II. Plato


I. Plato vs. Socrates

                1. Socrates – a basic methodology with the beginnings of certain themes.

                2. Plato developing the themes.

II. “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Pragmatic, anti-skeptical approach. Response to the Sophists. (If all we had was the Euthyphro, then might adopt a negative, skeptical reading. Taking subsequent dialogues into account we can take a more positive view.)


 The Euthyphro

I. What’s the setting? What is Euthyphro doing?

A. The problem isn’t that Euthyphro is demonstrably doing the wrong thing, it’s that he’s so sure he’s doing the right thing.

B. One sort of good action is pious action. (Piety is a subset of justice, it turns out.)

C. Socrates wants to find out what piety is, an adequate definition. And we ought, at least at the outset, to suppose that that can be done, since we do in fact communicate about it. (Running Gorgias in reverse.)

II.  What is piety?

A. E: What I’m doing now. S: I don’t just want individual instances. I want  the nature or form of piety.

B. E: What the gods love.

1. S: How do we know?

2. S: Don’t the gods disagree? Same thing can’t be both pious and impious, right?

C. E: What all the gods love.

1. S: The origin of the EUTHYPHRO DILEMMA (p.53): “is the pious loved by the gods because it’s pious? Or is it pious because it’s loved?” (I.e. It’s the loving that makes it pious.)

Note that the dilemma gets transformed into the question of the relationship of God to the order of value, including morality when we enter Medieval Philosophy. Jews and Christians both address it, and the popular option is “Neither of the above”. Although late in the Middle Ages, under pressure from debates among Muslim philosophers concerning the freedom of God, some Christians adopt the latter horn of the dilemma, “voluntarism”, “divine command theory”.

 2. E: It’s loved by the gods because it’s pious, and not the other way around.

3. S: Yes. Something is a loved thing because it’s loved. So if, contrary to what we just said, “pious” just means a god-loved thing, then to say that it’s loved because it’s pious, OR it’s pious because it’s loved, would be just to say that it’s loved by the gods because it’s loved by the gods. That can’t be right. (We know that there is more positive content there. P.54, E hasn’t explained why it is loved.)

D. S: Isn’t piety a subset of justice?

1. E: Yes, it’s the part concerned with tending the gods.

2. S: But we can’t help the gods. E: No, I mean doing what’s pleasing to the gods.

3. S: And that’s what’s loved by the gods, right? E: I’ve got to go.

--Have we ended up back where we started? No! Euthyphro may want to think some more before he prosecutes his father. 

AND  We’ve got the issue of what piety consists in on the table in a much clearer way. We at least know what it isn’t.

AND we’ve demonstrated a method –  When we talk about some X, in order to know what it is, we need to look, not at individual instances of X, and not just at a property all X’s might have, but at the essence or nature of X.


The Apology

I. What’s the charge against Socrates? Corrupting the youth and teaching that there is no god.

II. What does he think is behind it? His annoying people. Why does he do that?

III. The Oracle at Delphi. Socrates sets out to test the oracle. Politicians, poets, craftsmen…. In what way does it turn out that Socrates is the wisest?

IV. Corrupting the young.

A. Intentionally? No one would do that.

B. Unintentionally? Then he’s not at fault.

V. Doesn’t acknowledge the gods…but he does.

VI. So should he abandon his mission since it might entail that he will be killed?

A. We don’t know that death is bad.

B. We KNOW that abandoning one’s mission is bad.

C. Which does you more harm, to be unjustly killed or to kill unjustly? (A basic theme of classical and Christian thought that seems to be “thin” among contemporary intellectuals. An example from the folks who oversee conformity to accepted practice concerning the use of human subjects.)

D. Why didn’t he enter politics and try to promote his ideas in the public arena?

VII. What is the verdict?

            A. Why doesn’t he propose exile? “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

            B. Why not fear death? It’s one of two things.



I. What’s the setting? What does Crito want Socrates to do?

II. Crito: You ought to care about the opinion of the majority. S: No you shouldn’t. It’s the opinion of the wise person that counts.

III. But isn’t the sentence unjust? S: Yes, but you should never do injustice intentionally. Don’t return injustice for injustice.

A. Is he saying that the state may not exact retribution on the wrong-doer? Surely not.

B. But would running away be unjust under the circumstances?

IV. S: Yes, it’s wrong to disobey the Laws.

A. Laws gave you birth. You owe them obedience as much as to your father and mother. Or even moreso.

            1. Do you owe your father and your mother obedience?

            2. What if they tell you to participate in doing something unjust?

            3. Are the Laws like your father and your mother?

B. You gave your tacit consent. (Problems with tacit consent!)

V. If he runs away he proves his accusers to be right that he is a corruptor of the youth.

VI. More than the sentence being unjust – Suppose Socrates were guilty of what he’s accused of – should corrupting the young and blasphemy be criminalized? What if the law itself is unjust?

