On the most general level, our primary goal in this course is to become better philosophers. To become better philosophers, I think it is imperative that we become better readers of philosophy. Accordingly, I intend this course to be a lesson in textual exegesis or interpretation, and there is perhaps no better place to acquire interpretive skill than the study of Platonic dialogues. We will, of course, also be working philosophically with the text—i.e. considering the truth or falsity of the propositions we find throughout the Republic. Ultimately, however, the emphasis will be on our ability to understand the positions presented by the characters in the dialogue, and for the most part we will learn and apply a simple exegetical strategy to achieve this understanding. In turn, this strategy and its product should expand our capacity to evaluate the truth and falsity of claims made by philosophers other than Plato, and I’m thinking, in particular, of claims made about what constitutes the good life.
With regard to format, this course is a discussion class, and in order to maintain the quality of the discussion, there will be assignments (short essays, quizzes, etc.) for most sessions. Discussion will be centered around two texts: Allan Bloom. 1991. The Republic of Plato: Translated, with Notes, an Interpretive Essay, and a New Introduction. New York: Basic Books. Julia Annas. 1981. An Introduction to Plato’s Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press. We will also be reading and discussing excerpts (which I will post online) from: Kenneth Dover. 1994. Greek Popular Morality in the Time of Plato and Aristotle. Indianapolis: Hackett.
TEXTS: (Required) The Republic of Plato: Translated, with Notes, an Interpretive Essay, and a New Introduction, Allan Bloom; An Introduction to Plato’s Republic, Julia Annas; (Optional) Greek Popular Morality in the Time of Plato and Aristotle, Kenneth Dover.