We will devote this term to a close study of the Republic, one of the greatest of Plato's philosophical works and perhaps the Western tradition as a whole. One reason for its importance is the fundamental challenge it raises: why we should be just or moral? But the discussion that ensues is wide-ranging and contains some of the most influential philosophical arguments in the tradition. We will begin by reading Plato's Apology and Euthyphro, to introduce us to his teacher, Socrates, whose philosophy and approach to life had a profound influence on Plato. We will then devote the rest of the term to the Republic itself. This book is in the form of a dialogue, in which several characters spend a long evening discussing and debating the nature of justice with Socrates, and their central concern is whether a just or moral life is also a happy one. Plato will eventually argue that it is, in fact the happiest of all, but only after having put the sceptical challenge as forcefully as it has ever been made. It takes him the remainder of the book to answer it. For he thinks that if we are to do this properly, we must first ask about the nature of the self and of happiness. This in turn requires us to consider the kind of education and society required for people to be just in the first place, as well as the role of art and religion. Ultimately, he thinks we even have to consider the nature of knowledge itself and our relation to reality. The Republic is thus an introduction to some of the most profound philosophical issues by one of its greatest practitioners.
Course work will consist of a short paper (2 pp) and two medium papers (4 pp and 6 pp).
1st year students
3 hrs of seminar style lecture/week