Plato (Phil 4010) final exam
Please e-mail your exam by 4 p.m. on Friday, December 10.
Type up 3 of the 7 essays below. (If your final paper is directly on one of the topics below, please don't write on it. Also, write on a maximum of one out of questions 1 through 3.) Use these essays as an opportunity to show me how well you understand the material. In order to do this, imagine that you are trying to explain the subject to your intelligent, but ignorant, roommate. That is, state things clearly enough, explain any technical terminology, offer examples where they are needed for illustration, and expand on any cryptic or compressed remarks, so that a person not already familiar with the material would understand what you mean. By doing this, you'll show me that you understand what you're talking about.
In each of the essays below, I give a number of points that I want you to touch upon. However, please do not simply answer them one-by-one, in a disconnected, "bullet-point," choppy manner. Incorporate your discussion of each of the points within a continuous, coherent, flowing essay on the topic. They do not necessarily need to be treated in order in which I mention them.
Many of the points listed in the paper writing guidelines are also relevant for writing these essays. Make sure that you offer reasons and arguments in support of your evaluations of Plato. Please limit your essays to 3 pages maximum each.
Return to the Plato page.
- The Myth of Metals. Explain what the myth of the metals is. Why does Socrates propose promulgating it, and how does it fit into his overall political program? What truths is it supposed to express, and in what sense is it a 'Noble Lie'? Finally, do you think that the 'truths' the myth is supposed to express are true, and--if we assume for the sake of argument that they are--would telling the Myth be justified?
- Justice in the soul.
Explain what justice is (in the individual), according to Socrates, why he say this, and why he thinks that justice an intrinsic good for you--and good enough so that it's always in your self-interest to be just, even if you had the Ring of Gyges. Then do one of following: (a) Explain how you think Thrasymachus would object to Socrates' arguments, and evaluate his objection. (b) Explain briefly why Sachs thinks that the whole argument of Republic II-IV is fallacious, and say whether you think this charge is correct.
- The lovers of sights and sounds.
Explain the difference between the 'lovers of sights and sounds' and the philosophers, according to Socrates. Why do the lovers and sights and sounds have only opinion and not knowledge? And why must knowledge be of forms, according to Socrates? Do you agree with Socrates about this, and why or why not?
- Plato and Myth. (This essay is a bit more free form than the others.) Plato closes the Republic (as he does the Gorgias) with an afterlife myth. Explore the role of the Myth of Er (and Plato's use of afterlife myths, analogies, etc., more generally) by looking into the following sorts of questions:
- What is the purpose of casting this material in the form of a myth?
- Does the use of myth conflict with Socrates' professed devotion to rational argumentation, his professed disdain of rhetoric, and his contention that he does not claim to know what he does not know?
- Does the afterlife myth with its stress on postmortem rewards and punishments, undercut, or help support, the defense of justice in books II-IX of the Republic?
Protagoras says that "man is the measure of all things," and this Protagorean position eventually gets fleshed out as "things are for every man what they seem to him to be." Explain how this Protagorean position gets developed in the Theaetetus, and what it means. Socrates makes two main criticism of this position : (1) it contradicts itself, and (2) according to this position, no person is wiser than any other. Explain these criticisms, Protagoras' response to (2), and Socrates' rebuttal to Protagoras' response (concerning predictions about the future). Evaluate either (1) or (2)--has Socrates successfully refuted Protagoras' position, or not?
- Explain (in your own words) the Timaeus creation myth, and explore how you think this myth relates (or fails to relate) to (i) Socrates' criticisms, in the Republic, of the stories of the gods told by Homer and Hesiod, and (ii) the role of the forms generally, and of the Form of the Good, in particular, in explaining why things are the way they are. Given the theological and metaphysical positions sketched in the Republic, is Timaeus warranted in calling his creation myth a 'likely story'? Why, or why not?
- Explain (in your own words) Diotima's account of ascent up the 'ladder of love,' and Vlastos' criticisms of this conception of love (in particular, the manner in which one loves an individual person). Then evaluate the cogency of Vlastos' criticisms.