VII. Could it be that Socrates is talking only about himself? (He’s old. He could have afforded to leave…) But don’t we intend to be talking about principles that apply to everyone?



I. The setting.

II. [We already proposed, in the Apology, that death is not a bad thing.] Why shouldn’t everyone just commit suicide?

III. Philosophy is the practice for dying and death.

A. What is death? A separation of the soul from the body. He is a substance dualist. [Some equivocation on the meaning of “death”? A. The separation, or B. The ceasing to be a living thing. Or C. going out of being in the sense of just dissolving.]

B. What are we doing when we do philosophy? Reasoning.

C. We reason best when we have “withdrawn” from the concerns of the body. The things we want to know about are not things in the physical world. Not things available to our senses. The reality of all things, that which each of them essentially is. P.111. (Universals, not just individual instances. He mentions the Just and the Beautiful and the Good (even Bigness and Health). We could add 2+2=4 and – maybe – natural kinds, e.g. the Catness of the cat.)

-- Can we show that the soul will survive the death of the body? --

IV. The universe consists in everlasting processes where opposites come from opposites so the living must come from the dead and return to the dead everlastingly. If not, then everything ultimately comes to end. P.115

(If it is possible for each soul to die and stay dead, then it is possible for ALL souls to die and stay dead. If it could happen in the future, it would have already happened.)

V. Socrates’ (Plato’s) epistemology depends on the thought that the soul preexists. The doctrine of recollection.

            A. We know all this stuff that we can’t have gathered through our senses. “Equal” p.116

            B. We don’t seem to know it when we’re born.

            C. We recollect it when our memories are jogged by things we perceive in the world.

            D. So our souls preexisted “before they took on human form, and they had intelligence” p.117

-- But we need further proof that the soul exists AFTER death –

VI. There are two kinds of existences

            A. the visible – the physical things which are constantly changing -- and the invisible – the Equal in itself, the Just, the Good…

B. and the soul should fall into the latter category. “But when the soul investigates by itself it passes into the realm of what is pure, ever existing, immortal, and unchanging, and being akin to this it always stays with it whenever it is by itself and can do so…” p.119.

C. the invisible is the stronger, so the soul is stronger than the body.

D. the fates of the philosopher versus everybody else. He is a PLATONIC dualist!  Body is a prison. “Every pleasure or pain…” p.121

VII. But what about those theories we’ve heard that would allow us to deny that the soul survives the death of the body?

            A. Simmias: The soul is the harmony of the body.

            B. Cebes: The soul may be stronger and more lasting than the body, but that doesn’t prove it wouldn’t wear out eventually.

VIII. We don’t want to turn into misologues!

IX. Response to Simmias – that the soul is a harmony is inconsistent with the claim that we agreed upon which is that the soul exists before the body comes into being.

X. Response to Cebes

A. Things have the properties they have because they “share in” the Form.

1. A ball is white because it shares in whiteness, and spherical because it shares in sphereness.

2. [p. 130] Notice that he “will not insist upon the precise nature of the relationship.

3.  Which is essential to being a ball? Can a ball be square?

B. For any individual thing X there are only two possible futures – continuing to be X or ceasing to be X by being destroyed and becoming something else. (Nothing blinks out of being, so that’s not an option.)

C. The soul cannot be destroyed.

1. The soul is what animates the body.

2. The very nature of the soul is to participate in Life. The soul cannot have the property of being dead. It is deathless.

3. But something which is deathless is indestructible, so the only option for the soul is that it continues to exist as a soul.

XI. Karma – the philosopher may escape the wheel.

XII. “Risk the belief…” p.136.

            A. A great divide – two kinds of epistemic sin.

            B. If philosophy is practical, if doing it is for leading the good and happy life…

            C. A Socratic wager

                        1. Say the evidence is balanced.

                                    a. We think Socrates may have something with his argument that the soul is special.

                                    b. But we don’t have any empirical access to an afterlife.

                        2. Suppose his view is false. If I believe it,  No harm done, and some benefit.

                        3. Suppose his view is true.  If I fail to believe it, some, maybe a great deal of, harm done.



The Republic

Books 1 and 2

I. Thrasymachus – seems to be assuming at first that “justice” is obeying the laws of the city.

A. “Justice is what is advantageous for the stronger.” The rulers of the city, whatever the form of government, make the laws for their own benefit.

