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Plato's Republic in Modern Scots

Saturday, July 6, 2024
20 mins

Over the next fortnight or so we'll publish our translation of Plato's Republic.

We're very proud of this work and hope it reaches the widest audience possible. Our first ebook, Aesop's Fables in Scots, is selling well and has been very warmly received. Huge thanks to all who've purchased, helping us fund further similar work. (The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists and the I-Ching are in the pipeline.)

Republic is a very different project, one which we feel casts the classic in an entirely new light.

We look forward to receiving feedback, however critical, and encourage regulars to pass the link for this page to anyone they feel may find it of interest.

Today we publish the Introduction and summaries of the ten 'books'.

If you would like to buy the whole thing, please click link:

OTS (stripe.com)

The Republic

by Plato

Editor’s Foreword

By Les Bertrand

As far as we ken, this is the first time Plato's Republic has been translated intae Modern Scots, and since it wisnae written by a Scots speaker themsels, there's a wee bit o' explainin' needed.

First aff, whit is Modern Scots?

It’s a language variety spoken in the Lowlands o' Scotland and bits o' Ulster in Northern Ireland. It's like a wee sister tae English, baith o' them havin' come fae the same aulder language, Old English. Let's tak a look at whit makes up Modern Scots:

  • Its Ain Words: Modern Scots has its ain special words and phrases that ye wouldn't hear in Standard English. For instance, "bairn" means child, "wee" means wee, and "ken" means tae knaw.
  • Grammark Twists: While it shares some similarities wi' English grammar, Modern Scots has its ain wee turns o' phrase. The way it puts sentences thegither, the way it changes verbs, and hoo it uses wee words like "the" can be different at times.
  • A Different Sooth: The way fowk speak Modern Scots sounds different fae English in a wheen ways. The vowel sounds can be yin thing, and the consonant sounds might be a wee bit different as well.

Think o't This Way: Imagine Spanish and Portuguese. They baith come fae the same Roman Latin, but they've become separate languages wi' their ain vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. Modern Scots is similar in that wey tae English.

A Language or a Dialect? That's a question that keeps linguists gaun. Some argue that it's a full-fledged language because o' its unique features, while others see it as a dialect on a spectrum o' languages. But whit it's called disnae change the fact that Modern Scots is a language wi' a rich history and cultural importance in Scotland.


By Rab Clark

In Plato's Republic, scrieved around 380 BCE, we find nae just a philosophical treatise, but a fundamental wark o' Western political thocht. Through a wheen o' blethers atween Socrates and his chums, Plato delves intae the nature o' justice, the ideal society, and the role o' the individual within it.

The Republic kicks aff wi' a seemingly straightfaur question: whit is justice? Socrates challenges the dour wee notion o' justice bein' simply gettin' what ye deserve. He sets aff on a philosophical quest, weavin' thegither blethers aboot different aspects o' a just society.

The Ideal City: Justice as Harmony

Plato proposes a society split intae three classes: rulers (philosopher-kings), auxiliaries (guards), and producers (warkers). Ilk class has its ain special virtues: wisdom for the rulers, bravery for the auxiliaries, and moderation for the producers. Justice, in this braw wee state, arises whan each class does its designated job, creatin' social harmony.

The Soul's Reflection: Justice Within

Plato disnae stop at societal justice; he explores hoo it reflects within the soul o' a person. He proposes that the soul is made up o' three bits: reason, spirit, and desire. Just as the ideal city thrives on its classes workin' weel thegither, a just person achieves inner peace whan reason guides spirit and desire.

The Philosopher-King: Knowledge and Leadership

A key concept in Plato's Republic is the philosopher-king. Thir rulers hae nae just poleetical power, but also the highest form o' knowledge – knowledge o' the Forms, perfect and never-changin' realities that lie beyond the physical warld. Through years o' learnin' philosophy and mathematics, the philosopher-king gets this knowledge, allouin' them to steer the city towards true justice.

The Allegory of the Cave: The Pursuit of Knowledge

Yin o' the maist famous passages in the Republic is the Allegory o' the Cave. It depicts humanity's limited grasp o' reality. Folk are chained up in a cave, facin' a wall, and can only see flichperin' shadows cast by a fire behind them. They think these shadows are the real deal. The allegory represents oor reliance on oor senses, that gie us a bum deal o' whit the warld is truly like. The philosopher's journey is then shown as an escape fae the cave and a climb up intae the outside warld, symbolisin' the pursuit o' knowledge o' the Forms.

