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The Thinkers' Club Message Board › Jefferson's comments on Plato's Republic

Jefferson's comments on Plato's Republic

A former member
Post #: 1
Here are the relevant quotations from Jefferson's letters to Adams regarding Plato's Republic (1814). While searching for the exact quotation, I found that someone had registered the website domain­ for the sole purpose of displaying it:

"Having more leisure there than here [Monticello] for reading, I amused myself with reading Plato’s republic. I am wrong however in calling it amusement, for it was the heaviest task-work I ever went through. I had occasionally before taken up some of his other works, but scarcely ever had patience to go through a whole dialogue. While wading through the whimsies, the puerilities, and unintelligible jargon of this work, I laid it down often to ask myself how it could have been that the world should have so long consented to give reputation to such nonsense as this? How the soi-disant Christian world indeed should have done it, is a piece of historical curiosity."


"With the Moderns, I think, it is rather a matter of fashion and authority. Education is chiefly in the hands of persons who, from their profession, have an interest in the reputation and the dreams of Plato. They give the tone while at school, and few, in their after-years, have occasion to revise their college opinions. But fashion and authority apart, and bringing Plato to the test of reason, take from him his sophisms, futilities, and incomprehensibilities, and what remains?"


"In truth, he is one of the race of genuine Sophists, who has escaped the oblivion of his brethren, first by the elegance of his diction, but chiefly by the adoption and incorporation of his whimsies into the body of artificial Christianity. His foggy mind is forever presenting the semblances of objects which, half seen thro’ a mist, can be defined neither in form or dimension. Yet this which should have consigned him to early oblivion really procured him immortality of fame and reverence."


"The Christian priesthood, finding the doctrines of Christ leveled to every understanding, and too plain to need explanation, saw, in the mysticisms of Plato, materials with which they might build up an artificial system which might, from its indistinctness, admit everlasting controversy, give employment to their order, and introduce it to profit, power and preeminence. The doctrines which flowed from the lips of Jesus himself are within the comprehension of a child; but thousands of volumes have not yet explained the Platonisms engrafted on them: and for this obvious reason that nonsense can never be explained."
user 8342056
Twinsburg, OH
Post #: 4
...and imagine being an eager philosophy novice seeking to find "the Truth"...and the first thing that you read is Plato's Republic. One thing to keep in mind for anyone new to philosophy: do not believe in anything that you read, especially without a basis for comparison.

What does it mean to be a sophist? Someone who presents clever yet trite arguments because they can modify language to do so....false genius?

Some things to think about going through this book:

What is justice (haha)?
What is Plato's political stance?
Does the order in which this text proceed make any sense?
In what different ways can you read and interpret this book (try thinking about is as a work of

Thanks for coming to this last meetup guys! Great to have all of you. I am very much looking forward to hearing your reactions to the Republic.
user 8342056
Twinsburg, OH
Post #: 5
I talked to the librarians and they are going to reserve meeting room 1 (where we met last time) for two hours from now on. Anyone who wants to keep on talking past 8pm is welcome to stay and discuss more, but is not obligated to.

As an update to all of the people who missed the first meetup, we decided to stay at the Twinsburg library instead of moving the meetup location around. According to other meetup organizers, inconsistency with the meetup location has proved to be a challenge for other meetup groups and results in lower attendance over time. A significant number of the members live in the Twinsburg area.

To all the people who live out on the West side, perhaps we could appoint a West side organizer to start a meetup group that meets there (?) if Twinsburg seems too far away. Let me know what you guys think.
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