Phil 420 Advanced Topics in Plato:
Plato's Ethics, Metaphysics, and Epistemology
Fall 2004
Prof. Mitzi Lee


Lectures: MWF 1-1:50
Call numbers: 20852, 20853
Classroom: Lecture Center A6
Office hours: Monday 11-12, Friday 12-1, and other times by appointment
My Office: 1406 University Hall
My Phone: 312-413-1041
My E-mail: (best way to reach me)
Mailbox: Philosophy lounge, center of the 14th floor, Univ. Hall
Philosophy Department Office: 1421, 1423 University Hall
Philosophy Department Phone: 312-996-3022/3 (Ms. Jackson or Ms. Brown)

Phil 220 'Plato and his predecessors' (strongly recommended) or 221 or 3 courses in philosophy or consent of the instructor. (Please note: if you are new to philosophy, or if you have only had one course, this course is not for you.)

Course Description:
This course will introduce students to some advanced topics in Plato's ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology. (A) Plato's metaphysics. We will begin with the central passages in the Phaedo, the Republic, and the Symposium laying out the 'classic' theory of Forms, and then will investigate Plato's later thoughts about what the Forms are like in the Parmenides, the Philebus, and the Timaeus. Two questions we will pursue are (i) what are the Forms?, and (ii) did Plato's ideas about matter and material body change and develop? (B) Plato's epistemology. We will investigate the 'subject-related' conception of knowledge in the Meno, the 'object-related' conception of knowledge in the Republic, and three definitions of knowledge in the Theaetetus. (C) Plato's ethics. We will begin with a look at the sources for the historical Socrates, and then will sketch the development of ideas concerning Plato's conception of the good and of the good life starting from the early dialogues, through the Republic, and on to the Laws. One of the themes we will pursue is Plato's idea that only philosophers can attain virtue, and therefore happiness. What were his reasons for this, and what kind of a good life did he think is attainable by non-philosophers?

Course Goals:
The aim of this course is to build on students' previous acquaintance with Plato, and to introduce them to more advanced topics in philosophy through study of Plato's middle and late dialogues, and through readings of recent scholarly literature on Plato.

Required Books:
(1) Plato: Complete Works, ed. J. M. Cooper. Hackett Publishing Co. 1997. (hardback ISBN 0-87220-349-2)
(2) Gail Fine (ed.). Plato 1: Metaphysics and Epistemology. (Oxford Readings in Philosophy.) Oxford University Press 1999. (ISBN 0-19-875206-7 paperback)
(3) Gail Fine (ed.). Plato 2: Ethics, Politics, Religion, and the Soul. (Oxford Readings in Philosophy.) Oxford University Press 1999. (ISBN 0-19-875204-0 paperback)
Copies of the books will be on reserve at the Reserve Desk in the main library. It is on 2-hour reserve, so that you can stop by and do the reading any time you're on campus.

Recommended Books:
Strunk and White, The Elements of Style.

Schedule of Reading Assignments

Metaphysics and epistemology (Weeks 1-10)

Week 1 (August 23-27): The Early Dialogues
M: Introduction to the course
W: The Problem of the Socratic Elenchus
Reading for Wednesday:
Gregory Vlastos, "The Socratic Elenchus", in Plato 1.
Laches 187e-188a
Gorgias 470c-474c
Sample argument: Gorgias 475e-479e. [2nd argument against Polus]
Gorgias 482a-c
F: The Problem of Socrates' Disavowal of Knowledge
Reading for Friday August 27:
Apology 19a-23b
Gregory Vlastos, "Socrates' Disavowal of Knowledge", in Plato 1.

Week 2 (August 30-September 3): The Transitional Dialogues

M: Recollection as a Platonic solution to the Socratic problem: where do these true beliefs come from? How is inquiry possible?
Reading for Monday:
Gail Fine, 'Inquiry in the Meno' (photocopy)
Meno 80a-86c

W: The what-is-F question and "Socratic" Forms; The Middle Dialogues Theory of Forms: (i) flux, (ii) compresence of opposites.
Reading for Wednesday:
Euthyphro 5d1-5, 6e3-6, 7c10-d7, 6d9
Aristotle, Metaphysics 987a29-b8; 1078b12-32; 13.9 1086a37-b1 (photocopy)
Phaedo 72e-77d, especially 74bc (the Recollection argument); 77e-80b (the Affinity Argument)
Republic I. 331c; V. 473c-480; VII. 521b-526c (finger passage)
Timaeus 27d-28a
Symposium 211a-b
Terence Irwin, "The Theory of Forms", in Plato 1, pp. 151 to end.

