Plato's Republic (130(a)) 

Reading and Essays Questions

St Edmund Hall, Oxford, HT12

  

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General Information

This is a syllabus for eight weeks work on Plato’s Republic (paper 130(a), for third-year students). Once we decide on the weekly meeting times, I'll let you know when your essays are due. You should email your essays to me.

This syllabus recommends more readings that you can do each week. The items that are starred (marked with ‘*’ at the start) are the items on which you should focus each week. If you get through those, just keep going.

This syllabus also contains more than one essay question per week. Answer a question of your choice in the essay, and think about the remaining questions.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions.

 

Text and Translation 

The text prescribed for 130(a) is: Platonis Res Publica, ed. S. Slings, Oxford Classical Texts (Oxford University Press 2003).

 

A good translation:

Plato Republic, tr. G.M.A. Grube, revised by C.D.C. Reeve (Hackett 1992).

 

Useful (but quite basic) introduction:

Annas, J.E. Introduction to Plato's Republic (Clarendon, 1981).

 

Topics and Readings

Week 1. Book I and Thrasymachus

Essay Questions

(a) Does Thrasymachus consistently maintain that justice is the advantage of the stronger?

(b) ‘The triumph of bad arguments over good’. Is this a fair description of Socrates’ debate with Thrasymachus? 

Readings

(1) *Plato's Republic, Book I.

(2) *Barney, R 'Socrates' refutation of Thrasymachus', in G. Santas (ed.), The Blackwell Guide to Plato's Republic (2006).

(3) Plato’s Gorgias, 462d-484c [Callicles' speech].

(4) Reeve, C.D.C.: 'Plato meets Thrasymachus', Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie, lxvii (1985), pp. 246—65

(5) Everson, S.: 'The Incoherence of Thrasymachus', Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, xvi (1998), pp. 99—131.

(6) Chappell, T.: 'Thrasymachus and definition', Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy (2000).

(7) Irwin, T.: Plato's Ethics (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006), chapter 11.

 

Week 2.  The Challenge of Glaucon and Adimantus

Essay Questions

(a) 'I want to hear it [i.e. justice] praised by itself' (Glaucon at 358d). What does he mean by 'praised by itself'?

(b) What is the difference between goods welcomed for their own sake, and those welcomed for what comes from them? Is this distinction maintained in Socrates' defence of justice?

Readings

(1) *Republic 357—367, 444e—445a, 612.

(2) Kirwan, C.A.: 'Glaucon's Challenge', Phronesis x (1965) 162-73.

(3) Waterlow, S.: 'The Good of Others in Plato's Republic', Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, lxxiii (1972-3) 19—36.

(4) *Irwin, T.H.: 'Republic 2: questions about justice', in G. Fine (ed.), Plato 2: ethics, politics, religion and the soul, pp. 164—85.

(5) *Heinaman, R.: 'Plato’s Division of Goods in the Republic’, in Phronesis (2002).

(6) *Shields, C.: 'Plato's Challenge: the Case against Justice in Republic II', in G. Santas (ed.), The Blackwell Guide to Plato's Republic (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006).

 

Week 3.  Parts of The Soul

Essay Questions

(a) Does Plato have any good reason for postulating spirit (thumos) as a third part of the soul along with intellect and appetite?

(b) ‘Plato’s soul is simply fabricated to match the structure of the state.’ Discuss.  

Readings

(1) *Republic 436a—441c.

(2) *Lorenz, H.: 'Desire and reason in Plato's Republic', Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, XXVII (2004), pp. 83-116.

(3) *Lorenz, H.: 'The Analysis of the Soul in Plato's Republic', in G. Santas (ed.), The Blackwell Guide to Plato's Republic (Oxford: Blackwell 2007).

(3) Penner, T.: 'Thought and Desire in Plato', in Vlastos (ed.), Plato: A Collection of Critical Essays, vol 2: ethics, politics and philosophy of art and religion (1971), pp. 196—118.

(4) *Cooper, J.M.: 'Plato's Theory of Human Motivation', History of Philosophy Quarterly i (1984) pp. 3—21; reprinted in G. Fine (ed.), Plato 2: ethics, politics, religion and the soul, pp. 186—206.

(5) Lesses, G.: 'Weakness, Reason and the Divided Soul in Plato's Republic', History of Philosophy Quarterly iv (1987), pp. 147—161.

 

Week 4.  City-Soul Analogy

Essay Questions

(a) How is the justice of a just city related to the justice of a just individual?

(b) Does Plato have a good argument for the view that an unjust person must be subject to mental conflict?

Readings

(1) Republic 367e—368e, 427c—436a, 441c—445e.

(2) Sachs, D.: 'A Fallacy in Plato’s Republic', Philosophical Review lxxii (1963), pp. 141—58; reprinted in Vlastos (ed) Plato, a collection of critical essays, vol 2: ethics, politics and philosophy of art and religion (1971) pp. 35—51; and R. Kraut (ed.), Plato's Republic: Critical Essays (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 1997), pp. 1—16.

(3) *Williams, B.A.O.: 'The Analogy of City and Soul in Plato's Republic', in R. Kraut (ed.), Plato's Republic: Critical Essays (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 1997), pp. 49—59; and in G. Fine (ed.), Plato 2: ethics, politics, religion and the soul, pp. 255—64.

(4) Vlastos, G.: 'The Theory of Social Justice in the polis in Plato's Republic', in H.F. North (ed.), Interpretations of Plato (Leiden: EJ Brill, 1977), pp. 1—40.

