For Readers

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Imagine there was a great beast, say, on the plains of Africa. Imagine this beast roamed the nearly-barren lands. Say there were other beasts like this one, but they had since wasted away in the heat of the sun, or the cold of the night. Imagine this beast, this fragile life. Now imagine something different. Imagine all the constituent parts of the beast. Imagine its bones, its skin, its hair. Imagine all these parts. How dead they seem, how lifeless …

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There seems to be a prevailing, almost orthodox, interpretation of Plato’s Republic, that Plato himself was a staunch supporter of totalitarianism with great confidence in his proposed aristocracy. But this view often neglects the first city described in Book II, which arises out of the assumption that humans have many needs which cannot be satisfied independently (369b-c). It is easy to dismiss this constitution in particular, for it is quickly pushed aside and forgotten by even the characters themselves. Nonetheless …

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