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Plato's Republic

Exam Study Guide

The exam will be two hours and thirty minutes. The first thirty minutes will be devotedto
Greek philosophical terms; the next two hours will be devotedto two essayquestions
(one hour per essay).

I. ProvisionalList of GreekTerms

Six Greek philosophical terms----orsetsof terms-will appearon the exaln. You will be
askedto define eachone: provide a rangeof English translationsthat approximatePlato's
usageof the term, discussthe context in which Plato usesit, and its philosophical
significancefor him.

ndA6,[IoArcela A6yog,Aoyop,6g,rtt xa))ino),ry, d,gmr6g,


v6p,og,gdng Aoyotxiv d,Enoxgaria
Dix,r1,
d)mia, )marcaiv,r1 fup6s,il Sug,oetllE np,aqyia, np,oxgarla,
rAeove(ia inSug,ia, r) irnSup,,r1nx6v np,oxpatxig
otoT,E, r6Aep,og d,xqaola iAtyapyla, LAryappxiE
auTaQxes Dtxaroalvq, aurppoa,jv,rl, oi rcMoi, oi iAiTot
rip'q d,vDqeia, aogla Drlp,oxparia, D,rltr
t oxpan x6g,
iqyov, riAog htar'fip,q, D6(a Dfitos
d,peri1,xaxo,fi*em Ddvap,6 rugavvig, rugavvm,6g,ripavvog
Seis d,A'fi9eru e?u9
ouotx,i1,rorfiary, p,ip,,r1ng
T.t rptA6roqog, rpA6)o{05 9rA6oo9o9, gtAorlp,oE,
a,Qpovtq, il iiv, ri p,,i1iiv grAoyq,fip,aroE
Ed,gtrtaxov efDos,Dia d,vaTxaiEirnSup,la
(ytvvaorv) tltetDog .yivenE eAeuSepia, DouAeia
iarqdg, DmaorilE l{aigv,ttg d,vd,7xr1
fuy'fi,rdpta eixaala (eixdy), rio-ng, d,Savada
ravroDard, ltd,vom,vo,r1ory p,i9oE
,,
aro7r0s noAJrponoE

II. ProvisionalEssayQuestions

Two essayquestionswill appearon the exam.You will be askedto answereachone with


an essayof approximatelyan hour's length.

1. In Book I of Republic,Socratesconsidersand then criticizesthe definitionsof


justice profferedby three successiveinterlocutors:Cephalus,Polemarchus,and
Thrasymachus.Beginning with Cephalus,what is his definition, what seemsto
motivate it, and how does Socratesrefute it? Moving next to Polemarchus,what is
his definition ofjustice, how is it an heir to his father's,and what are two of the
argumentsSocratesusesto reject it? How sound are thesearguments?What are
their flaws? Finishingwith Thrasymachus,what is his definition ofjustice, what
is its broadermeaning, and what are three argumentsSocratesusesto reject it?
Again, how sound are thesearguments?If they have flaws, are they related to
those of Socrates'earlier critique of Polemarchus?Surveying this whole
conversationof Book 1, what patternsof thought standout to the eyesof a critical
reader?With thesepatternsin mind, what might be the deeperlessonsof Book 1,
especiallyfor epistemologyand ethics?(In your answerto this question,you
shouldfind especiallyusefulthe following articles:Barneyand Weiss.)

2. Between 352a8and 354c3, at the end of Book I of Republic, Soqates advances


what has since becomeknown as "the function argument." (Aristotle adoptsand
revisesit in the first book of his NicomacheanEthics, making it foundational for
his ethical thought, and thereby the ethical thought of many subsequent
philosophers.)First, rehearsethis argument,schematizingit as succinctly and
accuratelyas possible. Second,evaluateit. How soundan argumentis it? What, if
any, are its flaws? Third, whether or not this argument is sound,what does it
revealaboutPlato's (not to mention Aristotle's) world-view? Finally, make the
casethat this quick argument----occupying just a few pages,and apparently
abandonedby Socratesas he risesto the renewedchallengeto justice posedby
Glaucon-forecasts the centralpoint of his full reply to this challenge.(In your
answerto this question,you shouldfind especiallyuseful the following articles
we have read: Barney and Santas.)

