The Republic dramatizes Socrates’ attempt to convince Plato’s brother Glaucon that the just life of philosophy is preferable to the unjust life of tyranny. Jacob Howland argues that he failed, and that Glaucon joined his relatives Critias and Charmides in the brutal oligarchy of the Thirty Tyrants that governed Athens in the immediate aftermath of the Peloponnesian War. What went wrong? This is the guiding question of Glaucon’s Fate, a book that promises to challenge our understanding of Plato’s masterwork.
“Glaucon's Fate is one of the most interesting and insightful treatments of Plato's Republic in years . . . We may never know the real Socrates, but Howland's mastery and interpretation of an impressive array of works from Plato's time, along with his insight into many Platonic dialogues, including and especially the Republic, makes this book a must-read for anyone interested in Plato, Socrates, and the life of philosophy."—The New Criterion
“Jacob Howland masterfully reads Plato’s Republic as a work of literature and history. By putting the education of Glaucon—Plato’s brother—at the center of the text, he confirms Rousseau’s famous judgment that the Republic is the greatest work on education ever written. Socrates’ failure to turn Glaucon toward the philosophic life illustrates the vulnerabilities of philosophy when confronted with the allures of power and political rule. Glaucon’s Fate is a must-read for every serious student of Plato’s philosophy.”—Steven B. Smith, Alfred Cowles Professor of Political Science, Yale University
“Glaucon’s Fate is splendid. It shows the Republic as no mere epic but a proper Greek tragedy, with the violence, as is traditional, taking place offstage. I found Howland’s book enlightening on every page.”—Lenn E. Goodman, Professor of Philosophy and Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities, Vanderbilt University
“In Glaucon’s Fate, Jacob Howland reveals exquisitely how Plato’s thought was formed by his lived experience. Through close attention to the historical personalities in the circle of Socrates, Howland shows how memory of Glaucon –Plato’s brother, who also figures in Xenophon’s Memorabilia of Socrates—provided a foil for Plato to construct his ideal philosopher-ruler. Our reading of the Republic is richly informed by this book.”—Mark Munn, Professor of Ancient Greek History and Greek Archaeology, The Pennsylvania State University
“Howland’s book reorients nearly every detail of this dialogue that we think we know so well. Glaucon’s Fate is an exhilarating read. It will change the landscape of the scholarly debate about Plato’s Republic for many years to come.” —Anne-Marie Schultz, Professor of Philosophy, Baylor University
Jacob Howland is McFarlin Professor of Philosophy at the University of Tulsa. He is the author of The Republic: The Odyssey of Philosophy (Paul Dry Books, 2004).