Primary Text: https://tfreeman.net/resources/Phil-100/The-Republic.pdf (Excerpts of Book VI and VII)
Audio Book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqGsg01ycpk
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/plato-ethics-politics/
TED Ed Video on the cave: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RWOpQXTltA
Education Summary: https://www.scu.edu/character/resources/education-in-platos-republic/
- What is an allegory?
- What other “caves” exist in society where people are imprisoned, but feel as though they somehow belong there? Draw on historical, social or even personal experiences.
- Give an example of how you/we chain ourselves to illusory ideas or fantasies.
- Imagine someone who has been “enlightened.” Describe this experience. Would they be glad or sad for the liberation?
- Is it easy to leave one’s cave? Why, or why not?
- In your own words, define “justice.”
- Based on your definition of justice, how would you apply it to your life? Give an example of yourself acting “justly.”
- Three definitions of justice are given in Part I, those of: 1) Cephalus, 2) Polemarchus, and 3) Thrasymachus. In your own words, write a paragraph describing each of the three definitions.
Short Answer Exercises for Books V-VII
- What do you think about the idea of guardians of a society?
- Was Plato an early feminist? By stating that women ought to be allowed to be guardians, is Plato also saying that men and women are equal?
- What is Plato’s definition of knowledge? Are you satisfied with his distinctions between knowledge and opinion?
- Why is having knowledge crucial to creating a just Republic?
- Do you find Plato’s ideas about philosophers convincing? Please explain.
- What does Socrates mean by the good?
- How is the allegory of the cave related to Socrates’s idea of the good?
- What do you think about Plato’s ideals about education, about guiding people rather than providing them with answers?
Create Your Own Cave: Writing Summaries & Allegories
We have discussed the idea of allegory and Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.” Allegories are moments of figurative language where an author creates a “hidden” meaning through symbols. These relationships show us authors can use allegories to impart a lesson that we, the readers, can gain via reading.
This assignment asks you “remake” Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” in a contemporary setting. Your “remake” will share the same basic story of the cave and one theme from the allegory that we have discussed in class. All other elements of your remake can be new and are up to your imagination. Change time frames? Sure! Change the setting? Sure! Introduce technology? Go for it! Gender swap characters? Why not! This assignment should allow you to use your imagination and have fun.
Along with your description of your remake, you will draw and label your cave to present a visualization of what your remake looks like.
In essence, this assignment has two major parts:
1. Cave Drawing
You will create a one-page image of your cave where you write present a visualization of a scene from your remake. This scene will be one you originally create, but will relate to the overall structure of Plato’s allegory. You may use any medium to create your image. Art is not a graded component of the assignment (Stick figures are okay!). This image can be uploaded as pdf or picture when you submit the assignment.
In addition to your storyboard, you will write a 2-3-page rationale that explains your “remake.” This rationale will be a piece of formal writing that explains your remake and its relationship to the original allegory of the Cave. Your rationale will explain not only everything that you changed about the original but also will show how your remake shares a similar theme with Plato’s story. This rationale will also have an introduction, body, and conclusion.
This rationale will include:
- A one page visual of your “remake”
- A 2-3-page rationale
- Follow MLA rules for double-spacing, paper format, and citation in your rationale
- Upload final assignment to Blackboard
- Create a one page visual that remakes Plato’s allegory
- Create a rationale with an Intro, Body, and Conclusion that completes the following:
- A one paragraph summary of Plato’s allegory
- An explanation of the major elements of your “remake,” including how you changed the setting, characters, etc.
- An explanation of how your “remake” connects to a theme from the original (using direct evidence from Plato)
- Use correct summary language
- Use evidence from Plato’s allegory via our quotation sandwich format
- Use grammar and revision correctly to produce a clean, readable paper
Platonic Dialogue Exercise
Step 1: Writing the Dialogue
Practicing the Socratic method of asking open-ended questions to arrive at a deeper truth; create a dialogue of your own.
What would Socrates and Thrasymachus say if they were discussing police brutality? Racism? Gender inequality? Freedom? Justice? Or, Education?
The below is an imaginative recreation of a conversation between Socrates and Thrasymachus about 2020 elections.
Socrates and Thrasymachus are sitting on a bench in Prospect Park, drinking tea and coffee, respectively. It’s a relatively warm autumn day; they have finally met up after several months of not speaking. Socrates made a few attempts to contact Thrasymachus, who, feeling generally bored, finally caved and returned his old frenemy’s calls.
Thrasymachus: So, Socrates, I take it that you have an opinion on who is going to win the election?
Socrates: Well, I wouldn’t presume to know the outcome.
T: (rolls his eyes) So much for an interesting conversation. Well whatever. Trump is definitely going to win. I bet it bugs you to hear that.
S: Not at all. I’m certainly intrigued about why you think that.