J. What is Glaucon'schallengeto Socratesat the beginningof Book 2 of Republic?


Crudely put, he wantshim to defendjustice, but, more finely, as if inspiredby
Thrasymachus'searlierchallenge,Glauconwants Socratesto defendjustice in a
particular way. With what distinction doeshe thereforebegin his challenge?What
two demandsdoes he then make of Socrates?Finally, in what three stagesdoes he
then articulatehis challenge?Socratesfeelsoverwhelmedas it is, but Adeimantus
supplementshis brother'schallengewith two additionalconsiderations.What are
they, and how do they make Socrates'task tougherthan it alreadyseemed?In the
face of sucha dauntingchallenge,what is Socrates'answer?In effect,this answer
is the rest of Republic,so you must distill its most importantparts,providing only
an outline of the answer'sconclusion.But with that limit in mind. assesswhether
or not Plato's Socratesanswersthe challengeput to him by Plato's brothers.(In
your own answerto this question,you shouldfind especiallyuseful the following
articleswe have read:Rowe, Weiss,Singpurwalla,Kamtekar(AZ).)

4. What is the principle of political philosophy?What explainsthe constitutionof


our polities?Whencearosepolitical society?What motivatesus, most deeply,to
obey the restrictions of political life? Three very different speakersin the first two
Books of Republic,using threevery different philosophicalmethods,offer three
very different answersto theserelated questions:Thrasymachus,Glaucon, and
Socrates.Presentin successionthesealternatives,paying equalattentionboth to
the content of their answersand the method of their arguments.As you do so,
evaluatethe advantagesand disadvantagesof eachmethod, so that by the end of
your presentationyou may make an informed comparisonof their answers.Of
thesethree approachesto political philosophy,which one comesclosestto the
principle of politics? (In your answerto this question,you shouldfind especially
useful the following articles we have read: Santasand Weiss.)
5 . At the end of Book 2 Socratesarguesthat gods never lie. What is this argument?
Is it sound?Whether or not it is, Socratesusesit-and other conclusionsabout
both gods and heroesin Book 3 as well-to bowdlerize some of the most
important and poignant passagesof Greek epic poetry. This is part of his
campaignagainstthe poets, whom he criticizes here and elsewherein Republic
for their deceptions.Why doesPlato considerthem deceivers?Here you should
addressthe three argumentsof Book 10. How sound are thesearguments?And
what abouthis "noble lie"? Is this not a hypocriticalact of deceptionon Plato's
own part? Does this apparenthypocrisy undermine Plato's campaignagainstthe
poets, let alone his highest philosophical aspiration-namely, to know the truth?
If not, why doesSocratesthink this lie justified? What might be said in his favor?
Can therebe a noble lie? (In your answerto this question,you shouldfind
especiallyuseful the following articleswe have read: McPherran,Lear, Schofield,
Moss, and Halliwell.)

6. What is Plato's psychology?Beginningwith the argumentin Book 4, show how


Socratesdivides the soul into threeparts.How soundis this argument?What
objections might be raised againstit? Can they be met? One objection many have
posed is that the distinctions are not clear betweenthe desiresof eachpart. One
popularreply to this objectionis that rationaldesiresdependexclusivelyon the
good, appetitivedesiresdependnot at all on the good, and spiriteddesiresdepend
to someextent(thoughtnot exclusively)on the good. What evidencedoes
Republicoffer for thesecriteria of desire?How good is this evidence?What
evidencedoesRepublic offer againstthesecriteria?How good is this
countervailingevidence?Are all desires,accordingto Plato in Republic,for the
good?Why doesit matter?(In your answerto this question,you shouldfind
especiallyuseful the following articleswe have read: Moss (AZ), Miller (AZ)
Anagnostopoulos,Lorenz, and Ferrari.)

