POL200Y1 Study Guide - Final Guide: Alvin Risk, True Justice, Glaucon
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POL 200Y1 Sunday, April 10, 2011
The political and philosophic context of Plato’s republic:
-what does it mean to be good? cant be related to you, may require cultural and social things to
be realized. conditions individual and relative, but also social/cultural context and hence demand
-in political works vision of what they see as best good ... idea of political good for plato and
aristotle carried with it a vision of something that is more than the individual. what makes for a
good place to live? the readings this year will answer that. how do we determine what makes
good political community/ what should our priorities be. thinkers were in dialogue with their
time period/context and each other.. aristotle was a student of plato.
machiavellli “puts on the robe to the ancients. puts himself in mindset of time period.”
II. The political history: democratic institutions of ancient Athens and the controversies
surrounding them. decisions to be made on basis of persuasion rather than authority or tradition.
democracy was most conducive to the need of argument/ theoretical. basic irony that most
famous thinkers of poli theory were largely critical of democracy. how much theorists owe to the
background of political culture. tradition of descent. despite critical stance to dem poli norms
owe gret debt to political democratic principles. *plato commentary for good citizenship.
formation of just soul.
three aspects of athenian democracy:
a. Instability: one of 750 city states that we would confine to geo regions of italy/greece. rural
areas, major political gatherings in one major city of athens (45000 citizens.)
underdeveloped,largely agriculture. relatively unstable and often changed from democracy to
authoritarian very competitive nature (agonistic nature of this time). athens had internal
comptition and external threats (persians/spartans)462bc - 322bc. athens remained fairly
b. Paradoxes(ekklesia= the assembly. decisions made by citizens themselves. direct
democracy.), courts, selection but exclusive, imperialist)
-true commitment to participation. one side instiutions of democracy in athens
-participation in courts. (jury duty) rotated participation in various administraion offices, some
by selection and some random selection. elections for admin office sometimes seen as
aristocratic process cause not everyone had equal chance to get into office as you needed
-aspects of restricted democracy . restricted citizen class. only males of over 18 who had done
military service who were sons of those who were citizens could be citizens. women/kids/slaves
restricted. only 1/10 of population could actually exercise citizenship. athens imperialism.
c. Defending democracy as a way of life
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-con: bad decision making(rule by the people means lack of expertise and knowledge leads to
incompetency.*plato’s argument: if you’re sick do you go to your doctor or your neighbor.) ,
manipulation, factionalism. no direct say for citizens.
-pro: less corruption( harder to corrupt so many people), collective wisdom(collective judgments
can and do produce better outcomes), a condition for individual and collective excellence( we as
individuals or community become better as humans through participation in public life)
III. The philosophic history: Plato and Socrates
-Socrates never wrote anything down. everything we know about him is from other
people. socrates engaged in popular philosophic practice. he was annoying because he often
showed others weaknesses in arguments, thus made a lot of enemies and as a result he was put on
trial for being a public menace and was put to death by democratic jury in athens. traumatic event
for plato. he had until that time strong political ambitions, became disillusioned with politics
after trial of socrates. socrates trial in 399bc.
IV. Beginning to unpack Book I.
-book 1 was written earlier in platos career ? as you read through book1 socrates of is different
than socrates of different books. we have a socrates in book1 who is very much engaged in
dialogue and conversation, whereas as in book2/3 socrates much more a pontificator. republic
suggested to be middle dialogue, in middle of platos career.
-what is purpose of book one ? sets tone/purpose of the republic. that justice is something we
should be concerned about and is something that is fundamental to human life. it gets us thinking
about proper sphere for thinking about justice, ie is justice a matter of outcomes? a matter of
procedures? or rules of how we act? or is it something more internal or about our own personal
disposition? ** justice is giving each their dues***.
General theme: Despite Plato’s perennial appeal and iconic status in Western philosophy and
political theory, his work is not easily understood. One way of developing a better understanding
of his work is to see how he was in many ways in conversation with his own historical, political
and philosophic context. Against the background of a powerful democratic model that links
political participation and the highest forms of human development and best political outcomes,
and inspired by Socrates, Plato provides an alternative understanding of the human good that
generates a deep critique of the democratic model. We can see the working of this logic even in
the first book of The Republic.
Sunday, April 10, 2011 LECTURE 3: Plato II. The Just City, or Justice in the soul writ large
-Socrates: wise man, friend to the old. company sought out by young/old
Cephalus: preoccupied with sense of duty to god
I.Getting to the Just City
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a)Unpacking Book I: the dramatis personae and the refutation of rule bound (Cephalus), loyalty
bound (Polemarchus) and interest bound (Thrasymachus, example of a group of people known as
sophists. needed to speak well for political influence and was hinged on ability to sway fellow
citizens) conceptions of justice.
-book 1 wants us to acknowledge justice as a good. have us thinking about right sphere for thinking
about justice, and finally through the course of the dialogue an implicit acknowledgement that to
be fully just we must be able to give full account of justice.
*Cephalus. he represents understanding of justice that is comprehended by rule and living up to
expectations. defender of one world view of : justice is fulfilling your duty and obligations as put
out by laws of man.religion. and gods. as speaking the truth/ paying debts to man and god.
-exemplar of certain moderation. lack of theoretical reflection no real full account of why he does
what he does in any convincing way. socrates suggests that cephalus’ way. stephanos 331c. :
example of one who has given weapons to friend and friend goes insane, is it just to give
someone crazy weapons. we cannot define true justice in terms of rule.
*Polemarchus. sort of continuing with cephalus’ lines. under impression that he is giving fuller
account of his father’s account. giving us alternative account actually. justice: in many respects a
question of good will. doing good to your friends and harm to your enemy. central question is one
of loyalties. maintaing good relations with those you deem to be good. problem of understanding
of justice is that because your perceptions are not always correct, your judgment of others
morality is not always correct because the person you’re helping is not always good. second
objection as voiced by socrates: is that question of proper distribution of rewards and benefits. it
cant just be related to quality of ppl involved, but to deeper good. socrates wants us to have more
impartial understanding of good beyond our perception of character. need to be driven by deeper
sense of what is good.
*Thrasymachus: defends understanding of justice that serves person who is an abuser of power.
whoever we might also suggest his character is devoted to sense of honor. he is really irked by
socrates disputations, his fancy footing around issues. wants to tell it like it is. contradiction but
powerful challenge to some of socrates’ positions. justice is advantage of the stronger. might is
right. first opinion is justice advantage of people in superior power. justice is whatever
hegemonies determine it to be. second position is to suggest that there is a thing of justice but it
is opium of people. something that keeps the people down. people follow because they think its
good thing but it juts keeps them differential. central principal is that justice is self interest. he is
representative of his class of sophists(educated people in athens)
-Socrates’ responses are inadequate. sense of tht he is not fully satisfied with direction of
dialogue. rest of republic more full and further articulation of response to thrasymachus.
b) Ring of Gyges account (Glaucon).
-challenge to socrates .
-galucon takes on role of devils advocate. most people if pushed will suggest that justice is just
one of those things we do because of the respectability that it brings. socrates says justice be
something we do for good itself
-glaucon is function of limit
-main point is that if we were given opportunity to be unjust without any consequences we would
want to do so. no intrinsic attraction to justice.
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