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Robert G. Moser, Chair BAT 2.116, Mailcode A1800, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-5121

Fall 2009

GOV 382M • Plato's Laws

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
39386 MW
12:30 PM-2:00 PM
BAT 1.104

Course Description

This seminar will proceed through a close reading of Plato's Gorgias, Meno, and Protagoras, three dialogues that defend Socrates' practice of political philosophy against his rivals, the sophists and rhetoricians. In studying these works we will seek to understand Socratic philosophy’s political and rhetorical strategy, the differences between it and sophistry, and the meaning of the great Socratic paradoxes—the claims that doing injustice is always worse than suffering injustice, that virtue is knowledge, and that vice is properly an object of pity rather than of anger and retribution. Other major themes will be the nature of spiritedness or "thumos" and the love of justice; the unity or disunity of the virtues, including especially the relation between philosophic and civic virtue; the Socratic critique of hedonism; and the factors in the human psyche that prevent us from grasping what is good for us and doing it in a straightforward and reliable way.

Grading Policy

5 bi-weekly 1-2 page papers (maximum 500 words) on a passage not yet discussed in class, due at the beginning of class on alternate Mondays for the first 10 weeks of term (5% each). 5 bi-weekly question sets, elucidating a few of the most important problems in a section of the text not yet discussed in class, and submitted by e-mail before Monday's class in alternate weeks for the first 10 weeks of term (5% each). Term paper of 10-15 pages on a topic of your choosing (35%). Class Participation: 15%.


Plato, Gorgias. Translated, with Introduction, Notes and Interpretive Essay, by James Nichols. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, Agora Editions, 1998. ISBN-10: 0801485274; ISBN-13: 978-0801485275. Required. Plato, Protagoras and Meno. Translated, with Notes and Interpretive Essays, by Robert Bartlett. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, Agora Editions, 2004. ISBN-10: 0801488656; ISBN-13: 978-0801488658. Required. Platonis Opera, Vol. 3. Edited by John Burnet. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1903. ISBN-10: 019814542X; ISBN-13: 978-0198145424. Recommended.


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