Philosophy 290-8

Spring 2008

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
290-8 Graduate Seminar: Plato’s Meno Ebrey Th 2-4 234 Moses Hall

This course will focus on a close reading of Plato’s Meno. Plato seems to have written the Meno soon after he wrote the early Socratic dialogues and the Meno addresses many of the basic ethical topics found in these dialogues: the search for an ethical definition (in this case, “what is virtue?”), the idea that no one desires what is bad, and the question of whether virtue is teachable. The Meno breaks from Plato’s earlier writings by being the first dialogue in which Plato directly discusses epistemological issues. The topics he raises are of fundamental importance: whether inquiry is possible, how to use hypotheses in philosophy, how to distinguish between knowledge and true belief, and why we should value knowledge. This course will examine these topics through a close reading of the text, using secondary literature as an aid. We will also look at relevant passages from other Platonic dialogues so we can think about how this dialogue fits into Plato’s overall philosophical development. Throughout the course, I will put particular emphasis on how these new epistemological questions raise potential difficulties for the ethical project laid out in the early Socratic dialogues and how Plato’s response to these questions is designed to resolve these difficulties, thereby securing Socrates’ ethical project.