The Ethical Aspects of Self-knowledge in Plato’s Dialogues
dr. Jakub Jirsa
This course will deal with an interpretation of self-knowledge in Plato’s dialogues. It focuses on its ethical aspects and shows that ethics is an inseparable part of Plato’s conception of self-knowledge. The methodological part of the course explains several possible readings and interpretations of the dialogues. We will focus on the so-called dramatic or the presupposed pedagogical ordering of Plato’s works. First, Plato shows the problems connected with a purely cognitive conception of self-knowledge (Charmides). Then he gives a basic explanation for what the self is and what the basic principles of self-knowledge are (Alcibiades I). The dramatic reading of the Alcibiades I with the Symposium shows that Plato presupposes a complex structure of motivation, which is fully exposed in the Republic. The complexity of the soul is understood as a result of soul embodiment (Timaeus); and the soul-body relation in the relevant works (Alcibiades I, Gorgias, Phaedo, Timaeus) is discussed in order to show the role of the body in Plato’s ethics. At the final meetings we will discuss how self-knowledge relates to the maxim of “likeness to god”.
· course participation 30%
· presentation(s) 30%
· term essay 40%
Schedule Fall term 2006:
3.10. Introductory meeting (presentation schedule etc.)
10.10. Reading the dialogues (methods of reading and ordering)reading(s):·
- Kahn, C. H. (1981): “Did Plato Write Socratic Dialogues”, The Classical Quarterly n.s. vol. 31, 305-320.
17.10 On ordering the dialogues
- Kahn, C. H. (1988): “Plato’s Charmides and the proleptic reading of Socratic dialogues”, in: The Journal of Philosophy 85, 541-549.
- Griswold, C. L. jr. (1990): “Unifying Plato”, in: The Journal of Philosophy 85, 550-551.
24.10 The Charmides
read the dialogue
31.10 The Charmides
- Carone, G. R. (1998): “Socrates human wisdom and s?phrosyn? in Charmides 164e ff.”, Ancient Philosophy 18/2, 267-286.
- McKim, R. (1985): “Socratic self-knowledge and knowledge of knowledge in Plato’s Charmides”, Transactions of the American Philological Association 115, 59-77.
7.11. The Alcibiades I
read the dialogue
14.11. The Alcibiades I
- Johnson D. M. (1999): “God as the True Self: Plato’s Alcibiades I”, in: Ancient Philosophy 19, 1-19.
21.11. Alcibiades and Socrates (Symposium and Alcibiades I)
- Alcibiades’ speech in the Symposium 212c – 221c
- Gagarin M. (1977): “Socrates’ hybris and Alcibiades’ failure”, Phoenix 31, 22-37.
28.11. Soul division in the Republic IV
- read Republic book IV
- Williams, B. (2000): “The analogy of city and soul in Plato’s Republic”, in Fine, G. (ed), 737-746.
5.12. Soul division in the Republic IV
- Burnyeat, M.F. (2006): “The truth of tripartition”, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, vol. 106, pp. 1-22.
- Cooper, J. M. (1985): “Plato’s theory of Human Motivation”, History of Philosophy Quarterly 22, 3-21. Reprinted in Cooper, J. M. (1999): Reason and Emotion, New Jersey., 118-137.
12.12. Republic X 611a10-612a6
- read the text
- Robinson, T. M. (1967): “Soul and Immortality in Republic X”, Phronesis 12, 147-151.
Basic literature for the course:
- Cooper, J. M. (ed.) (1997): Plato - Complete Works, Indianopolis.
For those with basic knowledge of ancient Greek I recommend the Loeb Classical Library editions (Greek-English), though the translation is not always the best one.
- Annas, J. (1999): Platonic Ethics, Old and New, Ithaca.
- Annas, J. and Rowe, C. J. (eds) (2002): New Perspectives on Plato, Modern and Ancient, Cambridge MA.
- Burnyeat, M. F. (2000): “Plato on Why Mathematics is Good for the Soul”, in Smiley, T. (ed.): Mathematics and Necessity, Proceedings of the British Academy 103, Oxford.
- Cooper, J. M. (1999): Reason and Emotion, New Jersey.
- Gill, C. (1996): Personality in Greek Epic, Tragedy, and Philosophy, Oxford. (introduction and chapters on Plato)
- Kahn, C. H. (1996): Plato and the Socratic Dialogue, Cambridge.
- Striker, G. (1996): “Greek Ethics and Moral Theory”, in idem (ed): Essays in Hellenic Epistemology and Ethics, Cambridge, 169-182.
- Taylor, A. E. (1960): Plato. The Man and his Work, London.
- Taylor, Ch. (1989): Sources of the Self, Cambridge MA. (chapters on Plato)
- Vlastos, G. (ed.) (1978): Plato. A Collection of Critical Essays. II: Ethics, Politics, and Philosophy of Art and Religion, Notre Dame.