F: The Middle Dialogues Theory of Forms: (iii) the imperfection of the sensible world, (iv) the One over Many argument.
Reading for Friday:
Alexander Nehamas, "The Imperfection of the Sensible World", in Plato 1
Rep. X. 595a-599a. (Third Bed Argument)
1st paper assignment: due in 2 weeks (Friday of 4th week).

Week 3 (September 6-10)

M: Labor Day holiday

W: The Middle Dialogues Theory of Forms: (v) Forms as causes
Phaedo 95a-107a (Response to Cebes (story of youth, appeal to Forms); final argument for the immortality of the soul)
Terence Irwin, "The Theory of Forms", Plato 1, p. 159-161, 166-7.

F: The Middle Dialogues Theory of Forms: (vi) separate from sensibles
Phaedo 95a-107a (again)
Daniel Devereux, "Separation and Immanence in Plato's Theory of Forms", in Plato 1.

Week 4 (September 13-17)

M: Devereux cont.

W: Class cancelled [power outage]

F: Class cancelled [power outage]
Assignment for Friday: 1st PAPER DUE

Week 5 (September 20-24): Monday and Wednesday classes cancelled, but Friday class will meet; Tutorial meetings all week

F 9/24: The Middle Dialogues Theory of Forms: (vii) the many Fs are sensible, but the Form is non-sensible, and can only begrasped by the intellect. Knowledge is always and only about Forms; opinion is always and only of sensible objects.
Gail Fine, "Knowledge and Belief in Republic 5-7", in Plato 1
Republic V. 473c-480
Republic VI. 509d-511e (the Line analogy)
Problems and Issues with the Theory of Forms -- the Late Dialogues

Week 6 (September 27-October 1)

M: The Middle Theory of Forms: (xi) The Form of the Good as cause or reason of the knowability of the forms and of their being or essence' (Republic 508c-509d).
The Sun analogy: Republic VI. 507a-509c
Gerasimos Santas, "The Form of the Good in Plato's Republic", Plato 1, pp. 247-268 (up to end of §III).

W: Parmenides' first criticism of the theory of forms in the Parmenides: The Scope of Forms (130b-e)
Parmenides 126a-130e
Constance Meinwald, Chapter 1 "Introduction", Plato's Parmenides (OUP 1991), pp. 3-19 (photocopy)

F: The Largeness Regress (Prm. 132a1-b2) and the Likeness Regress (132c-133a): The Third Man Argument
Parmenides 132a1-b2, 132c-133a.
Constance Meinwald, "Goodbye to the Third Man" in Kraut ed. (photocopy)
Optional Reading: S. Marc Cohen, "The Logic of the Third Man" in Plato 1.

Week 7 (October 4-8)

M: Phaedrus/Philebus/Statesman: carving at the joints
Assignment for Friday:
Phaedrus: 265D-266C
Philebus 14b-20a (the Promethean method)
Statesman 258b-268d

W: Teleology in the Phaedo and Timaeus
Reading for Wednesday:
Steven Strange, "The Double Explanation in the Timaeus", in Plato 1.
Timaeus, 27c-32c, 34b-37a, 41d-46e, 47e-48e, 68e-69b

F: Class cancelled

Week 8 (October 11-15):

M: Reading for Monday: Theaetetus 151-184
2nd Paper Assignment

W: Theaetetus 151-184 continued
Reading for Wednesday:
Myles Burnyeat, "Knowledge is Perception", in Plato 1.

F: The refutation of the thesis that knowledge is the same as perception
Reading for Friday:
John M. Cooper, "Theaetetus 184-6", in Plato 1.
Theaetetus 184-6

Week 9 (October 18-22):

M: Theaetetus Part II: The Jury
Reading for Monday:
Theaetetus 187a-c, 200d-201c

W: Theaetetus Part III
Reading for Wednesday:
Theaetetus 201c-206b

F: Theaetetus 206c-210d
Assignment for Friday:

Week 10 (October 25-29): Monday and Wednesday classes cancelled; Friday class will meet as scheduled. Tutorials will meet all week as scheduled.

