Ancient Greek Philosophy
Write a paper in response to one of the prompts listed below. You are welcome to write a paper on a topic of your own choosing. However, you must check the topic with me in person before proceeding. Note: Along with observing the formatting requirements listed on the syllabus, be sure to identify the topic you are answering.
- “The elenchus is not a form of inquiry, i.e. a method for acquiring knowledge, rather, it is merely a method for removing confusion.” Why might someone think this? How might a different reader, one who believes the elenchus is a form of inquiry, respond? Whom do you think is right, and why?
- At Phaedo 78b-80b, Plato offers an argument meant to help establish the immortality of the soul. Analyze this argument, sometimes labeled “The Affinity Argument.” Does the argument establish the immortality of the soul? Does it establish its conclusion? More precisely, is it valid? Having analyzed the argument, even if you find it lacking, identify and explain one intuition that drives the argument. In other words, why might someone (e.g., Plato) be moved to make this argument—why might he think that it is on to something?
- In Phaedo Plato argues that the objects of knowledge, or forms, are suprasensible. His thought is that any account of an object of knowledge based on sensible properties will necessarily represent that form as admitting of the compresence of opposites. What grounds does Plato have for thinking that sensible properties must fall afoul of the compresence of opposites?
- Plato claims that every desire is grounded in a desire for some good we desire to possess forever (e.g., health). Using Symposium, explain Plato’s account of this peculiar object of desire, the sense in which it is desired forever, and how it works to ground (or explain) our more familiar desires (like the desire to tie one’s shoes). Why does Plato believe that recognizing this aspect of human desire is important?
- For Plato, one way to be happy is to give birth in beauty. Explain. Note: A good answer to this question should touch on 1) Plato’s account of the object, aim and activity of loving beauty, 2) how loving, like all other mortal activities, aims at immortality and 3) Why, given Plato’s understanding of beauty, giving birth in beauty is a way of approximating immortality restricted to human beings (or at the very least beings with certain capabilities). What is one significant consequence of Plato’s views on this subject?
- Plato believes that eros is disruptive and that this disruption can lead to our lives being transformed for the better. How does this work? Sometimes, loving someone or something is not beneficial for us, i.e. it does not lead the agent towards happiness. What resources does Plato’s view have to explain this unfortunately all-too-familiar result?
- Did Plato change the subject? Take one of our deeply held commitments about the nature of love and examine whether it is incompatible with Plato’s account of eros. If you do think it is incompatible, how might Plato respond? Note: If you are going to argue that Plato’s view is compatible with (one of) our deeply held intuitions it should be an intuition that on the face of it seems to be at odds with Plato’s account.