Dorothy Tarrant Lecture, What is Plato’s Republic About? Towards a Theory of Resilience

Dorothy Tarrant Lecture, What is Plato’s Republic About?  Towards a Theory of Resilience
13 March 2019, 5.00pm - 7.00pm
Woburn Suite, G22/26, Ground Floor, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Sara Monoson, Northwestern University

The series of vivid, discrete episodes of an intellectual journey that shape the Republic invite readers to look at its distinct elements severed from their place in the big argument in which each element plays a part. Unsurprisingly, cherry-picked pieces of the long argument of the Republic have long captured focused scholarly attention as well as popular imaginations – for example, the three parts of the soul, myth of the metals, theory of forms, allegory of the cave, ship of state, account of the tyrannical soul.   But the text also explicitly urges readers to steel their nerves, harness their strengths and exhibit some stamina so as to persevere through the twists, turns, oddities, frights, heft and sheer length of the Republic and thus to engage with the construction of the arc of the argument of the text as a whole. What is this long argument about?  The short answer is many things—and that this is one reason the text unceasingly rewards examination.  In this lecture, I illuminate a layer of meaning that stitches the arc together that has been lost to us for too long—its sustained attention to the psychological challenges faced by combat soldiers and a society at war or poised to be. Consider that it is an uncontroversial fact that the guardians from whose ranks philosophers arise in the ideal city are, by profession, combat soldiers.  This lecture will propose that among the things this text is about we must include the human capacity for resilience and an account of its political and philosophical significance.


Valerie James
020 7862 8716