Plato (left) from the fresco The School of Athens (detail) by Raphael, 1509-11
English mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead once remarked that “the safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.” German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche acidly countered that “since Plato, philosophy has been in exile.” Jarringly distinct estimations, yet both philosophers agree that Plato sits at the very heart of Western thought. And yet, for many, attempting to tackle The Republic seems daunting.
That’s why Georgetown professor Joseph Hartman invites you to join him in considering Plato’s seminal work. In this illuminating discussion-based course, Hartman examines some of The Republic’s central themes, questions as relevant today as they were in fourth-century Athens: What is justice? Is there an external source of goodness, and if so, how can humans access this source? What makes a political community strong, and what causes it to decline? What role do artists and poets play in a political community? Can societies exist without censorship?
April 5 Setting the Stage: Introduction and Book I
Hartman outlines the themes of The Republic, introduces the characters of the dialogue, and starts with the question of justice.
April 12 Building and Educating the Political Community (Books II – V)
He considers both the development and parts of the political community and the nature of education.
April 19 Plato’s Cave: The Turn Toward the Good (Books VI and VII)
Hartman explores Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, perhaps the most famous and imitated element of The Republic.
April 26 The Decline of the Regime and the End of Things (Books VIII – X)
He examines what types of individuals inhabit different political systems, considers whether political decline is inevitable, and speculates on means of political and philosophical renewal.
Hartman recommends using Plato, The Republic, Sterling and Scott trans., New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1985. ISBN 978-0393314670