Philosophy 160

Fall 2007

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
160 Plato Ebrey TuTh 9:30-11 126 Barrows

How should we be living our lives? We will begin the class with this basic question raised by Plato’s teacher, Socrates. Trying to answer this question will eventually lead Plato to make some quite strange claims: the sensible world is fundamentally unintelligible on its own, definitions are not to be found in the sensible world, our souls are immortal and contain within them all knowledge, and we should be ruled by philosopher-kings. How does Plato start with such a simple question about how to live our lives and end with such radical claims about politics and the universe as a whole?

Plato’s intellectual development begins with his teacher, Socrates, searching for definitions of the things found in the best lives – things such as courage, justice, piety and temperance. After examining this Socratic project, we will follow Plato as he develops the project in his own directions. One way he develops it is by thinking, not just about how we should live our individual lives, but also about how we should organize ourselves politically. Plato also thinks that non-ethical concerns arise from Socrates’ search for definition in ethics. A basic concern Plato has is: how can we acquire this knowledge that Socrates is searching for? Further, what are these definitions that Socrates seeks – where in the world could one find such a thing? Moreover, Plato becomes interested in how we can make sense, not of our own lives, but of the world we observe around us. The course will focus on close reading skills to try to unearth how Plato argues for such strange and radical answers to these questions.

Prerequisite: Philosophy 25A

Previously taught: FL06, FL04.