Phil 4010, CRN 18025
Fall 2010
9:30-10:45 T Th
Sparks 326

Instructor: Tim O'Keefe
Office: 1105 34 Peachtree St.
Phone: (404) 413-4108
e-mail: tokeefe AT
Office Hours: 1:00-2:00 and 4:00-4:30 p.m. T , 12:30-2:00 Th, and by appointment

Course description and objectives

This course will be an in-depth examination of the philosophy of Plato. We will look at Plato's metaphysics, philosophy of mind, epistemology, ethics, and political philosophy. We will also be looking into the unity of Plato's thought (or lack thereof)--that is, can the positions put forward in various dialogues be reconciled with one another and made consistent, or not? In addition, we'll explore methodological challenges posed by Plato's use of the dialogue form--for instance, can we confidently assume that the character 'Socrates' in the dialogues is Plato's spokesman, or does Plato sometimes deliberately have Socrates advance fallacious arguments? And what are we to make of Plato's use of literary genres like eschatological myths within his dialogues?

We will most likely be looking at the following dialogues, although this is subject to change: Euthyphro, Apology, Phaedo, Gorgias, Clitophon, Republic, Protagoras, Theaetetus, and Philebus.

Note: This course has as a prerequisite one course in philosophy or the consent of the instructor.

Class format

This class will primarily be seminar format, and class discussion of the readings will play a major role. The midterm and final exam will consist of take-home essay questions, and you will compose one short paper during the course of the semester and a longer final paper.

In each class we'll have a member of the class contribute a short reading response paper. I will rotate the schedule of reading response papers, so that every class period one or two students will submit a paper. These papers will typically involve setting out and evaluating one of the arguments in the reading for that class day. You will post this paper to the class bulletin board, at Please post your paper the night before the class. Everybody will be responsible for reading the reading response papers before the class meeting and posting a reply to one of the papers, or a reply to one of the replies, even.

You can post several types of replies:

  1. Clarification request. You claim p, but I don't know what you mean by saying p. Please clarify. Do you mean by this p', p''...?
  2. Argument request. You claim p. I think I know what you mean by p. But why do you claim p? I don't see any argument for p, and I think you need to give an argument for it.
  3. Objection. You claim p (and maybe you argue for it). However, I think that p, (or your argument for p), is problematic. Here's my objection to p (or to your argument for p): q. What do you say in response to q?
  4. Assistance. You claim p. I agree with you that p, but I think the following additional reason (which you do not mention) can be given in support of p: q.
  5. Competing interpretation. You say that the reading claims that p. However, I don't think that this is exactly what it says. Instead, I think it says p' (and here's why I think this).
  6. Suggestion of parallels. You claim p. P (or your argument for p) reminds me of so-and-so's claim that q (or his argument for q). Are the two really similar? Does comparing p to q help illuminate p, or is it just misleading?
Sometimes, the bulletin board may be down. If so, please e-mail me your paper or question before class.

Typically, I will explain the material in the first part of the class, and the latter part of the class will be devoted to discussing the material, using the reading response papers and replies as a way to start the discussion. But this division is not meant to be hard and fast: discussions and evaluation will often break out during the first part of the class, and during the course of discussing the material in the second part, sometimes I may go back to clarify some points in the material.

The bulletin board also has a forum for posting questions about the material. If anything in the reading is unclear to you, or you have any other questions about the material, please post them in this forum. I will look over it before class.

The bulletin board, announcements, copies of this syllabus, regularly updated reading assignments, and a trove of other information is available from the course web site, at


Short papers and participation 20%
Mid-term exam 20%
Final exam 20%
First paper (3-5 pages) 15%
Final paper (7-10 pages) 25%
If you will be unable to turn in a paper when it's due, please let me know beforehand and let me know why you'll be unable to turn it in on time. We can arrange for an extension (although your grade may be reduced). I'm usually much more understanding of people who come to me before an assignment is due and say they'll have difficulty completing it on time than I am of those who tell me afterwards that they were unable to do it. However, if you miss the deadline for an assignment, please contact me as soon as possible to arrange to make it up. Unless there is some compelling excuse (e.g., you had to be rushed to the hospital the night before a paper was due), there will be a penalty for tardiness, and there is no guarantee that you will be allowed to make up the assignment. I reserve the right to withdraw any student who fails to turn in a major assignment (such as a paper or an exam).

You're also responsible for attending class regularly. If you know beforehand that you'll be unable to attend a class, let me know so that we can arrange for you to receive notes, discuss the material, or do anything else necessary so that you do not fall behind. If you miss a class without notification, you will still be responsible for knowing course content discussed in the class that day, learning about any announcements made in class, etc.

Important Dates (subject to change):

Sept. 20: First paper due
Oct 1: Midterm exam due
Dec 3: Final paper due
Dec 10, 4 p.m.: Final exam due

Please also see the philosophy department's general syllabus statement. Please read carefully the University policy on academic honesty. The customary penalty for a violation of the academic honesty rules is an "F" in the course. Copying or using material from the internet without citation is a violation of the academic honesty rules.

Return to the Plato web site.
Return to the course materials index.
Return to Tim O'Keefe's homepage.