setting out the startling idea that all human learning may be the recovery of knowledge already possessed by our immortal souls.

Phaedrus

Plato

Phaedrus is widely recognized as one of Plato's most profound and beautiful works. It takes the form of a dialogue between Socrates and Phaedrus and its ostensible subject is love, especially homoerotic love. This new translation is accompanied by an introduction, further reading, and full notes on the text and translation that discuss the structure of the dialogue and elucidate issues that might puzzle the modern reader.

The Symposium

Plato

Throughout history, some books have changed the world. They have transformed the way we see ourselves - and each other. They have inspired debate, dissent, war and revolution. They have enlightened, outraged, provoked and comforted. They have enriched lives - and destroyed them. Now Penguin brings you the works of the great thinkers, pioneers, radicals and visionaries whose ideas shook civilization and helped make us who we are.

Plato's retelling of the discourses between Socrates and his friends on such subjects as love and desire, truth and illusion, spiritual transcendence and the qualities of a good ruler, profoundly affected the ways in which we view human relationships, society and leadership - and shaped the whole tradition of Western philosophy.

Early Socratic Dialogues

Emlyn-Jones Chris (and others)

Rich in drama and humour, they include the controversial Ion, a debate on poetic inspiration; Laches, in which Socrates seeks to define bravery; and Euthydemus, which considers the relationship between philosophy and politics. Together, these dialogues provide a definitive portrait of the real Socrates and raise issues still keenly debated by philosophers, forming an incisive overview of Plato's philosophy.

The Laws

Plato (and others)

In the Laws, Plato describes in fascinating detail a comprehensive system of legislation in a small agricultural utopia he named Magnesia. His laws not only govern crime and punishment, but also form a code of conduct for all aspects of life in his ideal state - from education, sport and religion to sexual behaviour, marriage and drinking parties. Plato sets out a plan for the day-to-day rule of Magnesia, administered by citizens and elected officials, with supreme power held by a Council. Although Plato's views that citizens should act in complete obedience to the law have been read as totalitarian, the Laws nonetheless constitutes a highly impressive programme for the reform of society and provides a crucial insight into the mind of one of Classical Greece's foremost thinkers.

Gorgias

Plato (and others)

Taking the form of a dialogue between Socrates, Gorgias, Polus and Callicles, GORGIAS debates perennial questions about the nature of government and those who aspire to public office.
Are high moral standards essential or should we give our preference to the pragmatist who gets things done or negotiates successfully? Should individuals be motivated by a desire for personal power and prestige, or genuine concern for the moral betterment of the citizens?
These questions go to the heart of Athenian democratic principles and are more relevant than ever in today's political climate.

Symposium

Plato

It has been said that, after the Bible, Plato's dialogues are the most influential books in Western culture. And of the dialogues, the Symposium is the most delightful and accessible, requiring no special knowledge of ancient Greek philosophy or customs. Dramatizing a party in fifth-century B.C. Athens, the deceptively unassuming Symposium introduces--in the guise of convivial after-dinner conversation--profound ideas about the nature of love. In Phaedrus, here published together with the Symposium, Plato discusses the place of eloquence in expounding truth. In both dialogues, Socrates plays the leading role, by turns teasing, arguing, analyzing, joking, inspiring, and cajoling his followers into understanding ideas that have remained central to Western thought through the centuries.

Theaetetus

Plato (and others)

Set immediately prior to the trial and execution of Socrates in 399 BC, Theaetetus shows the great philosopher considering the nature of knowledge itself, in a debate with the geometrician Theodorus and his young follower Theaetetus. Their dialogue covers many questions, such as: is knowledge purely subjective, composed of the ever-changing flow of impressions we receive from the outside world? Is it better thought of as 'true belief'? Or is it, as many modern philosophers argue, 'justified true belief', in which the belief is supported by argument or evidence? With skill and eloquence, Socrates guides the debate, drawing out the implications of these theories and subjecting them to merciless and mesmerising criticism. One of the founding works of epistemology, this profound discussion of the problem of knowledge continues to intrigue and inspire.

Biography

As the father of Western philosophy, who transformed Greek thought with his questioning insights into life and ethics, Socrates (470-399 bc) was a powerful inspiration - and major irritant - to the Athenians of his day. After his trial and execution on charges of heresy and the corruption of young minds, his greatest pupil Plato (c. 427-347 bc) wrote a series of dialogues as an act of homage.