Plato (4010) Midterm, due Oct. 9.

Please e-mail me your midterm by the end of the day on 10/9.

Type up the three of the four essays below. 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. Maximum length per essay: 3 pages. If one of the questions below was teh main topic of your first paper, do not write on it.

  1. (Socrates' piety: you may write on one or the other of these, but not both): (A) One of the charges against Socrates is that he didn't believe in the gods of the city, and Burnyeat argues that there is good reason to think that he was guilty of that charge. Briefly explain Burnyeat's arguments for why Socrates was guilty as charged, and then evaluate his argument. Do you think Socrates was guilty? Why, or why not? (B) Vlastos claims that if we look, we can discern a positive Socratic version of piety in the Euthyphro, whereas the introduction to the dialogue says that Socrates "has in advance no answer of his own to test out or to advocate." Either write about which view seems to be the proper understanding/interpretation of the text, and why, or about the cogency of 'Socratic piety' as an understanding of what piety is, apart from issues of its adequacy as an interpretation of the Euthyphro (and related dialogues).

  2. The Protagoras. Write on one of the following. (1) Explain Protagoras' myth (and subsequent argument) that explains why virtue is teachable, and why he is an especially excellent teacher of it. Do you think that Protagoras adequately responds to Socrates' reasons (given earlier) for why virtue cannot be taught, and why or why not? (2) Explain why Protagoras thinks that courage is distinct from the other virtues, and how Socrates argues (via his explanation of the measuring art) that courage is really a type of wisdom. Which (if either) do you find more convincing, and why?
  3. Consider the lives of the following two people. Lenny, an accountant, successfully embezzles millions of dollars from his company. He flees to the Caribbean, where he spends the rest of his life dedicated to the pleasures of food and drink. He also enjoys carousing with his 'friends,' and a succession of girlfriends, who, unbeknownst to him, really despise him, since he's an obnoxious boor and bore. However, they like sponging off of him. He dies at a ripe old age. Aristo is a pupil of Plato, who admires his virtue and intelligence. He enrolls in the Athenian army at 18 for two years of training. He is called up for military service in his mid-20s, and captured by a group of bandits. They torture him in order to get information about the defense of Athens. He refuses to break, and after several months, he dies in agony.

    Did Lenny have a happy life? Did Aristo? Explain what Socrates and Callicles would say about these two cases, and why. Then evaluate what they say about one of the two cases. Which (if either) is correct, and why?

  4. Socrates says that he's one of the few Athenians to practice the 'true political craft' (Gorgias 521d). Explain why he says this, and relate it to his earlier distinction between knacks (like oratory and sophistry) and crafts. Also relate it to Socrates' description of what he does in the Apology and the depiction of him in action in the Euthyphro. Then evaluate either (1) whether his distinction between knacks and crafts is correct, or (2) whether he is right (given that distinction) that what he does can be called the 'true political craft.'


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