Plato  The Republic
There is much to disagree with -- much that is even
dangerous -- in these pages.   
Karl Popper had some reason
to see Plato as the father of the totalitarian state.   Yet the
open commerce of ideas always brings with it some inherent
dangers.   On the other hand, the sheer excitement of
intellectual freedom here, the boldness to envision a political
state starting from a blank sheet of paper, represents a vital
turning point in the evolution of human thought.  Almost
every later advance in political and social organization comes to
us via Plato, based on his vigor in subjecting our governing
institutions to the scrutiny of reason.   But this is more than the
birth of political philosophy:  Plato's discussion of his ideal forms
and his presentation of the allegory of the cave in book seven
remains the starting point for discussions of the nature of
universals, and his opening treatment of justice is a proper
opening salvo in the long history of thinking on jurisprudence.  
More than any other work in the Western tradition, this
dialogue represents the moment when human reason stepped
forward in confidence to assess and pass judgment -- to be the
master of social institutions rather than their slave.  As such,
this work still has many lessons to teach.  

WEB RESOURCES

Here is an on-line version in English -- and here is the original
Greek

Plato for kids, including a YouTube link on the allegory of the
cave

A
life of Plato by Diogenes Laertius is one of our few ancient
sources of biographical information on the philosopher.  

Here is a graphic representation of
Plato's cave and here is
another    
TIPS FOR READERS

When I imagine the
words of Plato, I
inevitably hear them
in the magisterial voice
of the great
Benjamin
Jowett.  I have also
found
A.D. Lindsay a
good guide, if a little
bit dry, and in my
youth I read much of
the
Rouse translation,
which I enjoyed at the
time.  If you are
looking for a single
volume edition of
Plato, the
Hamilton and
Cairns collected works of
Plato comes highly
recommended.