Study Guide

The Republic Writing Style

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Writing Style


For awe-inspiring drama or tear-worthy poetry, you should look elsewhere than Plato's Republic. Although we see flashes of personality from Socrates and a few of the other characters, the emphasis really is on the philosophical dialogue.

In fact, the Republic is Plato's least "story-like" dialogue: it emphasizes the terms and ideas under scrutiny more clearly—and more exclusively—than most of Plato's other works do. The writing style is absolutely precise when it sets up terms like "the forms" or "the good," and it constantly returns to those terms over and over again. You really do get the sense that you can leave the Republic with a Platonic vocabulary of key words that get elaborated and redefined as the dialogue progresses.

This Platonic vocabulary, however, does get a little complicated by the fact that Plato wrote the Republic in Ancient Greek. What we work with today is a set of terms and principles, like "the forms," that have been translated from Greek. Luckily, since Plato is so important, and his ideas have been so influential, the terminology of Plato's philosophy has been more of less standardized in English.

But it's good to remember that even the best translation is still an approximation of the original, so the more you can learn about what exactly Plato means when he uses certain words, the better able you'll be to make sense of what he's saying.

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