Course code:



IM - Introductory/Intermediate

Class size limit:


Meets the following requirements:

  • HY - History
  • HS - Human Studies

Lab fee:


Alfred North Whitehead once commented that, “The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”

This course will explore Plato’s original body of ideas and the methods he used to develop them through careful reading of a large number of dialogues and selections from key philosophers’ responses to them.

Key themes will include the relationships between ethics, metaphysics and epistemology, the theory of Ideas, the nature of political life, the roles of friendship and Eros in life, “philo-sophia” as a way of life, and the figure of Socrates and Socratic method. Readings will include Plato’s Lysis, Meno, Laches, Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Symposium, Phaedrus, Gorgias, and selections from others such as The Republic, Timaeus, and Parmenides. In parallel with these texts we will also read very short selections from thinkers such as the Pre-Socratics, Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Dewey, de Beauvoir, Foucault, and Alyson Jaggar.

For historical context we will also read selections from Pierre Hadot and others and study selections from art and other key cultural documents including texts by Aristophanes, Xenophon and Thucydides.

By the end of the course students should understand and be able to articulate key ideas and problematics in Plato and place them in their cultural context. They should also be able to critically analyze texts and ideas in oral discussion and in short written pieces by examining them for internal consistency and the adequacy with which they respond to the challenges presented by the problematics of their own cultural setting as well as the light cast on them by critiques of subsequent philosophers.

Students will be evaluated on class participation, a series of short papers providing careful textual analysis, an in-class presentation on one of the dialogues and/or a subsequent philosopher’s response to it, and participation in a performance of some portion of one of the dialogues.




Always visit the Registrar's Office for the official course catalog and schedules.