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First few lecs on Plato

Course Code
Mark Kingwell

of 5
The love of wisdom- philosophy
Bob miller book room (180 Bloor street W.)
Practical wisdom, practical judgement, prudence.
Truth, reality, morality, and beauty- Platos republic
Not about ethics but about human life and flourishing-Aristotle
Explicating about a passage- first paper
Analyze an argument- second paper
Comparing views on the same subject-third paper
Philosophy paper-fourth paper.
Why are YOU here?
Thieves- stealing time that they spend here from themselves. Looks at the course as a game to be
Brokers- self-conscience about what they are up to.
Lovers- Listen, think, respond to the ideas. Deeper human concerns.
Philosophy -philein Sophia (“love of wisdom)
Intellectual masturbation, arguing about the nature of knowledge, reality , and value.
Anybody can argue anything if there cleaver enough.
Sophistry, not philosophy. One of philosophies central concerns in distinguishing true
philosophers from false ones.
The Oracle at Delphi is inscribed “Know thyself put yourself in question.
Drawing distinctions and defending them, relating class and instance, joining specific to general.
Thats part of the method of philosophy. The way it gets closer to knowledge and wisdom.
Socratic Method (via Plato)
Basic Principles
1. Irony - distance or gap- there is some gap between what it says and what is meant. Socrates
would appear to prefence something to advance a discussion
2. Doctrina Ignorantia- Socrates would pretend not to know anything. Because when he goes to
the oracle they said he was the wises.
3. Dialectic argument- Moves by conflict, energy comes from disagreement.
4. Maieusis- means bringing forth, Socrates was not a generated, he helped to bring out the
knowledge. Socrates asthe midwife of ideas
Basic Mechanism; Elenchus
General definition requested (not instances) “if this than what
(Socrates wants exact answers,
Definition offered
Definition fails- counter- example or similar objection.
Improve definition is offered
Conceptual relations queried: is conditional relation sufficient (good) ex, if its raining the
pavement is wet necessary (better) ex. Its not necessary that the pavement is wet because of the
rain, it states something without reach the consequence is not stated. , or both (best) Giving a
sufficient and necessary definition, ex. Hydrogen and water need to be sufficient for the
necessary H2O,
Repeat as necessary-
Philosophical definition found: general category; independent standard
Socratic Method uses questions, Socrates never asserts but always ask.
PHLLEC 2 September 15
Example: Platos dialogue Euthyphro. Asked what a pious action is, Euthyphro repliesA pious
is what the gods love.
Possible objections:
1. Counter-example: Theres at least one act the gods love that does not appear to be pious (being
loved by the gods does not seem a sufficient condition of piety).
2. Disagreement: The gods seem to love different things at different times (being loved by the
gods does not seem to be a necessary condition of PIETY). We cant know what the gods love,
even if its sufficient and necessary what they love is beyond us.
3. Ignorance: We cannot know what the gods love!
4. Conceptual priority: is a pious act pious because the gods love it, or do they love it because its
5. Independent standard needed. With stated sufficient and necessary conditions of piety, or
confusion will reign. We need to know what piety is in itself.
Socrates v Plato? - cf. Umberto Eco on Thucycdides’ Peloponnesian Wars - the Athenians invade
Melos. The Athenians invaded Melos and killed all the men on the island. There intention is to
exercise their power.
Why Plato?
Force: Power (might)
Seduction: The seducer brings you over,
Republic Book 1
The basic Socratic assertion:The unexamined life is not worth living. -
The basic Socratic question:What is the life worth living?”- The examined life is the life
spent examining what its for
The Scene: Piraeus (Socrates has desended somewhere, this will show throughout the dialogue,
the significance of that is Socrates has gone down to the port where theres exchange, ports is a
dangerous place with an interchange of violence and other cultures, Socrates makes it clear that
he has to go down to the port of Athens, he is putting himself in the way of danger. He goes to
the religious festival to see flaming torches on horseback.
Piraeus, port of Athens, on the street ( Do you see how many we are)
Then in the house of Polemarchus and Cephalus, his father
Mad master of desire - Socrates ask whats good about being old, he know longer feels
desire. He doesnt feel a urge to fulfill his desires
Afterlife bargain (cf. Pascals Wager) - He makes a small investment in the belief of the
Honesty and freedom from debt- This is his goal,
J1(331c): Pre-reflective Definition (Justice: right or proper)
Counterexample: sword - Socrates ask if a friend lent a sword and than he goes crazy and wants
his sword back. You cant refuse him because that would be a debt, but you know he will go on a
rampage killing. Things change (time)
J2 (331e)- Formal Definition
Excessive abstraction: no critical purchase
Craft analogy (“craft- techne)
Virtue is a practice; every practice is a form of knowledge or know-how
This has no content, doesnt tell you when you pay back. its a virtue and a vice because it has no
content, it can get no critical purchase. The definition does not do the work the Know how does.
The craft analogy is to think about different human practices as they were crafts. Things you do
the make things happen. Socrates thinks its a matter of know-how.
J3 (332d) : Aristocratic Definition (ruled by the best)
1. Problems of ends ( ‘end’ = telos)
2. Knowledge of the good