[SOLVED]  Ideas of Socrates and Plato

Ideas of Socrates and Plato
The paper is to be 5 pages, double-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman type. This is not a research paper. The paper is to be a discussion of a philosophical topic related to the ideas of Socrates and Plato. I have provided some topics below. Please choose one and write your paper on the subject.
All references to the works of Plato should be by Stephanus page number and the page number in the translations that are listed in your syllabus. If you use other works of Plato to substantiate or illustrate some point you are making, you should use the translations at  You will see a small arrow in the upper left hand corner. Click on it and then choose any dialogue of Plato’s. You will need to select “English” on the right side once your selected dialogue opens up. You already have other digitally presented translations by Allan Bloom and Cathal Woods. You also have a printed copy of a translation of the Symposium by Seth Benardete.
Note that starting right after the mid-term on October 20th you have four class sessions for which the readings are short and, to some extent, easier, than the readings in the Republic. This should give you time to start your papers.
Footnotes can be provided in the manner of the Modern Language Association (MLA) style guide or the manner of the University of Chicago
Manual of Style. See http://www.mla.org/style or http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/home.html
Please note that plagiarism is a serious academic offense. Violations will have serious consequences, as noted in Section XII of the syllabus.
The papers should be provided as MS Word attachments to email. Please also include a copy of the paper in the main body of the email in case there is a problem with the attachment. It is best if you submit your paper a day in advance to be sure that I have received it without error. It is your
responsibility, not mine or your Internet service providers’ or the school’s to make sure that I have the paper in readable format by November 29th at the start of class. I believe this method of delivery is more reliable than Googledocs.
If you wish to write on a topic of your own choosing, you may do so, but only after you have provided me with a two paragraph (or longer) prospectus or outline. This outline or prospectus must be approved by me. You must provide me with your outline or prospectus by email no later than the
start of class on Wednesday, October 13th, but note that in some cases I will want you to use one of the topics below rather than one of your own development. Your outline should list the title of your proposed paper, a one paragraph (3-4 sentence) description and at least the name of one work by
Plato that you will focus on.
The questions are generally listed with the Stephanus page number of the text. Stephanus page numbers are the system of reference and
organization used in modern editions and translations of Plato. Plato’s works are divided into numbers, and each number will be divided into equal sections
a, b, c, d and e. As such, this system is often used to reference Plato – for example, Symposium 172a would refer the reader to the opening of Plato’s
This system of pagination is based on an edition of Plato by Henricus Stephanus. The numbers refer to page numbers in the various volumes
of his edition of 1578.
Suggested Paper topics:
1. Why does Aristophanes portray Socrates in a negative light in the Clouds? Note the apparent wide difference between Aristophanes’ portrayal
of Socrates and Plato’s. What accounts for this difference? Why in particular do some of the figures in the Clouds make claims and statements
about Socrates that appear to be unfounded and untrue? Note that Socrates refers to this issue of the Clouds in his speech to the jury in the
Apology (Apology 18a–b, 19c, Stephanus page numbers). Socrates ridicules gods of Athens (Clouds lines 247–48, 367, 423–24), and gives
naturalistic and even scientific explanations of phenomena Athenians viewed as the work of the gods (lines 227–33; cf. Theaetetus 152e, 153c–
d, 173e–174a; Phaedo 96a–100a). In the Clouds Aristophanes presents Socrates as teaching dishonest techniques to get out of paying off debts
(lines 1214–1302). He even encourages young men to attack parents physically until they give in to their whims (lines 1408–46).
2. Compare the sense of beauty implied in the Parthenon with Plato’s and Socrates’ interest in beauty. For references to beauty in Plato you may
start with the following list:
Phaedrus, 249e, 250, 254b, 279. Apology 22c, Symposium 201c, 204e, Phaedo 65d, 75d, 78d, 100a, Symposium 211, 217a, 219c. . All pages are references
to Stephanus pages. All of these works can be found online at https://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/plato-the-dialogues-of-plato-in-5-vols-jowett-ed or in the set
of translations at:
3. Compare and contrast the view of Socrates as a teacher that we see in the Meno with the view of Socrates as a teacher that Alcibiades’ presents
in the Symposium. In the case of the Symposium pay particular attention to the narrative structure of the dialogue and keep in mind that we have
a report of what Alcibiades’ said, not his exact words.
4. Discuss the place of women in Athenian society and the response to that in Plato’s Republic and (for confirmation of the views in the Republic)
in Plato’s Laws (see Book VII 805c-805d, for example; see http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=plat.+laws+1.624a for the beginning
of the Laws). The discussion of education and the role of women in the ideal state envisioned in the Republic is in Book V.
There is an interesting modern investigation of Greek mythology and its presentation of women here: “Uxoricide in Pregnancy: Ancient
Greek Domestic Violence in Evolutionary Perspective,” by Dr. Susan Deacy and Dr. Fiona McHardy. It can be found at http://
journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/147470491301100505. This was published in 2013. If you search on Zeus in the text you will see some
of his exploits and some discussion of the consequences. It is quite telling that Protagoras in Plato’s Protagoras wants his audience to believe
that he believes that somehow Zeus is the source of justice. One might wonder how conscious Plato was of the dreadful way in which women
were treated in ancient Athens. The Republic is quite clear that humans are defined as beings with souls, that their souls are fundamentally
equal, and that women and men have souls. Therefore women should receive precisely the same education as men all the way up to the type of
education appropriate for a philosopher-king. The one relative difference between men and women, the apparent greater physical strength of
men, he judges to be insignificant even in terms of fitness for work of the warrior class. If you decide to work on this topic I will provide you
with the references you will need for the Protagoras and a link to the online translation.
See an excellent review by Luc Brisson of Plato’s ideas at: http://journals.openedition.org/etudesplatoniciennes/277 Brisson also reviews
Plato’s very controversial idea that marriage is not part of a justly organized state and that children should be raised in common.
5. Explain in detail how and why Plato’s view of the necessity of womens’ equality for the sake of justice in Book V of the Republic relates to his
view of the strengths and weaknesses of democratic rule in Book VIII of the Republic. Note in particular that Socrates says that if one wishes toorganize a city along some kind of principle one would wish to live in a democracy (557d-e, pp. 235-236. Is it the case that democracy is
precisely the form of government that enables justice to arise in a city? Yet Socrates seems to have many criticisms of democracy (e.g., p. 235
(556e-557b), p. 236 (557d-558d), etc. The democracy in Athens condemned Socrates, but was the problem that it was a democracy or that it
was not a real democracy, i.e., women in Athens had no political role and many Athenians had slaves? These two phenomena alone seem to
promote in men’s hearts that the basis of a happy life is power and its enabler, money. But in the Meno Socrates shows that power operates
against virtue or excellence (Greek arete). Book I of the Republic demonstrates the same point more theoretically in the outcome of
Thrasymachus’ beliefs. How does the resolution of these contradictions relate to the beginning of the discussion of justice in the story of Gyges
in Book II? What are Plato and Socrates constructing in the Republic? Is it possible that the goal is an ideal that cannot be reached, rule by a just
person. What kind of individual can be a sole ruler, a “philosopher-king” in as presented in the Republic? Is this person merely an ideal?
6. In the Phaedo Socrates argues that the body (including the senses in particular) hinders and even prevents the mind from reaching true
knowledge (Stephanus pages 65-67 in particular 67c). So the life of the philosopher is a life of purification from the senses in the quest for
knowledge. It is important to consider that early in his life Socrates was very interested in the ideas of Anaxagoras (the philosopher whose
ideas contributed to the Parthenon) but found that while Anaxagoras said that Mind puts the world in order and is responsible for everything
(Phaedo 97), he actually used physical principles to explain the way the world works (Phaedo 98).
In light of this what is the possibility of true knowledge here on earth according to Socrates? Do the conclusions of the Meno support the ideas
of the Phaedo or not? And if they do, how do these dialogues support the conclusions of the Phaedo?
This topic requires additional reading in the Phaedo. Please let me know if you are interested in it so that I can help you reduce that reading to a
manageable list of pages.
7. The vision of the nature of love presented by Aristophanes in the Symposium (the same Aristophanes who wrote the Clouds) is striking,
beautiful and astonishingly modern in its embrace of heterosexuality and homosexuality in human males and females. How does this vision
contrast with the vision of beauty that Socrates presents as deriving from what he learned about the philosophy of love from Diotima, the
priestess of Mantinea in Greece? (It is almost certain that Diotima was a real person. See Mary Ellen Waithe, A History of Women
Philosophers: Volume I: Ancient Women Philosophers, 600 B.C.-500 A.D. Springer, 1987. If she is not, then she would be almost the only
named person in any dialogue of Plato who is not a real person. Waithe provides other reasons for concluding she was an actual person not a
fiction of Plato’s.)
What are the major differences between Diotima’s vision of love and Aristophanes? How do these differences relate to the possibilities for a
happy love in this life?
8. In the Phaedo Socrates explains that when he was younger he was at first very interested in the physical causes of everything (Stephanus page
96), but then later he was attracted to the ideas of Anaxagoras, who promised in his book that he would seek the causes of things in Mind
(Stephanus page 98) because the world is ordered by Mind (Stephanus page 97).
Socrates believed, he says, that Anaxagoras would teach him how everything was better and could be made better, but then he never used Mind
to explain anything and tried to find answers in the material world. Socrates then rejected what Anaxagoras was actually doing and turned
thought to the ethical, to the Mind, and to the Soul. What are the implications of this for understanding human nature? How does this relate to
the powers unleashed by science since about 1500? Does the ability of science to solve so many problems show that Socrates was right to want
to focus on Mind, since, after all, it was partly the freeing of the Mind from Medieval superstition that allowed science to develop. Or is
Socrates wrong? Should we seek answers to how to better ourselves by focusing on values inherent in our material and physical beings, values
that can be identified and measured scientifically?
As you answer this question consider the following from the Phaedo:
“For if it isn’t possible to recognize anything at all when in company with the body, one of two things must follow. Either there’s nowhere to
attain knowledge, or else it’s only for those who’ve met their end — for then the soul will be herself all by herself separate from the body – but
not before. And in the time we’re alive here’s how we’ll come closest, it seems, to knowing: if as much as possible we in no way consort with
the body or commune with it – unless it’s an absolute necessity – or fill ourselves up with its nature, but purify ourselves from it until the god
shall release us.” (end of Stephanus p. 66 to beginning of Stephanus p. 67, Greek text translated by Brann, Kalkavage, and Salem Plato’s
Phaedo, p. 38, but you may also of course use the translation in in the web site maintained as the Perseus system at Tufts University: http://
9. One of the most troubling aspects of the two works Apology and Crito is that Socrates seems to accept his death. Why does he do this? How is
this apparent in the Apology? What are the reasons he gives for accepting what he seems to think is his fate in the Crito? Why does he not take
money from his friends and leave? In some ways his decision shows his devotion to his ideal of a kind of citizenship in Athens. But in other
ways his decision seems to leave his friends alone and his wife and child alone. To me this seems to be at odds with a very serious point that the
“Athenian Stranger,” a character in Plato’s Laws (in which Socrates does not appear), makes when he says “Let us not, however, quarrel over a
name [education], but let us abide by the statement we agreed upon just now, that those who are rightly educated become, as a rule, good, and
that one should in no case disparage education, since it stands first among the finest gifts that are given to the best men; and if ever it errs from
the right path, but can be put straight again, to this task every man, so long as he lives, must address himself with all his might.
You are right, and we agree with what you say.
Athenian Stranger
Further, we agreed long ago that if men are capable of ruling themselves, they are good, but if incapable, bad.
Quite true.”
Plato, Laws, 643a-644b, see http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?
doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0166%3Abook%3D1%3Asection%3D644a for the translation of R. G. Bury.
Plato and Socrates are not the same person. It seems possible to me that Plato is here, very late in his own life, criticizing Socrates. It should
also be noted that Plato apparently was not with Socrates on his last day. See Phaedo, 59b,“Phaedo:
Of native Athenians there was this Apollodorus, and Critobulus and his father, and Hermogenes and Epiganes and Aeschines
and Antisthenes; and Ctesippus the Paeanian was there too, and Menexenus and some other Athenians. But Plato, I think, was
ill.” http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?
Why does Socrates propose what has to be a very annoying punishment for himself after he is convicted in the Apology?
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