Paper Assignment on Plato - IT Division

Paper Assignment on Plato
PHIL 341 -- Fall 2012
Last revised: October 24, 2012
Due: October 31, 2012 [note the change.]
Length: 1150-1400 words. Please give me a word count, not including quoted material and
endnotes or footnotes.
Points assigned: 36 out of 200 semester total
Choose your primary topic from one of the following
(1) Plato’s middle dialogue theory of Forms: use evidence from Phaedo; Republic v
(discussion of the philosopher and what he seeks to know); vi (506b-end), vii 524d-534c,
especially what is said about dialectic; Symposium (ladder of beauty); the critique of the
theory in Parmenides (selections for which there are study questions). What attributes do
Forms have? What attributes do they not have? What functions do Forms play in Plato’s
(2) Plato’s view of how wisdom or knowledge is achieved--his view of philosophy, as
expressed in the middle dialogues—many of the passages mentioned for (1) are relevant.
(3) The arguments for the pre-existence of the soul and the immortality of the soul
in the Phaedo; also the harmony theory of the soul and the arguments against it presented
in the Phaedo. What weak points do you find in “Socrates’” arguments?
(4) Plato’s typology of imperfect souls (Rep. viii-ix, focusing on the persons rather than the
types of political regime); how he explains such persons’ behavior; be sure to read and
understand Rep. iv 434-445 first.
(5) Formulate your own topic that you can use to demonstrate awareness of Platonic
philosophy—but check with me first before writing the paper. I may set certain conditions
or provide additional sources.
Pick your topic by October 24 if possible and let me know. I’m looking for a certain
distribution of topics—in the hope that different expertises will develop and discussion will
be stimulated—so there should be no more than two students in our small class on the
same topic.
There are several stages in this process.
1. Familiarize yourself in a general way with the subject-matter. Read the relevant
2. Work through the relevant dialogue(s) using the Study Questions I have provided. Get as
much as you can from classroom discussions of the relevant texts.
3. Consider the following questions to provide the meat of your essay. [I will provide more
guidelines for specific topics here in a couple days.)
4. Compose an essay of the appropriate length, consisting of paragraphs no longer than ten
lines each. The paragraph division should help convey the organization of your thought.
The relationships—logical, causal-explanatory, interpretive-explanatory, or otherwise—
between the sentences should be clear. Provide documentation as appropriate, say, by
referring to (and perhaps on occasion briefly quoting) the relevant fragments. Careful
paraphrase will enable you avoid excessive quoting.
If you have a draft of your paper ready by October 24th and get a copy to me (preferably a
hard copy, but in a pinch electronically), I will try to give you feedback on it by the 26th and
you can use that feedback to improve the paper for submission on the due date.
Of course, you will want to avoid plagiarism. See FAQ on Plagiarism, in the Information on
Papers section of the course website.
Do not hesitate to ask for clarification or further guidelines for this assignment, e.g., on
methods of citing and referring to texts, preferably in person during class or in office hours,
but you may also email me at If need be, I will give you my home
email address, which I check more regularly when I am not on campus.