F 10/29: Continued discussion of Theaetetus 201c-210d


Week 11 (November 1-5): Issues in Socratic moral philosophy

M: The 1st Socratic paradox, that virtue is knowledge. The Thesis of the Unity of Virtues and two interpretations of this thesis: (i) Reciprocity of the Virtues (RV), Vlastos, (ii) Identity of the Virtues (IV), Penner.
Reading for Monday:
T. Penner, "The Unity of the Virtues", in Plato 2.
Protagoras 332a3-333b6 (the argument from opposites)
Prt. 349d2-351b2 (the argument from confidence)
Prot. 360c1-7 (argument concerning 'that by virtue of which')
Prot. 360e6-361d6 (the argument from 'virtue is knowledge')
Laches 197e10-199e12
Charmides 169d2-175b2

W: Egoism and eudaimonism
Reading for Wednesday:
Gorgias 467c-468e, 481b-486d
Meno 77-8
Euthydemus 277d-282d
Republic II. 357a-368c
Bernard Williams, Chapter 1 of Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy (photocopy)
Optional: Chapters 2-3 of Ethics and the Limits (photocopy)

F: The 2nd Socratic paradox, that no one does wrong willingly or intentionally (denial of akrasia or weakness of will)
Reading for Friday:
Protagoras 351b3-357e8

Week 12 (November 8-12)

M: The Socratic thesis that virtue is necessary and sufficient for happiness
Gregory Vlastos, "Happiness and Virtue in Socrates' Moral Theory", in Plato 2.
Crito 48b4-c2, 49c10-d5
Gorgias 467c-469e, 499c6-500a3, 506c-509e
Ethics and Psychology in the Republic

W: (1) Glaucon's challenge: why should a rational eudaimonist be just? (2) Does Plato commit the fallacy of irrelevance in his definition of justice in Republic IV?
Reading for Wednesday:
Republic II 357a-367e (Glaucon's challenge), IV 427d-434c (definitions of the virtues in the city), 441c-444e.
Norman Dahl, "Plato's Defence of Justice", Plato 2.

F: Plato's tripartite division of the soul, and his theory of human motivation
Reading for Friday:
John M. Cooper, "Plato's Theory of Human Motivation", Plato 2.
Republic IV. 435c-441c

Week 13 (November 15-19)

M: The city-soul analogy in the Republic
Reading for Monday:
Bernard Williams, "The Analogy of City and Soul in Plato's Republic", in Plato 2.
Republic II. 367e-369c

W: (1) Common Justice seems to be other-directed, whereas Platonic Justice is inner-directed. How is PJ relevant to CJ? (2) Why does the philosopher return to the cave -- why does he or she return to political life -- when it appears that his or her own best interest lies in continuing to pursue the theoretical life? Is this an exception to Plato's eudaimonism?
Reading for Wednesday
Richard Kraut, "Return to the Cave: Republic 519-521" in Plato 2.
Republic 514-521. See also Republic 485-502c.

F: Republic VIII-IX on the forms of corruption in the personality and in the city, and the final argument for why the just [i.e., philosophical] life is the best and happiest one of all.
Reading for Friday:
Republic VIII; Republic IX. 571-580c.
Optional: Jonathan Lear, "Inside and Outside the Republic", Phronesis 37 (1992), 184-215; reprinted in R. Kraut (ed.), Plato's Republic: Critical Essays. (photocopy)

Week 14 (November 22-24): Plato's late moral and political theory

M: What is happiness? In Republic, main component of happiness is justice. In later dialogues, Theaetetus and Timaeus, happiness is becoming as like God as possible (cf. Sedley). But in the Ti. 90a-d, justice is not dominant component of happiness; rather, intellectual virtue is. Do the Republic and Timaeus conflict?
Reading for Monday:
David Sedley, "The Ideal of Godlikeness" in Plato 2.
Symposium 207c-209e (excerpt from Diotima's speech)
Phaedrus 252c-253c
Theaetetus 172b-177c
Timaeus 90ad
Republic VI. 500b8-d3

W: Ordinary citizen morality: the laws should persuade, not compel its citizens.
Assignment for Wednesday:
Laws IV. 718a-723e
Christopher Bobonich, "Persuasion, Compulsion, and Freedom in Plato's Laws", in Plato 2. (optional)

Week 15 (November 29-December 3) Classes cancelled; tutorials meet all week

Final Exam Week: No final exam