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PHIL 303
Spring 2016
Section: 01  
Crosslisting: CCIV 257, COL 341

"The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato." This declaration, famously made by Alfred North Whitehead in the early 20th century, seems especially true of Plato's Republic. No other work in the western tradition can lay claim to setting the tone so influentially for the further development of philosophy as a discipline. Almost every branch of philosophical thought we are familiar with today--on matters of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, moral psychology, politics, and aesthetics--receives a major formulation in this text. This seminar will be devoted to a close reading of each of the ten books of the Republic, alongside relevant secondary literature on the dialogue and various perspectives that have been taken on this magisterial work in contemporary philosophy and literature.

We will focus on the Republic primarily as a work of moral psychology this semester by investigating the topical question of the dialogue: why is it better to live justly rather than unjustly? For Plato, a just life is one governed by the pursuit of wisdom or learning, and this he believes will also be a psychologically healthy one. By contrast, a life governed by the indiscriminate pursuit of power--the life of a tyrant--is psychologically corrupted. These are bold claims. What is Plato's argument for them? In raising this question, we will consider the political project Plato embarks upon in the Republic in constructing a just society, as well as connected issues he raises in the dialogue concerning the nature of human motivation, the distinction between belief and knowledge, the distinction between appearance and reality, the importance of a proper education to the human good, and the role of art and beauty in furthering the common good. Alongside Plato, we will read two complementary works of fiction this semester, both inspired by the Republic: Jo Walton's THE JUST CITY and Rebecca Goldstein's PLATO AT THE GOOGLEPLEX.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: SBS PHIL
Course Format: SeminarGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (COL)(PHIL)(PHIL-Philosophy)(PHIL-Social Jus)
Past Enrollment Probability: 90% or above

Last Updated on SEP-28-2023
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