7. What is Socrates'definition ofjustice at the end of Book4 of Republic?How


doesthis definition not only answerthe question-What is justice?-with which
the dialoguebeganin Book 1, but also answerGlaucon'schallenge-Show that
perfectjustice is preferableto perfectinjustice-with which the dialogueresumed
in Book 2? Is either answersuccessful?If not, what are their shortcomings?How
are theseshortcomingsremediedby the subsequentdiscussionsof the dialogue?
Do theseremedieswork? Why or why not? Whetheror not they do, how doesthis
definition ofjustice sublimateboth the conclusionof the function argumentin
Book I and the principle of specializationin Book 2? How, moreover,doesthis
definition sublimatethe variousdefinitionsproferredbut rejectedin Book l? Are
any of these sublimationscircular arguments?If not, what is the value of
sublimation as a philosophical technique?(In your answerto this question,you
should find especially useful the following articles we have read: Barney, Santas,
and Kosman.)
8 . Describethe utopia Socratespresentsin Book 5 of Republic. What are the three
wavesof criticism he anticipatesthis presentationwill meet?What are his reasons
for advancingthesecontroversialpolitical innovations, and what argumentsdoes
he use to resistthese'waves'? How sinceredo you think Socratesis in this
presentationand argumentation?What reasonsmight be adducedto arguethat he
is being ironic? What reasonsmight be adducedto resistthat argument?On this
samequestion-utopia and irony-what role doesthe so-called'city of pigs' play
in the dialogue?After all, somethink it is Socrates'sincereutopia,whereasthe
utopia of Book 5 is only his second-best offer. What are the argumentsfor and
againstthis thought,and how, assessingtheir relativemerits,do you standon this
question?In your assessment, be surenot to neglectthe role of the philosopher.
How do Plato and his character,Socrates,understandthe relationship between
philosophyand politics? (In your answerto this question,you shouldfind
especiallyuseful the following articleswe haveread: Ludwig, Saxonhouse,
Franks, Morri son, Singpurwalla (AZ), and Strauss.)

9. One of the most importantand memorabledoctrinesof Republicis that of the


Forms.They assumea centerstagein Republiconly in the last third of Book 5,
but there receive a subtle argument in their defense,one we might characterizeas
'epistemological'sinceit beginswith an epistemicdistinction.What is this
distinction,and how soundis the argumentthat Socratesdevelopsfrom it? Once
you have assessed the argumenton its own terms,discusswhy Socrates
introducesit and the the doctrineof Forms it defendsat this precisepoint in the
dialogue.Once you have assessed the argumentand discussedits immediate
context,show how it and the doctrineof Formsnot only look forward to the
epistemologicaland ontologicalimagesof Books 6 and 7,but also backwardto
the psychologyof Book 4. (ln your answerto this question,you shouldfind
especiallyuseful the following articleswe have read: Sedley,Penner,Miller
(^z).)
10.Plato's Republicis full of images,many of them quite detailedand vivid. Among
the most vivd and detailed are the three at the heart of the work-the Sun, the
Line, and the Cave-which illustratethe centralontologicaland epistemological
distinctionsof the dialogue.Recounttheseimagesin order,paying special
attentionto the following threequestions.First, sinceimagesand imaginationare
at the bottom of the Line, what might Plato be sayingaboutthe credibility of these
imagesthemselves?Second,in what ways doesthe Cave synthesizethe two
earlierimages?And third, what are the political elementsof the Cave,and how
doesthis imagebring the ontology and epistemologyof Republicto bearon the
political and ethical investigationofjustice with which the dialoguebeganand to
which it returns shortly afterwards?(In your answerto this question,you should
find especiallyuseful the following articleswe have read: Sedley,Denyer,Miller,
Reeve(AZ),Lear (AZ), Ferejohn.)
11. In Books 8-9 Socratesresumeswherehe left off, atthe end of Book 4,
by
describingthe declineof his utopia into four degenerateregimes:timocracy,
oligarchy, democracy,and tyranny. Describethe most important features
of each
constitution, and why Socratesthinks eachone emergesfrom its predecessor.
If
this story is more an amusing nanative, is there a logic of decline at work,
lhan
one or more principlesof politics that predict the trajectoryof any political
society?If so, what are theseprinciples, and how iniegral are they io the rest
of
the Socrates'views in Republic,especiallyhis psychology?After all, for
every
political constitutionthereis a correlativecharacter,a psychological
constitution.
Describethe most important featuresof each of these,and whySocrates
thinks
each one emergesfrom its predecessor.what, if any, are the principles
of
psychologicaldecline?How similar are theseprinciplesto those
ofpolitical
decline,and how are they inter-related?Finally, which story, if either, primary:
is
the political or the psychological?(In you unr*"r to this question,you
sirould
find especiallyuseful the following articleswe have read:Hitz (Az),Bliissner,
Strauss,and Parry.)

