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Reading Notes

Reading philosophical essays is more challenging in that you often have to scan once, read once, and review once before you can adequately explain the author's position. In order to be sure that you are receiving maximum benefit from your time spent studying, try to answer the guide questions posed below. If you cannot answer them, it is time to read or review to be sure you understand the main arguments presented. See more tips here.

Plato's Republic: Foundations of Western Ethics


  1. Resources
  2. Terms to Learn
  3. Concepts
  4. Guide Questions
  5. Smartboard Notes

Here are some web sites that will enhance your understanding of this week's reading:

Plato's Republic:

Concepts & Terms to Know:

The following questions are designed to fine tune your understanding of the reading. The subject matter and answers to these questions form the basis of what you will be required to know for exams.

Objectives for this week: These are the learning objectives you should have mastered after attending the lectures and completing the questions below

  1. explain Plato's emphasis on goal-oriented behavior (a teleological worldview)
  2. Describe, from Plato's Republic, the conditions under which a society might function harmoniously.
  3. explain Plato's theory of the psyche/ soul. The chariot analogy gives us a great way to remember how the various parts of the soul ought to work together in ideal circumstances.
  4. Explain Plato's position on censorship and its purpose in promoting the government's essential positions
  5. outline the theory often entitled, "the noble lie"
  6. List the four virtues Plato believes are essential for proper moral development


Terms you should know:

  1. teleology: "everything in the universe has a proper function to perform within a harmonious hierarchy of purposes"
  2. reason: the intellectual component of the soul: "calculates, measures and decides"
  3. spirit: "structural element of the soul"; this is our passionate side that desires honor, glory, and respect
  4. appetite: the part of the soul that desires things that help us to satisfy our biological and material desires
  5. moral balance: situation in which reason governs the soul guarding against the excesses of spirit and appetite.
  6. class system: In Plato's Republic, a way of dividing individuals into different social groups based on their talents. There are three classes: philosopher-kings (rulers [reason] ), auxiliaries (guardians [spirit]) who serve as warriors, and a combination of craftsmen, artisans, and traders who are driven mostly by appetite.
  7. just society: a society that functions harmoniously by allowing each individual to do the work suited to his/her talents.
  8. philosopher kings: rulers in Plato's just society from the Republic
  9. guardian class: warriors in Plato's just society from the Republic


Following is an outline of some key concepts from the chapter.

The Chariot & the Charioteer


Guide Questions:

  1. How does Plato justify censorship? What is the purpose of using it to shape young minds?
  2. Plato distinguishes between good and bad lies. What is a bad lie? A good lie? Who has the authority to lie in the imaginary city-state?
  3. Why will the stories about "evil acts" be censored?
  4. How does Plato propose that we alter the stories about death? Why is this alteration necessary to spur on the warriors/guardians?
  5. Why ought citizens cultivate self-control and temperance?


Smartboard Notes

Smartboard Notes from Week 2 Lecture:











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