B. S: I grant that justice is advantageous – but, for the stronger?

C. S: What if the rulers are mistaken about their benefit?

1. In that case, if “justice” means obedience to the laws of the city, but the laws are NOT advantageous to the strong, then you’re mistaken, Thrasymachus.

2. Do you mean to say that “Justice is what the stronger believe to be advantageous for themselves”? But T says no.

D. T: They aren’t rulers, qua being mistaken. E.g. someone isn’t a doctor in virtue of making an error about the right treatment, but in virtue of his expertise at medicine.

E.  S: But then they’re rulers due to their expertise in ruling,

1. Analogy with medicine – the doctor is a doctor because he treats the sick.

2. So isn’t the ruler a ruler when he is doing what is advantageous for his subjects.

F. T: Don’t be stupid, Socrates!

1. The ruler is more like the shepherd who is not ruling for the good of the sheep! Goodfellas.

2. The tyrant is the happiest! (Do injustice on a small scale you get in trouble and are reviled, but do it on a large enough scale….!)

-- [skipped some text] For the soul, being just is being virtuous, and being unjust is being vicious. And T is saying it’s more advantageous, you’ll lead the happier life, if you are vicious on a grand scale.--

II. S: But the virtue of the soul is when it fulfills its function well. [n.b. In asking “What is X for?” we are asking a question closely related to “What is X? What kind of thing is it? Nature. Form.]

A. The function – it’s job, like the eye is for seeing and the ear is for hearing.

B. The soul gives life, and it rules the whole person, it deliberates…

C. The virtue of the soul is doing these things well.

D. So aren’t we saying that the just man is the one who lives well, who rules himself and deliberates well? And surely the one who lives well is happy and the one who lives badly is unhappy.

III. Glaucon: Let’s start again and ask it through a couple of thought-experiments

A. The Ring of Gyges – Two men, one just and one unjust, find two rings. How will they behave?

B. Imagine the extremes of these two lives – one who lives unjustly with all the goodies, and is even believed to be just vs. one who lives justly, but is stripped of everything and is even believed to be unjust.

IV. S: Let’s look at the individual writ large, the city. (Greek theme, microcosm and macrocosm)


Books 3 and 4

I. Three classes:

A. The rulers – by virtue of their ability to rule, wisdom. The smallest class.

-- One of the most fundamental questions in political philosophy. By what right or authority do the rulers get to make the rest of us do what they say? --

B.  The auxiliaries – by virtue of their ability to guard the state. (Both rulers and auxiliaries are called “guardians”.)

C.  The producers -- and the largest class, which produces the material goods which the city needs to survive.

II. How do we decide who belongs in which class? (Observe their behavior under pressure. Can they see and do they hold to what is best for the city?)

A. As we are founding our city we may want to try to convince our citizens of “the noble lie”.

B. Are the classes hereditary?

III. The life of the guardians – about which more later! Want the guardians to care more for the city than for themselves and what belongs to them.

            A. No private property that is not wholly necessary.

            B. No living quarters or storerooms that are not open for all to enter.

            C. Common messes and live like soldiers in a camp.

            D. [In a skipped section] No families.

IV. Doesn’t sound like the most advantageous life for the guardians. S: It’s the most advantageous for the whole populas – the kallipolis.

V. So justice is the proper order within the city.

            A. Temperance maintained by the rulers ordering things wisely.

            B. Courage – the auxiliaries protect the state.

            C. Appetite, but both producers and auxiliaries act in obedience to the rulers.

VI. The individual soul is tripartite.

            A. Reason and appetite cannot be the same thing.

1.Reason judges when appetite should or should not be indulged.

2. That opposites business – One unified thing, X, can’t undergo, be, or do both A and not-A in the same way at the same time.

            B. The spirited element (what accounts for self-assertion and ambition) and appetite cannot be the same thing. Similar argument.

A. We often feel anger at being drawn by desire against our better judgment.

B. So spirit is really more like an auxiliary of reason.

            C. The spirit and reason cannot be the same thing. We see that children are quite spirited even before they can reason.

VII. So justice for the individual is having reason rule over spirit and appetite. But is that really the most advantageous?

Books 5 and 6

Book 5

I. Women should do the same tasks as men.

II. Breeding (You can’t have a good socialist utopia without a eugenics program.)

            A. Why have a eugenics program at all?

                        1. The best to the best

                        2. Knowing what we know now about inbreeding…

            B. The lottery (Does the lying worry you?)

            C. The children

                        1. The children of the best go to the “rearing pen” and the “special nurses”.

a. Don’t want Moms and Dads to know their own children.

b. Moms and Dads are too busy anyway.

c. Knowing what we know now about what infants and children need to flourish?