Challenges and Counterarguments

The Republic also acknowledges the challenges o' implementin' this ideal system. Socrates himsel recognises the potential dangers o' philosopher-kings turnin' intae rotten tyrants. The book explores different forms o' government – timocracy, oligarchy, democracy, and tyranny – and demonstrates hoo each represents a degeneration o' the ideal state, wi' correspondin' imbalances within the individual soul.

Why is The Republic Important?

Plato's Republic is important for several reasons:

  • Foundations of Political Philosophy: It laid the groundwork for Western political thocht. Concepts like the social contract, the rule o' law, and the importance o' education in shapin' guid citizens aw find their roots in the Republic.
  • Justice and the Individual: It presents a compelling argument for the connection atween justice in society and justice within the individual.
  • The Pursuit of Knowledge: It emphasises the importance o' reason and knowledge in achievin' a guid life, both individually and collectively.
  • Enduring Questions: The Republic raises timeless questions aboot the nature o' justice, the purpose o' government, and the role o' the individual in society. These questions continue to be relevant in contemporary political discourse.

While some o' Plato's ideas, particularly the concept o' philosopher-kings, may seem impractical in the modern warld, The Republic remains a cornerstone o' Western philosophy. It continues to be studied and debated, offerin' valuable insights intae the complexities o' human society and the pursuit o' a just and harmonious life.

The Beuk Summaries

by Frances Watt

Beuk 1

Beuk 1 o' Plato's Republic kicks aff wi' Socrates bletherin' tae his pals at a festival. They're natterin' aboot whit justice is, see? Folk come oot wi' a wheen simple ideas, like tellin' the truth or bein' braw tae yer mates. But Socrates, bein' the clever chiel he is, picks holes in ilka notion, showin' their flaws.

Efter a wee while, the blether turns tae whit a perfect society micht be like. Socrates uses a metaphor tae describe a city wi' three clear classes: rulers (philosopher kings, nae less!), auxiliaries (fechtin' men), and producers (folk that mak things). Each class wid hae their ain special virtue: wisdom for the rulers, bravery for the auxiliaries, and moderation for the producers. Just like a body that works weel needs each bit tae dae its ain job, a just society needs each class tae wirk thegither in harmony.

Then the bletherin' moves on tae whit justice is like within a person. Socrates says that the soul, same as the city, is made up o' three parts: reason, spirit, and desire. Juustice inside a person comes aboot when reason, bein' the richt ruler, keeps the ither twa (the feisty spirit and the greedy desires) in check, makin' sure everyone plays their part richtly.

By the end o' Beuk 1, the stage is set for a deeper look at justice. We've got the grundwork laid for a "just" society and a "just" person, so noo we can delve intae whit these concepts truly mean and hoo we can gang aboot reachin' them.

Beuk II

In Beuk 2 o' Plato's Republic, they dive deeper intae the hale concept o' justice, especially whit it means for a person themsel. Glaucon and Adeimantus, no bein' fully convinced by the previous bletherin', gie Socrates a richt hassle. They argue that bein' just seems mair like a pain in the neck than onythin' else, seein' as hoo the just person often gets the short end o' the stick.

Glaucon chucks in the story o' Gyges, a chiel wha gets tae be invisible and uses it tae act like a scunner. He says if bein' just brings nae personal benefit, and ye can be unjust withoot gettin' caught, why even bother bein' decent? Adeimantus jumps in and agrees, pointin' oot the hypocrisy in society – a wheen fowk preach aboot justice but act oot o' pure selfishness.

Socrates, bein' the canny chiel he is, argues that they're lookin' at justice the wrang wey. He says they shouldnae just think aboot it in terms o' single folk, but see hoo it works in a weel-ordered city, a sort of "healthy state." He lays oot hoo sic a city micht come aboot, explainin' hoo different classes o' fowk appear based on natural human needs and skills.

Then Socrates describes the teachin' system for the guardians (the auxiliary class), the folk wha protect the city. This learnin' focuses on bein' strong and bein' musical, makin' them brave and disciplined. Niest, he outlines the teachin' for the rulers (philosopher kings). Their teachin' gaes further, includin' philosophy and mathematics tae gie them wisdom and the ability tae see the "Forms" (perfect, unchanging realities that are aye the same).

