Plato (4010) Midterm, due 2/28.

Please e-mail me your midterm by the end of the day on 2/28.

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.

  1. 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?

  2. 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 either evaluate whether his distinction between knacks and crafts is correct, or whether he is right (given that distinction) that what he does can be called the 'true political craft.'
  3. (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 argumetns for why Socrates was guilty and 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).

  4. (NOTE: this one is a little more open-ended than the above!) In the Apology, Socrates says that he's wise insofar as he knows that he knows nothing, and the Euthyphro ends in aporia about what piety is. At least initially, the Phaedo seems quite different: in it, Socrates discourses about what true virtue is (as opposed to the bogus virtues of ordinary people), says that the Forms exist, and gives lengthy arguments to prove that the soul is immortal. So consider the following sorts of questions: are the positions Socrates adopts and the practices he engages in in the Phaedo inconsistent with the practices and positions (insofar as he has positions) depicted in the Apology and Euthyphro? Is what Socrates says and does in the Phaedo an intelligible extension or development of his practice in the Apology and Euthyphro? If they're inconsistent, which set of practices and positions (if either) is preferable, and why? If the Phaedo is a development from the Apology and Euthyphro, is it in a desirable direction (and why or why not)? (And with all of the above, you're free to pick and choose certain aspects: e.g., this part of the Phaedo is inconsistent, but that one isn't, this aspect is better, that one worse, etc.)
    Return to the Plato page.