Project #84675 - Plato's Criticism of Democracy

This must be a 5 page essay. Answer all questions in bold type under1-3 below.  Please type your essay in MS Word.  Please don’t use any other word processing programs, because I may not be able to open them. Your essay should be double-spaced, with margins about 1 inch all the way around.  I do expect that you will proofread your essay and correct typos and grammatical errors.  

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            First: review Plato’s criticism of democracy (pages. 152-4, #1-5).  But also note, as our author David Roochnik does, that democracy at least allows the pursuit of private interests, including philosophy (p. 155).

            But are some private pursuits better than others?  Socrates and Plato thought that philosophy is the best pursuit.  If it is better than other pursuits, then we ought to be able to say what makes it better.

            In the Symposium, Plato tries to say what makes philosophy better by seeking to understand human nature, who we human beings are.  Roochnik calls Plato’s discussion what human life looks like from a “psychological” perspective (p. 131).  From this perspective, we are creatures who are incomplete, finite, and we can know this about ourselves.  We are also restless, constantly seeking what we take to be beautiful or good, or to possess always what we already have that we think is beautiful or good.  Health is a good example of something we seek to possess if we are not healthy, or that we seek to continue to possess if he are healthy.  Health, of course, is not all there is to a human life.

            The term that Plato uses for our restless seeking is Eros.  Eros includes our desires, passions, moods, feelings, etc.; they are powerful motives for what we seek and what we aspire to be.

            But Eros is often misdirected: what we take to be good is not good, or not as good as we think it is.  Just consider examples of people who devote themselves to their art, job, or vocation.  Are those pursuits good?  (Consider the vocation of a terrorist who is very passionate about it.)  But even if any of these pursuits is good, and even if someone loves what they do and is passionate about it, the question may arise whether they overrate it or are spending too much time on it and thus are neglecting other goods, such as their family.  In The Apology of Socrates, Socrates criticized his fellow Athenians for their “eagerness to possess as much wealth, reputation, and honors,” and thus that they attach “little importance to the most important things and greater importance to inferior things” (page 32).  So what are these most important things?   At his trial Socrates says that the unexamined life is not worth living, and the Symposium gives us an idea of what the beginnings of an examined life are, according to Plato.

            1.  So your first topic is this:  suppose, like all of us, your Eros, your desire, passion – your love -- is directed toward someone you take to be physically beautiful.  This is the first stage of the “ascent passage” of the Symposium (p. 141).  For Plato, the human soul that aspires to the best life  should find that love of physical beauty unsatisfactory (though not evil).  Why does Plato say this? And how might love of one particular person who is physically beautiful become harmful or bad?

              2.  Given that one should not be satisfied with physical beauty, Plato says that one should come to see that beauty of soul is better than physical beauty.  So what makes beauty of soul better than physical beauty?   Hint: one quality of a soul that is beautiful is courage.  Why is courage better than physical beauty?  Another beautiful quality of soul is the desire to know.  Why is that better than physical beauty?  And what activities for Socrates best promote courage and the desire to know?  (Hint: what does Socrates himself do?  How did he conduct himself at his trial in the Apology and in his dialogue with Euthyphro?)

            3.    Do you think that Socrates’ soul is beautiful?  If so, explain what qualities or characteristics make his soul beautiful; if not, explain why not.

 

Subject Philosophy
Due By (Pacific Time) 10/03/2015 02:00 pm
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