Phil 4010, CRN 88409
Fall 2013
1:00-2:15 T Th
Classroom South 509

Instructor: Tim O'Keefe
Office: 1105 34 Peachtree St.
Phone: (404) 413-4108
e-mail: tokeefe AT
Office Hours: 11:00-12:00 and 4:00-4:30 p.m. T 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, moral psychology, 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, Protagoras, Gorgias, Clitophon, Republic, Theaetetus, (small portions of the) Timaeus and Laws, and the Symposium.

Note: This course has as a prerequisite one 2000 or 3000 level course in philosophy or the consent of the instructor. However, it is recommended that students with only one such course take a second 2000 or 3000 level course before taking 4000-level philosophy courses.

Class format

This class will primarily be seminar format, and class discussion of the readings will play a major role. You will compose two papers during the course of the semester. These papers will be position papers--that is, a paper in which you advance arguments of your own in support of a thesis related to the topics we've been studying. In order to make the process of composing the papers fruitful for you, you will be required to turn in a draft of each paper before you turn in the final version. (Failing to turn in a complete draft by the deadline will result in a penalty on her grade for the paper.) Our Writing Consultant, Nate Houck (nhouck2 AT ), will give you feedback on each draft before you turn in the final version. You will also compose a mid-term and final, both of which be take-home essay format.

In each class we'll have some members of the class contribute a short reading response paper. These papers will usually 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. Please post your paper the night before the class by 5 p.m. Everybody will be responsible for reading the reading response papers before the class meeting and posting a reply to one of the papers, or even a reply to one of the replies.

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 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,


Reading response papers and participation 10%
First paper (3-5 pages) 15%
Final paper (7-10 pages) 30%
Midterm exam 20%
Final exam 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.

Please turn off your cell phone prior to the start of class. Laptops may be used only for taking notes or looking at pdfs of secondary literature posted to uLearn, not for reading e-mail, browsing the web, or playing Angry Birds.

If you have a disability that requires special accommodations, I would like you to notify both me and Disability Services (Student Center, 2nd floor, suite 230, ph: 404-463-9044, web: You will be asked to provide documentation concerning your disability to determine the appropriate accommodation.

Important Dates (subject to change):

September 13: Draft of first paper due (to writing consultant)
September 30: First paper due
October 9: Midterm exam due
November 8: Draft of final paper due (to writing consultant)
Dec. 6: Final paper due
Dec 16, 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.