(5) Cooper, J.M.: 'The Psychology of Justice in Plato', American Philosophical Quarterly xiv (1977) pp. 151-7; reprinted in R. Kraut, R. (ed.), Plato's Republic: Critical Essays (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 1997), pp. 17—30.

(6) Ferrari, G.R.F.: City and Soul in Plato’s Republic (2003), lectures 2 and 3.

(7) *Lear, J.: 'Inside and Outside the Republic', in Phronesis Volume 37, Number 2/January (1992), pp. 184-215; reprinted in R. Kraut (ed.), Plato's Republic: Critical Essays, and Lear, J. Open Minded (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1999).

 

Week 5.  The Distinction between Knowledge and Opinion (or Belief)

Essay Questions

(a) 'If a different power is set over something different, and opinion and knowledge are different powers, then the knowable and the opinable cannot be the same' (478a-b). Discuss.

(b) Who are the 'lovers of sights' of Republic V, and do Socrates' arguments succeed in refuting their views? 

Readings

(1) * Republic 473c—480.

(2) *Fine, G.: 'Knowledge and Belief in Republic V', Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie lx (1978) 121-39.

(3) Irwin, T.: Plato's Ethics, chapter 16.

(4) Annas, J.: An introduction to Plato's Republic, chapter 8.

(5) Gonzales, F.: 'Propositions or Objects? A Critique of Gail Fine', in Phronesis 41 (1996), pp. 245-275.  

 

Week 6.  Mathematics and Dialectic

Essay Questions

(a) How is mathematics 'useful in the search for the beautiful and the good' (531c)?

(b) What is the relation between the story about the cave and the story about the divided line?

(c) How are we to understand the claim that the good is not being, but superior to it in rank and power?

Readings

(1) *Republic 506-41 and also Plato's Phaedo 96-102.

(2) Santas, G.X.: 'The Form of the Good in Plato's Republic', Philosophical Inquiry (1980) , pp. 374—403, reprinted in Fine, G. (ed.), Plato 2: ethics, politics, religion and the soul, pp. 247—74.

(3) Strang, C.: 'Plato's Analogy of the Cave', in Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy iv (1986), pp. 19-34.

(4) *Burnyeat, .: ‘Plato on Why Mathematics is Good for the Soul’, in T. Smiley (ed.), Mathematics and Necessity (Oxford 2002).

(5) Malcolm, J.: 'The Line and the Cave', Phronesis 7 (1962), pp. 38-45.

(6) Marlcom, J.: 'The Cave Revisited', The Classical Philosophical Quarterly 31 (1981), pp. 60-8.

 

Week 7.  Justice and Happiness

Essay Questions

(a) Do the guardians sacrifice their own good in taking their share in government? If so, can Plato show why they should?

(b) Does the Republic provide a satisfactory defence of the view that justice is valuable for its own sake?

Readings

(1) *Republic 443—5, 576—87.

(2) *Vlastos, G.: 'Justice and Happiness in the Republic', in G. Vlastos (ed.), Plato, a collection of critical essays, vol 2: ethics, politics and philosophy of art and religion (1971), pp. 66—95.

(3) Dahl, N. A.: 'Plato's Defence of Justice', Philosophy and Phenomenological Research li (1991, pp.809—834; reprinted in G. Fine (ed.), Plato 2: ethics, politics, religion and the soul, pp. 207—234

(4) *Kraut, R.: 'Return to the Cave: Republic 519—521', in G. Fine (ed.), Plato 2: ethics, politics, religion and the soul, pp. 235—254.

(5) Kraut, R.: 'The Defense of Justice in Plato's Republic', in R. Kraut (ed.), Cambridge Companion to Plato, pp. 311—337; reprinted in R. Kraut (ed.), Plato's Republic: critical essays, pp. 197—221.

(6) Mahoney, T. A.: 'Do Plato’s Philosopher-rulers sacrifice Self-interest to Justice?', Phronesis xxxvii (1992), pp. 265—282.

 

Week 8. Art, Poetry and Censorship

 Essay Questions

(a) Does Socrates succeed in showing that poets 'imitate images of virtue and all the other things they write about and have no grasp of the truth' (600e)?

(b) How might the poets best reply to Plato?

Readings

(1) *Republic 376—403, 595—608.

(2) Urmson, J.O.: 'Plato and the Poets', in R. Kraut (ed.), Plato's Republic: Critical Essays, pp. 223—34; also in Moravcsik, J. M. E and Temko, P (eds.), Plato on Beauty, Wisdom and the Arts.

(3) Nehamas, A. 'Plato on Imitation and Poetry in Republic 10', in Moravcsik, J. M. E and Temko, P (eds.), Plato on Beauty, Wisdom and the Arts (1982), pp. 47—78.

(4) Moravcsik, J.M.E.: 'On Correcting the Poets', Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy iv (1986), pp. 35—47.

(5) Janaway, C.: Images of Excellence, Plato’s Critique of the Arts (OUP 1995), chapters 4-6, 8.

(6) *Burnyeat, M.F.: ‘Culture and Society in Plato’s Republic’, in Tanner Lectures on Human Values vol 20, 1999; available on the web at:

            http://tannerlectures.utah.edu/lectures/documents/Burnyeat99.pdf.

(7) *Moss, J.: 'What is imitative poetry and why is it bad?', in Cambridge Companion to Plato's Republic (Cambridge: CUP, 2007).