Classical Ethical Theory: Plato

by Suzanne Obdrzalek, Philosophy Department, Claremont McKenna College

Required Texts:

  • Cooper, ed.–Plato: Complete Works

Course Description:

Plato is considered the first philosopher in the Western tradition to propose significant theories in ethics, moral psychology and political philosophy. This course will focus on a close reading of Platonic dialogues such as the Protagoras, the Republic and the Statesman. We will examine Plato’s views on virtue and vice, psychological conflict, our moral obligations to others, and the political role of the philosopher. We will assess Plato’s views for their philosophical merit, as well as discuss their influence on subsequent philosophers.

Schedule of Readings and Assignments:

Week One: Introduction (no assigned reading)

Week Two

  1. Euthyphro
  2. Vlastos, “Socratic Piety”

Week Three

  1. Gorgias
  2. Vlastos, “Does Socrates Cheat?”

Week Four

  1. Protagoras
  2. Penner, “The Unity of Virtue,”
  3. Santas, “Plato’s Protagoras and Explanations of Weakness”

Week Five

  1. Irwin, “Recollection and Plato’s Moral Theory”

Week Six

  1. Vlastos, “The Individual as Object of Love in Plato,”
  2. Nussbaum, “The Speech of Alcibiades: a Reading of the Symposium”

Week Seven

  1. Phaedrus
  2. Nussbaum, “‘This Story Isn’t True’: Madness, Reason and Recantation in the Phaedrus,”
  3. Ferrari, “Platonic Love”

Week Eight

  1. Republic, Books I&II
  2. White, “The Classification of Goods in Plato’s Republic,”
  3. Kirwin “Glaucon’s Challenge”

Week Nine

  1. Republic, Books II-IV

Week Ten

  1. Cooper, “Plato’s Theory of Human Motivation”

Week Eleven

  1. Sachs, “A Fallacy in Plato’s Republic,”
  2. Kraut, “The Defense of Justice in Plato’s Republic”

Week Twelve

  1. Republic, Books V-VII
  2. Santas, Goodness and Justice: Plato, Aristotle and the Moderns, chs. 3-5

Week Thirteen

  1. Republic, Books VIII-X
  2. Williams, “The Analogy of City and Soul in Plato’s Republic,”
  3. Lear, “Inside and Outside the Republic”

Week Fourteen

  1. Statesman
  2. Dorter, “Justice and Method in the Statesman”

Week Fifteen

  1. Laws, selections
  2. Bobonich, Plato’s Utopia Recast, ch. 2

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