Book Review: Plato: The Giants of Philosophy

The book reviewed here is ‘Plato: The Giants of Philosophy’ by Berel Lang and narrated by Charlton Heston. Heston give a comanding performance and it’s interesting to see how he interprets the material given his acting gravitas. Thus at one point he changes role in a rather convincing way. In terms of the content, the audio quality was clear and runs to just over 2 hours giving he listener a rapid overview of Plato’s work. Lang discusses Socrates as no work on Plato is complete without a mention of his famous mentor. I was fascinated to read that Socrates had not left written work instead focusing on the spoken word and an interesting contrast was made between unchanging written words and the living changing spoken word. Still it is through Plato’s written work that the teaching of Socrates survives. Lang takes us on a discussion of Plato’s republic and here we get glimpses into some of the important principles in Western civilisation. I was reminded of a TED talk by Dr Pattanaik (see here) who contrasted Eastern and Western culture.  These insights are always a useful reminder that profound cultural differences can have very distant origins. Would a reading of Plato’s Republic give us insights into how the expression of illness varies across cultures?   Although we learn that Plato considered the ideal in his republic it also becomes apparent that ‘political’ issues interfere with the realisation of such a republic. In modern times when new types of health services are considered they are likely to be piloted before implementation. In a similar way, perhaps Plato could have tried to pilot his Republic, gathering data and evaluating his concepts against the results. Lang talks us through some of Plato’s other values including his focus on the importance of reasoning and here also may be a heritage that has impacted on many areas. Perhaps there is a lot to be gained from considering how people would behave and interact in an ideal society or within health services. A re-evaluation of this nature led to the development of the therapeutic community, a model which is still in use today. Maybe by borrowing from Plato’s approach there still remain many other such health models that could be developed and tailored according to the management of specific illnesses. Indeed nidotherapy, the use of environmental manipulation to manage illness is perhaps one such overlapping area. In summary, I thought this was a brief but useful overview of the rich ideas of Plato.


Berel Lang. Plato: The Giants of Philosophy. Read by Charlton Heston. Blackstone Audio Productions. 1990.


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