Allan Bloom, who wrote the “Closing of the American Mind” in the late 1980s, translated Plato’s “Republic” in the 1970s. He says Plato should be translated word for word. You should always translate a given Greek word into the same English word as much as possible.
The resulting English will not always sound good or be easy to understand. That is fine. Your duty is to be as faithful to Plato as possible. What readers you drive away were never serious about understanding Plato in the first place.
Bloom’s hero in this is William of Moerbeke. He translated Aristotle into Latin so faithfully that Aquinas never had to read Aristotle in the original!
Bloom does not presume to understand Plato to his depths – that is for greater minds than his. That is why he must be a slave to Plato’s words. He must not put his imperfect understanding between Plato and the reader.
But that is just what most who translate Plato now do. Their aim is to make Plato easy to read and understand. They think they understand him well enough that they can express his meaning just as a present-day Englishman or American would.
For example, when Plato says “the beautiful and the good”, they translate it as “moral values”, because that is how someone would put it today.
But Plato would never have put it that way, even if he were alive now. “Moral values” is a German idea that is barely a hundred years old. To the ancient Greeks it is a foreign idea. It is not how they thought.
To put “moral values” into Plato’s mouth covers up his ideas with our own. We are no longer reading Plato but ourselves.
This is no small matter: Plato was very careful in his use of words and their meanings. To stick in our own words that we are comfortable with destroys his argument.
For example, for us “values” are the opposite of “facts”. If we put “moral values” in place of “the beautiful and the good”, it makes it seem as if Plato derives values from facts. It makes him look simple-minded.
It is not just Plato that is translated this way. Most ancient works have been translated this way for the past fifty years. Even Holy Scripture!
Because we think we know better than the ancients. Because we know more science than they did, we assume we know more about everything. We look down on them and think they have nothing to teach us. That includes even the deepest thinkers of all time, like Plato.
Plato suffered from what we delicately call a “world view”, meaning a strange way of looking at the world that is plainly wrong. Yes, “world view” is another of those German ideas. But this is an idea that undermines itself because it is itself from a “world view”!
But this is not something you would discover reading Plato as he is translated today.