Plato’s Republic: Philosophy, Happiness, and the Beautiful City
If Plato is foundational to the history of Western thought, the Republic is foundational to Plato’s philosophy. By way of a twisting, turning conversation, the Republic unlocks the fields of political and moral philosophy, metaphysics, epistemology, and aesthetics, offering insight into Plato’s core ideas and ideals—from the notion of the Forms to the ideal of the philosopher kings to the sacrifices that Plato believes all “lovers of wisdom” are called upon to make. Guided by the ever-inquisitive Socrates, readers are forced to examine our most basic assumptions: How do we know what we think we know? What can we say for certain about the nature of justice or happiness—in other words, a well-lived life? What might a harmonious political order, a “beautiful city,” actually look like? And, whom and what would we be willing to exclude in order to preserve it?
In this course, we will explore the four nodes of truth, beauty, goodness, and justice through careful reading of Plato’s classic text. Is truth eternal and unchanging? What power does art have to form the individual, and what are the dangers inherent in this? Does goodness lie at the heart of reality, and is being itself inherently good? Does justice truly consist in each person playing her designated part in society? To broach these and other questions, we will engage the Republic’s famous illustrations—from the Myth of Gyges to the Myth of Er, from the allegory of the Cave to the analogies of the Line and Sun. We will supplement our reading of the Republic with readings from Plato’s predecessors, the Pre-Socratics; Plato’s defenders, such as Iris Murdoch; and Plato’s detractors, beginning with his student Aristotle. And throughout, we will grapple with the meaning of Alfred North Whitehead’s famous quip: Is Western philosophy merely a series of footnotes to Plato?
Course ScheduleMonday, 6:30-9:30pm EST
April 11 — May 02, 2022