                        2. What happens to the children of the not so good? (And the children of those past the official breeding age?)

III. Is such a city possible?

            A. Does it really matter? P.187

            B. It is possible if a philosopher could be made king.

IV. Knowledge vs. Belief – the two are defined by the nature of their objects, not by the internal state of the knower/believer.

            A. “Knowledge” is to know what is as it is. Cognitively grasp true reality (or True Reality).

            B. “Belief” is to cognitively grasp what “partakes of being and not being”.


Book 6

I. The Philosopher is the one who can cognitively grasp the Form of the Good.

II. What is the Good? (It’s fair that he doesn’t describe The Good. It’s just not a describable sort of thing.)

            A. Let’s look at the “offspring of the Good” in terms of the visible world. More than analogy for Plato?

                        1. The faculty of vision in the seer and the thing to be seen together are not enough to allow the seer to see.

                        2. Need light. The “ultimate” light is the sun.

                        3. Sun also “provides for their coming-to-be, growth, and nourishment…”p.200

            B. The Form of the Good provides knowledge and what is known. It is “beyond being”. It is the source of all. Discursive reasoning has its limitations.

III. The divided line

            A. Images and imagining

            B. Things and belief

-- A and B are in the visible world --

            C. Principles (Geometric and scientific) and “mere” thought.

            D. Forms and understanding

            E. The Good

-- C, D, and E are in the intelligible world –

Book 7

I. The Cave

II. But isn’t it unjust to make the philosopher go back down into the cave as ruler of the city? P.204

III. The Timaeus -- A note on an alternative picture of the relationship of god to the physical world

            A. The receptacle

            B. The forms

            C. The demiurge – an agent god who imposes the forms on the receptacle to produce the world we see around us.

                   1. A thinking, acting god.

                        2. “Creates” out of love.

                        3. Not a creator “ex nihilo” like the Judeo-Christian God.

Book 8

--- The Decline of the Ideal State --- But isn’t it perfect? – with corresponding types of man

(First two in sections which book skips.)

I. To Timocracy – the good is honor -- the timocratic man.  Timocracy is an okay form of state.

II. To Oligarchy – wealth – the oligarchic man (has a certain amount of self-discipline and orderliness).  Oligarchy is just a bad way of doing things. Being rich is no qualification to govern.

III. To Democracy

A. How does the change come about? Bloody revolution!

B. What the democracy is like? (p.215)

C. The democratic man. (p.218)

IV. To Tyranny

            A. The insatiable desire for freedom!

            B. “Cease to care even for the laws”. People become a mob.

            C.  Three classes

                        1. Drones – with and without stings.  (One who has lost his money and is idle or a criminal.)

                        2. “Orderly class” (Because they are self-disciplined they can amass some wealth.)

                        3. The people (Workers)

            D. The People’s Hero…going to seize the property of the wealthy and distribute it to the poor.

            E. … Needs a bodyguard.

            F. Constant war.  Excuse to keep people too busy working to pay taxes to conspire against him.

            G. Get rid of the better people. Now the worst has absolute control of the city.

“Thus liberty, getting out of all order and reason, passes into the harshest and bitterest form of slavery.”!!!

And who is the most miserable person in the Tyranny?

Book 9

-- Two arguments for Socrates’ original thesis --

I. The Tyrannical man becomes a slave to his passions, an addict. (Alcoholism, Gluttony) That can’t be happy!

II. Of the not-thoroughly-awful forms of life…(We don’t need to even ask the democratic and the tyrannical man, since the former is idle and silly and the latter is a slave of his passions.)

            A. pursuit of profit, of honor, and of wisdom… (Socrates does not say that profit and honor should be ignored, just that the pursuit of wisdom is the most important.)

            B. The philosopher’s opinion is the only one which can include experience of all three.


Book 10

I. The soul can’t be destroyed.

            A. A thing is destroyed by its own particular destructive phenomena.

            B. Wickedness is what corrupts the soul.

            C. But nobody dies of wickedness. So there’s nothing to destroy the soul.

II. Glaucon’s original examples of the just who appears unjust and the unjust who appears just are not consonant with real life.

II. The Myth of Er

            A. Justice after death. (Go up into the heavens, a nice place, or down into the earth, a place of suffering.

            B. Some never get out of the earth – the incurably bad people. (229)

            C. We are responsible for our lives. (p.230)

D. One can be virtuous either with or without really understanding. (p.231) (And the ones “from the earth” often made better choices since they had learned something from their suffering.)

E. If you understand, then you can live happily here and in the hereafter…and here again.