T: (puts his coffee down and cracks his knuckles) First off, sitting presidents always win a 2nd term. People’s fear of the unknown will work to his advantage.
S: I don’t challenge you there. People are generally afraid to step out of their comfort zone.
T. Second, he represents the kind of guy people want to see in power. He gives off that ruthless vibe that people rightfully associate with a good leader.
S: (Sighs) I guess I’m more concerned with who should win. That’s the question we should all be asking.
T: Yeah, and you should get your head out of your–
S: Ask me who should win and I’ll tell you frankly: it’s Liz Warren.
T: Oh right, because the country is finally ready to see a woman president.
S: She seems to be genuinely concerned about the well-being of the people; she doesn’t seem to be running for her own self-interest or even out of some sense of honor –she just seems compelled to run for the good of the country.
T: Yeah, well, I’d bet that her self-serving agenda will become known if she ever takes office. I see through all of them – they just want to outdo Trump and pretend to be so much better than him.
S: She has a feasible plan to finally tax companies like Amazon, to pay for things like health care, and at least try to make living more worthwhile for each us.
T: You are so ridiculous. Jeff Bezos and all those tech giants will always find a way to evade taxes. That’s just the way of the world. May seem unjust, but profit is the prerogative of the unjust. Liz Warren won’t survive this dog-eat-dog world. Corporate America will get the media to turn on her after just a year in office–!
S: I’m sorry, Thrasymachus, I’m just not convinced. I just don’t believe that the American people will continue to believe that billionaires not paying their fair share in taxes will profit the country. I may not be able to tell the future but I know that injustice causes hatred and strife, while justice brings peace and a common purpose. I think for that reason Warren can rally the people together.
T: Well, I’ll let you believe whatever you want to believe. I’ll be the bad guy; I’m good at that.
Step 2. Explaining the Dialogue
Write a paragraph discussing your dialogue as an example of Plato’s ideas by using evidence from the texts.
In this imaginary dialogue, Socrates and Thrasymachus are old friends with a “love-hate” relationship, or “frenemies,” discussing the 2020 elections. In The Republic, Plato depicts Thrasymachus as a cantankerous aggressor who “roar[s] into” and tries to “take over” conversations like a “wild beast” (335b). He serves as a foil to Socrates’ more measured and sober personality: Socrates is confident enough in his ability to reason and to illuminate self-evident truths without such forcefulness. Thrasymachus, on the other hand, continually accuses Socrates of willfully misleading others, emitting a “loud, sarcastic laugh” (337a) at one point, and recklessly deploying ad hominem attacks (“You disgust me, Socrates.”) (338d) The reference to their beverages of choice is meant to hint at these differences: tea for the subdued Socrates and coffee for his excitable opponent. The dialogue starts off with an unexpected, and short-lived moment of agreement between these two men: They both share the view that Trump will probably win a second term because of a kind of inertia that people exhibit. Fear of the unknown will likely motivate enough people to stick with Trump for four more years, they both agree: For Thrasymachus this tendency towards the status quo speaks to his view of justice as the rule of the stronger over the weak, or “might over right,” while for Socrates, it illuminates his “allegory of the cave,” the dwellers of which refuse to step out of their metaphorical comfort-zone to see the light of other possibilities. The dialogue then quickly devolves into discord when Socrates pivots away from the question of who will likely win, towards the question of who should win.
Plato Writing/Discussion Activities:
- In your own words define justice.
- Based on your definition of justice how would you apply it to your life?
Each answer should be at least a paragraph.
Three definitions of justice are given in Part I: 1) Cephalus, 2) Polemarchus, and 3) Thrasymachus.
In your own words, write a paragraph describing each of the three definitions.
WRITING & POSTING: Plato’s Allegory of the Cave
- Write a Post that does the following (approximately 200-250 words):
- Write a summary of Plato’s text. What’s going on here? Where are we? Who’s there? What do they look like? What’s happening?
- Write a paragraph answering this question: Would you rather be a prisoner from the cave or would you want to be released from the cave? CHOOSE ONE. Explain the choice you made and why you made it.
- Draw a picture (sketching is fine!) of a moment in the text. Don’t worry if you “can’t draw”: just sketch out what you see in your mind’s eye as you read. If you can, post a picture of your sketch.
READING & WATCHING:
- Read Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” again. Be on the lookout for moments where Plato emphasizes the physical and concrete details that the prisoners experience; for example, pay attention to anything they see, hear, and physically feel (along with what causes it). Find three of these details, and think about what they might symbolize.
Watch the two short videos for Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”: here and here
WRITING: Plato’s Allegory of the Cave
- Write a Post/Submit an Assignment that does the following (approximately 200-250 words):
- List symbolic details you identified in Plato’s text.
