Philosophy | Plato
P511 | 24874 | Morgan

Topic: Plato: The Later Dialogues

In this course we shall investigate several of Plato's later
dialogues - the Parmenides, Theaetetus, Sophist, and Phaedrus.  Our
goals will be to understand different ways of reading these
difficult and provocative dialogues, to clarify Plato's conception
of philosophy and dialectic, to consider the role of the theory of
Forms in Plato's later epistemology and metaphysics, and to
appreciate the impact of twentieth century philosophical debates on
the reading of Plato. In addition to working carefully thro
ugh large portions of the texts, with the help of recent
translations, we shall be discussing recent philosophical
interpretations of them and of Plato's thinking in his later period.

In the middle dialogues - the Phaedo, Republic, and Symposium, Plato
introduces and employs a conception of transcendent forms.  At one
time, scholars thought that the same theory was represented in all
the Platonic dialogues; more recently, students of P
lato think that he either abandoned that conception or significantly
modified it in his later dialogues.  We shall want to understand the
components of the debate and, as we explore the dialogues, keep them
in mind and try to arrive at our own answer to t
his question about Plato's intellectual development.

Recently approaches to Plato's writings have become a matter of
special interest.  How should the dialogues be read?  Why did Plato
write dialogues?  What is the philosophical status of Plato's
writings?  Especially as we look at the Sophist, Thaetutus, a
nd the Phaedrus, we shall want to evaluate different approaches to
reading Plato.

Today we think of philosophy and philosophical inquiry as having
certain purposes and proceeding in certain ways - but our thinking
on these matters is shaped by many historical factors, especially
the relationship between scientific thinking and philosop
hy during the past three centuries or so.  Plato was virtually at
the beginning of the Western philosophical tradition; he is groping
toward an understanding of what philosophy should be and how it
should differ from endeavors such as rhetoric and sophist
ry.  We shall want to compare what Plato says about philosophy in
these later dialogues with other conceptions of it current in fourth
century Athens and with his own views in the middle dialogues.

Requirements: In addition to careful reading of extensive portions
of the dialogues, students will be asked to write three textual
commentaries, a term essay, and a final examination.