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Unit information: Philosophical Texts: Plato in 2015/16

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Unit name Philosophical Texts: Plato
Unit code PHIL10024
Credit points 10
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Pearson
Open unit status Open




School/department Department of Philosophy
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

The course will consider some early/early middle period dialogues of Plato, in particular, Apology, Crito, Euthyphro, Meno, and (parts of) the Phaedo. These are classic philosophical texts in which we discover Plato’s Socrates, and witness him attempt to defend himself in court from the charges of impiety and corrupting the young, see him (having been convicted to death) in jail defending the idea that he shouldn’t escape, witness him as a philosophical 'gadfly' probing those who claim to know the most important things, and ultimately drink the hemlock and die.

Philosophical themes covered include: the nature of virtue and happiness, the nature of justice and the state, what piety is, the relation between virtue and knowledge and whether virtue can be taught, and the doctrine that learning is recollection. We will examine the texts carefully and assess the philosophical merits of the arguments that are there developed and advanced.


  • To provide students with a historical introduction to Socrates
  • To elicit from students an engaged understanding of Platos Euthyphro, Apology, and Phaedo
  • To introduce students to some foundational debates in philosophical methodology, ethics and epistemology
  • To situate these elements in their broader philosophical context
  • To improve students powers of philosophical argument

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students taking this unit will:

  • have a thorough knowledge of selected dialogues of Plato.
  • be familiar with some key secondary literature on these texts, and be able to engage critically with it.
  • be able to engage critically with the positions and arguments in these texts.
  • be in a position to relate some of the ideas in these texts to modern philosophical debates.

Teaching Information

x10 weekly lectures, student participation to be encouraged.

Assessment Information

Summative: one two-hour examination answering two questions. (No coursework)

Reading and References


  • Plato, Five Dialogues trans G Grube.


  • Kraut (ed), The Cambridge Companion to Plato
  • Vlastos, Socrates: Ironist and Moral Philosopher
  • Irwin, Plato's Ethics
  • Reeve, Socrates in the Apology
  • Fine (ed), Plato I & II