- Pick three details to focus on: for each detail, write a few sentences explaining the point/s Plato is trying to make through his imagery.
- Have you ever had an experience where you felt like you were in a “cave” or where you felt like you emerged from a “cave.” Free-write about that experience. Include as many specific details as possible (think about your five senses when writing: recall what you saw, but also what you heard, smelled…). Hold on to this free-write, as you may want to return to these ideas for your first project.
- Explain how the symbols you’ve identified in Plato’s story relate to your own “cave” experience.
Group Project: Escape the Cave and Spread the Truth
Create a Public Service Announcement
In the Allegory of the Cave, Socrates tells the story of one who has freed himself from tethers that have kept him and the others in the cave focused on a view of the world that is not real. He is somehow freed of these tethers, leaves this cave, and sees the real world—the real trees and sky and shining sun that casts shadows of real things. When he returns to the cave to free the others to see the real world, Socrates suggests, he will not be welcomed and may even be harmed for revealing an uncomfortable truth, that everything they see and therefore know is false. You are that escaped man. You have just left the cave. But you will now tell those still stuck in the cave, still stuck in an illusion constructed by the machine of the cave, that there is a truth out there and you will do it this way:
Select an ad that promotes any product or idea. Now, with your group, respond to this ad. But do not sell the product or idea. Like the man who’s left the cave, critique the product or idea by revealing something new, some truth, about it. Shine a light on it. Create a PP of your public service announcement. Here are two examples from two groups of students who chose to critique a Nike advertisement and a fast-food advertisement.
Book I – Justice & Authority:
- 330d-e: Socrates is working his way into an argument about justice. What does Cephalus say is the greatest good gotten from being wealthy? Do you agree with his assessment? Why or why not?
- 331c: How does Socrates refute the idea that justice is “speaking the truth and paying whatever debts one has incurred”?
- 332c: What is the definition of justice the speakers have arrived at in this section?
- 335d: How has Socrates refuted the answer given in 332c? What is the definition he arrives at here?
- 336c: Why is Thrasymachus angry? What does he say?
- 338e: What is Thrasymachus’s definition of justice in this section? How does it differ from the definition in 335d?
- 339a-c: Why is it important that Thrasymachus has added “of the stronger”? What is Socrates’s argument for how those words change Thrasymachus’s definition?
- 343b-e & 344a-c: Why is it important to Thrasymachus’s definition of justice as he states it in this section that he added “of the stronger” at the beginning of his argument? Has anything changed in his argument at this point?
- 351d-352a: What is Socrates’s argument here about the way that injustice works?
- 533b-d: Here Socrates argues for the dialectic method as the best method of inquiry. How has he been demonstrating this method throughout The Republic? Have you found it successful?
Book VII – Allegory of the Cave
- 517b-c: What is the “good” that the prisoner sees outside the cave? How can you relate the idea of the good in this section with the ideas of justice from Book I?
- 518a-d: What does Socrates say is the role of education?
- 519d-e: What does Socrates say is the role of education for the larger city?
Formal Essay Questions:
- In “The Allegory of the Cave,” the prisoners in the cave have a set view of the world, which is shaped by the limited information available to them. When one prisoner escapes, his experience of leaving the cave, as well as what he discovers outside of it, radically alters his ideas about the world.
With Plato’s allegory in mind, write about a moment where you “woke up” in some way. Discuss how this moment changed a central belief, value, or idea you felt certain about for a long time. What was the original belief, value, or idea you had? Why and how did it change?
In your essay, be as specific as possible. Include details that put your reader inside the situation; for example, describe the setting and time period, include dialogue and sensory elements (sights, sounds, smells, etc.). In addition, include your thoughts and feelings about this experience.
In developing your narrative, and regardless of what you write about, keep in mind Mike Bunn’s “How to Read Like a Writer” and what he says about purpose and audience. Considering these rhetorical elements will help you make decisions about content, style, and tone.
Here are the grading criteria for this project: your narrative…
- focuses on either one event or on a series of connected events.
- uses concrete and specific details to create a picture for your reader.
- has an overall point.
- reflects thoughtfully on the events discussed.
- uses carefully chosen words, transitions, and is organized in a manner that makes your meaning clear.
- uses tone, language, grammar, and sentence structure appropriate for your genre, audience, and purpose.
- has been carefully proofread.
- meets the required word count: at least 1000 words!
- has been submitted on time.
- “Human beings who have been harmed necessarily become more unjust.” –Socrates.
Do you agree with this statement? What does it mean for our current system of justice? How should a government balance its obligations to deter, isolate, and, perhaps, punish criminals without making them “worse with respect to human virtue”?
Answer this question in a 5-7 page research paper. Use Plato’s Republic, 2 peer-review articles, and 2 non-peer-reviewed articles (NY Times, Washington Post, Wall-street Journal) to support your response. