The Philosophy of Plato

    Write a 4-6 page essay-style answer to one of the following questions:

    Question I: Platos Protagoras

    What does Socrates mean in the Protagoras when he claims that the virtues are one? Outline two possible interpretations of this thesis, and present a case for preferring one line of interpretation to the other. For example, does your preferred reading find stronger support in the text? Or does your favoured reading attribute a more philosophically defensible position than the alternative? Or do you think your preferred reading can be defended on other grounds? Explain.

    This assignment involves three tasks:

    Task 1

    First, outline the two interpretations of Socrates thesis you want to consider, labeling each one clearly. For example, you can simply call them Interpretation 1 and Interpretation 2. Explain how Socrates conceives of the unity of the virtues on each interpretation. For example, does he regard justice, piety, etc. as synonyms? Or does he take justice, piety, etc. to be parts of some greater whole? If so, then how does Socrates conceive of these parts? Or is there another way to flesh out Socrates thesis, in your view? Make sure to discuss what you take to be the key differences between the two readings youve outlined in Task 1. Also, make sure to limit your scope to two possible interpretations.       

    Task  2

    Next, outline the standard youll consult to evaluate the two interpretations you discussed in Task 1. How should we decide between these two interpretations, in your view? For example, do you think we should prefer an interpretation on the ground that it is more consistent with Socrates other remarks in the Protagoras? Or should we prefer a reading if it is more in line with some of Socrates remarks in the Euthyphro, or elsewhere in the assigned course readings? Alternatively, do you think we should evaluate the interpretations you outlined in Task 1 on philosophical grounds? That is to say, is it your view that all else being equal we should attribute to Socrates the version of the thesis that is more philosophically attractive? Or do you have another standard in mind? Whatever it is, make sure to explain your standard as clearly as possible, so that it will be clear how youre applying it in Task 3. 

    Task  3

    Finally, your job in Task 3 is to apply the standard you outlined in Task 2. Your job here is to make it clear to the reader (i) which of the two interpretations outlined in Task 1 you prefer; and (ii) why you think the standard you outlined in Task 2 supports this verdict. Is Interpretation 1 inconsistent with Socrates remarks in the Protagoras, for example? If so, how? Or does Interpretation 2 represent a more attractive position, philosophically speaking? If so, on what grounds is it more philosophically attractive? Whatever your verdict, make sure to defend it as fully as possible by appeal to the standard you outlined in Task 2.

    Question II: Platos Phaedo

    In Platos Phaedo, Socrates gives an intellectual autobiography. He tells us that he became dissatisfied with the sorts of explanations he found in Anaxagoras book. According to Socrates, what would Anaxagoras designate as the cause of Socrates sitting in prison? On what grounds does Socrates reject Anaxagoras explanation? Do you agree with Socrates? Explain.

    This assignment involves three tasks:

    Task 1

    First, identify as best you can any key assumptions you take Socrates to be making in his discussion of causation. What is a cause, in Socrates view? Are causes things, or are they better understood as events or states of affairs? Next, outline how Anaxagoras would explain Socrates act of sitting in prison, according to Socrates. What would Anaxagoras designate as the causes(s) of Socrates sitting in his prison cell? Explain.

    Task 2

    Interpret Socrates reasons for rejecting the explanation you outlined in Task 1. On what ground does Socrates argue that Anaxagoras explanation is inadequate? Formulate as best you can a general principle about causation that Socrates is appealing to. For example, does Socrates insist on distinguishing between (i) a necessary condition for X; and (ii) the cause of X? If so, then what is this distinction, and why does Socrates insist upon it? Note: For the purposes of this assignment, necessary condition is a technical term. You should make sure to explain it if it figures in your answer.

    Task 3

    Finally, you should evaluate Socrates case against Anaxagoras. Does Socrates succeed in showing that Anaxagoras explanation is inadequate? Defend your answer with an argument. For example, is it your view that the general principle you attributed to Socrates in Task 2 is false? If so, then explain your reasons for rejecting the principle. On the other hand, maybe you agree with Socrates. If so, then develop what you take to be the strongest objection to the general principle you outlined in Task 2, and then devise what you take to be Socrates best response to this objection.

    Some Instructions:

    Assignments must be written in 12 pt. font and double-spaced, with one-inch margins and numbered pages. Make sure that your name and student number appear at the top of the first page. Title pages are not necessary.

    Your introductory paragraph must include a clear thesis statement. A thesis statement has two main components: i) A clear statement of the position you will take in the paper; and ii) a brief, clear outline of the case you will make in support of that position.

    Make sure to explain any technical terms you use. What constitutes a technical term? Ask yourself the following question: Would a friend of mine who has never taken a philosophy course readily understand what the term means? If the answer is no, then its a technical term. Explain it.

    Use direct quotations (i.e. ____) only on those rare occasions when you want to call attention to the authors precise wording. Otherwise, explain the reading in your own words and cite accordingly in parentheses or footnotes. Any standard citation style (e.g. APA, MLA, Chicago) is acceptable, but please remain consistent in your paper. Make sure to give citations for Platos dialogues using Stephanus numbers (e.g. 434a; 435a-436b). If you have any questions about citations, ask the instructor. 

    Late assignments will be penalized at the rate of one increment of a grade per day late (an A becomes an A-), weekends included.

    In-Term Concession Requests: Arts Students must contact Arts Advising as soon as you are aware you may need an in-term concession. Please review their website for concession criteria as well as process to follow:

    Students in other Faculties should contact their Faculty advising office for direction.

    Assignments must be submitted through Canvas. Email submissions will not be accepted. Please retain an electronic copy of all assignments until you receive a final grade for the course.

    You are not expected to consult any secondary sources in writing your assignments. If you do consult any material beyond the required text, you should do so sparingly and give appropriate citations.

    Please consult the course syllabus/assignment grading rubric for further instructions.

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