The beuk ends by emphasizin' harmony within a person. Just like the city thrives when each class does its ain job, a person finds true justice when reason keeps the spirit and desires in check. By the end o' Buik 2, the stage is set for a blether aboot the ideal ruler and the challenges o' makin' a truly just society.

Beuk III

In Beuk 3 o' Plato's Republic, Socrates keeps bletherin' wi' Glaucon and Adeimantus, this time aboot teachin' and whit the guardian class should be up tae.

First aff, he natterers aboot hoo stories can shape the guardians' character. He wants stories that mak' them brave and nae feart o' death. He gets right grumpy aboot the myths they tell noo, sayin' they mak' gods and heroes look like numpties, which could gie the guardians less respect for authority.

Niest, Socrates lays oot whit life will be like for the guardians. They'll a' live thegither, nae private property or faimily ties for them. This keeps them loyal tae the city-state and stops their ain stuff gettin' in the wey o' their duties. He says they should see the hale city as their faimily and their belangs.

The bletherin' turns back tae justice again. Socrates says that justice within a person is like the structure o' a just city. The city works best when each class does its ain job, and a person finds true justice when reason is in charge o' the spirit and desires. Reason, the bit that thinks deeply, should guide the feisty spirit and the greedy desires to mak' sure everything's harmonious inside their soul.

Finally, Socrates gets on aboot the importance o' music and gymnastics in trainin' guardians. Music helps them control their emotions and work well wi' others, while gymnastics keeps them strong and brave. This teachin' thegither helps guardians no just defend the city physically, but also fight the wee battles within their ain souls, makin' sure they live a just and harmonious life.

By the end o' Beuk 3, we've got the foundations laid for a just society, thanks tae hoo the guardians are educated and live. Noo, the bletherin' will be aboot the ideal ruler, the philosopher king, wha is the embodiment o' wisdom and justice.

Beuk IV

In Beuk 4 o' Plato's Republic, Socrates builds on the ideas o' a just society fae the previous beuks. He argues that justice isnae just something ye find in a city, but it's also within a person themsel, and baith o' them work in a similar wey.

First aff, they haver aboot the fower main virtues: wisdom, bravery, moderation, and justice. Socrates says that a just city, wi' its different classes daein' their ain jobs, shows these virtues in action. The rulers are wise, the auxiliaries are brave, and the producers are moderate by acceptin' their role. Justice, then, is whan everything in the city works thegither weel.

Niest, Socrates blethers aboot hoo these virtues appear within a person's soul. He says the soul has three parts: reason (thinkin' and plannin'), spirit (yer emotions and drive), and desire (wantin' things for yer body). Juustice for a person comes aboot when reason, like the ruler class, keeps the feisty spirit and the greedy desires in check, makin' sure everyone plays their part richtly.

The beuk keeps gaun wi' Socrates lookin' at the qualities o' a just person. He says this kind o' person is ruled by reason and wants what reason wants, no the other wey aroon'. A just person has all fower virtues: wisdom through reason, bravery through the spirit obeyin', moderation through controllin' themsels, and justice through all three parts workin' thegither weel.

By the end o' Beuk 4, the connection atween justice in a person and a city is clear as day. Noo, the bletherin' turns tae hoo they should educate and train the philosopher king, the ideal ruler wha is chock-full o' wisdom and keeps the city functionin' justly.

Beuk V

In Beuk 5 o' Plato's Republic, Socrates dives deeper intae the ideal society and the just person, but Glaucon and Adeimantus arenae exactly convinced by his grand plan. They take issue wi' his fancy ideas, particularly the unconventional roles for women – learnin' the same as the men and livin' communally within the guardian class.

Socrates fechts his corner, arguin' that guardians, lads and lasses alike, should be taught based on their abilities, no whether they're a bloke or a woman. He says that gettin' everyone to play their part for the good o' the whole city is what true justice is all aboot.

Next, the bletherin' moves on tae whit justice looks like within a person. Socrates says the soul is made up o' three bits: reason (thinkin' things through logically), spirit (yer passion and bravery), and desire (yer basic needs and wants). Just like the city works best when each class does its job, a person finds true justice when reason is in charge, keepin' the feisty spirit and the greedy desires under control.

Then the focus shifts tae the ideal ruler, the philosopher king. Through years o' learnin' philosophy and mathematics, the philosopher king gets access tae the "Forms," which are perfect and never-changin' realities. This knowledge lets them understand the concept o' justice and guide the city towards its ultimate well-bein'.

