Public Republic

Public Republic is an annual, all-day, public reading of the entirety of Plato’s Republic.

This event typically takes place on College Ave. by the Minerva statue near the EUC.

On that day, from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m., we publicly read all 10 books of Plato’s Republic. 

For better or worse, Plato’s Republic is one of the most influential texts in human history.  While it focuses primarily on questions about Justice, it connects this major theme to the full range of philosophical inquiry including questions like what does it mean to know, how ought we act, what can we rationally hope for, and what does it mean to be a human being? Alfred North Whitehead famously quipped, “The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato,” and Republic is Plato’s magnum opus.

This dialogue is an inquiry into Justice, and so long as Justice is a public concern, we should discuss it publicly.  “Republic” is literally res publica, a “public thing.”  Additionally, Plato’s dramatic, dialogical style is an attempt to capture philosophical inquiry done out loud in spoken conversation, and accordingly begs to be read out loud.  Many of this dialogue’s themes are performed, rather than explicitly stated by its characters.  If any piece of philosophical writing ought to be read aloud publicly, it’s Republic.

The conversation portrayed in Republic is meant to take place over the course of one day, so for the sake of accurately bringing it to life, it seems appropriate to stick as close to that as we can.  Some questions take a long time to ask and try to answer, and it takes stamina to stick with them long enough to see where reason takes us.  When was the last time you had a conversation that lasted a whole day?  If our public attention span is shortened, say to 144 character tweets, what gets lost in public discourse?  This public Republic is an exercise for the community, one where we practice coming together to think about the kind of world we want to build for ourselves and each other.

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