72-rn Book 9 Socratesfinally presentshis responseto Glaucon,schallenge,


his
argumentthatjustice is good for its own sake,whateverits consequen"ces.
Indeed,
his argumentis supposedto convinceus that realjustice with the
appearanceof
injustice (andthus punishments)is preferableeven to real injusticethat
has
assumedthe appearance(andthus the rewards)ofjustice. of his three
arguments-the comparisonof the philosopherand the tyrant, the decision
of
competentjudges,namelyphilosophers,and finally the purity and
truth of
philosophicpleasure-he is most confidentin the ihi.d. Ho*
doesthis third
argument work, and is it sound?What are the objects of pure and
true pleasure,
and what is the subjectof this pleasure?In what way do toth these
objlcts and
this subjectrespectthe principle of opposites(or principle of non-coniradiction)?
How, then, doesthe distinctionbetweenreal and illurory pleasure,
not to mention
the distinctionbetweenreal and illusory justice, in sum,the deepest
of all
distinctionsin the dialogue,dependon a logical principie?(In ybur
answerto this
question,you shouldfind especiallyusefulthe following
articleswe have read:
Penner,Kosman,Sedley,Miller ( Z))

l3' In Book 70 of Republic, Socratesadvancesan argumentfor


the immortality of the
soul' What is this argument,and how valid and soundis it? How
might we object
to it, and how might Socratesrespondto our objections?Whether
or not he would
defendhis argument,Socrateswould likely cling tenaciouslyto
his faith in the
immortality of the soul. But what can he say, in the end, about
this soul that he
believesto survive bodily death?He resortsfirst to an image, that
of the sea-god
Glaucus,and then to a myth, that of Er. what does the image imply
about our
immortal selves,and what doesthe myth imply about their eschatalogical
destiny?
Do theseimplicationsraiseany problemsfoi earlierdoctrines
in Repibtrc? If so,
what is happeningin thesestrangefinal pagesof the dialogue? (In
your answerto
this question'you shouldfind especially-useful the following articleswe have
read:Halliwell, Ferrari,Miller (AZ).)
14. At the heart of Republic is a memorable-indeed, an unforgettable-story: the
Cave. We have consideredthe many ways in which this story condensesthe most
importantlessonsof the dialogue,lessonsin ontology,epistemology,politics,
psychology,and aesthetics.But perhapsmost importantof all theselessonsis
pedagogical;the Cave illustrates the educationof the philosopher.Lest we forget:
Republicitself is a pedagogicalexercise,in which Plato is teachingus, his
readers,to becomephilosophers.In this way, the Cave story is our story as we
read the dialogue itself--our painful going up and our bewildering return below.
Tell thesetwo storiestogether,the story of being educatedby this dialogue, from
its first Book to its last, alongsidethe story of the philosopher who is educated
within it, in Book 7. Draw upon your knowledge of those doctrinesmentioned
above, and, when most pertinent, the argumentsSocratesusesto develop and
defend them. But also draw upon our considerationof this dialogue as a work of
art, as an artfully composedconversation,a special sort of conversationwhose
goal is to changethe structureof your soul. (In your answerto this question,you
shouldfind especiallyuseful the following articleswe have read:Lear,Lear (AZ),
Reeve(AZ), RichardsonLear, Barney.)