By the end o' Beuk 5, they explore the rewards o' livin' a just life. Socrates argues that true happiness comes from bein' virtuous, even if things are tough. He compares the soul tae a chariot, wi' reason as the skilled driver holdin' the reins, and the spirit and desire as the twa horses. The just person, wi' reason in control, steers through life's challenges wi' harmony and finds true fulfilment.

Beuk VI

In Beuk 6 o' Plato's Republic, they delve deeper intae the whole philosopher-king idea and the struggles o' gettin' a just society.

Socrates acknowledges that there could be dangers wi' philosopher-kings.  Clever folk, if they're no taught properly, could turn rotten and become tyrants. He hammers hame the importance o' bringin' up these leaders wi' the richt qualities.

The beuk niest explores the "divided line," a metaphor explainin' the relationship atween knowledge, belief, and plain ignorance. Imagine a line split intae two: the warld o' appearances (whit ye can see) and the warld o' Forms (the stuff ye can only understand through thinkin' deeply). Knowledge comes from understandin' the Forms, while belief is just us makin' sense o' the shadows and reflections o' the Forms that we see in the physical warld. Ignorance covers both gettin' things wrang and no even kennin' the Forms exist.

Socrates then goes back tae the ideal city. He says this city cannae exist unless philosophers are kings, or kings become philosophers. True justice can only happen when folk wha understand the Forms (philosophers) are in charge and steer the city towards the greater good.

The beuk keeps bletherin' aboot the nature o' a philosopher. Socrates says true philosophers have a soul that's harmonious, wi' reason, spirit, and desire all workin' thegither nicely. They're also chock-full o' a love for wisdom and a desire to understand the Forms. But these folk often face pressure fae society to chase after riches and power, which can distract them from their philosophical pursuits.

Beuk 6 wraps up by settin' the stage for Beuk 7. The concept o' the philosopher-king is well and truly established, and they've acknowledged the challenges o' makin' this ideal system work. Noo, they're ready to delve deeper intae the role o' the philosopher in a just society.

Beuk VII

In Beuk 7 o' Plato's Republic, Socrates unveils yin o' his maist famous notions: the Allegory o' the Cave. This allegory portrays hoo mankind's grasp o' reality is awfy limited. Imagine folk chained up in a cave, facin' a wall, only seein' flichperin' shadows cast by a fire behind them. They think these shadows are the real deal. This allegory represents oor reliance on oor senses, that gie us a bum deal o' whit the warld is truly like.

Socrates then describes whit could happen if yin o' the prisoners wis tae escape the cave and climb up intae the outside warld. Blinded at first by the sunlight, this escapee slowly gets used to it and sees things as they really are. This represents the philosopher's journey towards kennin' the Forms, the perfect and never-changin' realities that lie beyond the physical warld.

The allegory emphasises hoo tricky it is tae get true knowledge. The escapee, gaun back to the cave tae share their experience, just gets laughed at by the ithers that are still chained up tae their limited understanding.

The bletherin' then moves on tae the role o' the philosopher-king. Just like the escapee frae the cave needs tae return and guide the ithers, the philosopher-king, havin' grasped the Forms, has a duty tae go back tae the city and lead it towards justice.

Whilst recognisin' the challenges and potential dangers, Socrates hammers hame the importance o' philosophers bein' involved in politics. He argues that a true just society can only exist when folk wha possess true knowledge (o' the Forms) are in charge.

Beuk 7 wraps up by highlichtين (highlightin') the education and trainin' needed tae create philosopher-kings. The path o' a philosopher isnae for the faint-hearted – it takes dedication tae learnin' and a willingness tae serve the greater good.


In Beuk 8 o' Plato's Republic, Socrates dives intae hoo a perfect society can gang rotten, and hoo fowk's souls end up gaun downhill alang wi' it. He suggests auld governments turnin' intae newfangled, corrupted versions o' themsels:

  • Timocracy: This yin crops up when the fechtin' class (auxiliaries) get too pushion and value honour and bein' braw at warrin' mair than bein' a wise philosopher. It's a wee bit like the ideal state, but ower keen on havin' a barney.
  • Oligarchy: When the love o' siller takes ower, the timocratic state turns intae an oligarchy. Here, wha ye own is mair important than wha ye are, and the rich folk are in charge.
  • Democracy: Oligarchies eventually mak' the folk with nae property grumpy, leadin' tae a fight for power and a democracy bein' set up. But for Plato, democracies gie folk ower much freedom, which leads tae social chaos and anarchy.
  • Tyranny: Out o' the mess o' democracy comes a tyrant wha takes advantage o' folk wantin' order and safety. The tyrant rules through fear and violence, shuttin' down any disagreements.

Beuk 8 also explores hoo these governments gaun downhill mirrors whit happens tae a person's soul. Each type o' government reflects a different imbalance within the soul:

  • Timocracy: The feisty spirit bosses reason and desire aboot.
  • Oligarchy: The greedy desire for stuff trumps reason and spirit.
  • Democracy: A' three elements are constantly fechtin', leadin' tae disharmony and nae stability.
  • Tyranny: Juist yin wee bit, often the basest desires, completely takes ower the soul, leadin' tae tyranny and injustice.

By the end o' Beuk 8, Plato makes it clear that a healthy society and healthy souls go hand in hand. He sets the stage for Beuk 9, whaur they'll delve deeper intae the character o' a tyrant and the path towards livin' a just life.

Beuk IX

In Beuk 9 o' Plato's Republic, they delve intae the minds o' tyrants and whit true happiness really is.

First aff, Socrates explores hoo a tyrant comes aboot. He argues that a tyrant develops in a democratic hoosehauld, whaur there's a constant battle between tyrannous desires and the freedoms o' democracy. The democratic man gives intae unnecessary desires but lacks the discipline o' the aristocratic (ideal) man.

A tyrant appears when someone wi' these desires gets powerful. This chiel lacks reason and self-control, allouin' their basest wants to rule the roost.

Niest, Socrates compares the souls o' different types o' folk. He argues that the just person, wi' reason in charge, experiences true happiness, even if things are tough. The chiel wha chases honour and the yin wha chases wealth, lackin' wisdom, can only find a flichtin' and limited happiness.

The beuk dives deeper intae the concept o' pleasure. Socrates draws a distinction atween true and fake pleasures. Fake pleasures, like the ones that come fae satisfyin' wee desires straightaway, are fleein' and ultimately leave ye feelin' empty. True happiness comes fae fulfillin' yer nature and livin' a virtuous life.

Socrates uses the analogy o' a city tae explain this point. A just city, whaur each class does its job, runs smoothly and experiences a form o' true pleasure. This is similar tae the individual soul whaur reason guides the spirit and desire, leadin' tae a sense o' inner peace and fulfilment.

By the end o' Beuk 9, there's a clear distinction atween the just life and the tyrannical life. The true path tae happiness lies in livin' virtuously and alignin' yersel wi' reason and wisdom. This sets the stage for Beuk 10, whaur they'll explore art, literature, and hoo they shape a just society.

Beuk X

In Beuk 10 o' Plato's Republic, Socrates grapples wi' the role o' art and stories in a just society. He argues that these ways o' expressin' yersel can be damagin' if they promote vice or lead folk astray.

First aff, they return tae the concept o' justice within a person. Socrates compares the just soul tae a harmonious sang scale, whaur different elements work thegither in perfect balance. He says that art and stories should reflect this harmony and encourage bein' virtuous.

Socrates gets right grumpy aboot poems that show gods and heroes actin' in unjust or immoral ways. He argues that sic portrayals can undermine the values o' society and corrupt young minds. Instead, he wants art that promotes bravery, moderation, and the other important virtues.

The beuk dives intae the concept o' imitation. Plato argues that art copies the world o' appearances, which is itself a copy o' the real warld o' Forms. He suggests that artists wha simply copy appearances are makin' a copy o' a copy, even further fae reality.

True art, according to Socrates, should strive tae depict the Forms themsels, reflectin' eternal truths and promotin' a sense o' the ideal. He emphasises the importance o' censorship in a just society, makin' sure that only art that aligns wi' these principles is allowed.

By the end o' Beuk 10, there's a clear contrast atween the life devoted tae philosophy and the life o' a pleasure-seeker. The philosopher, through reason and knowledge, seeks tae understand the Forms and live a virtuous life. The pleasure-seeker, on the other hand, chases flichtin' satisfaction and ultimately leads a less fulfillin' life.

While Beuk 10 focuses on art and literature, it also serves as a summary o' the main themes o' the Republic. It emphasises the importance o' reason, knowledge, and livin' a virtuous life for both individual and societal well-being.

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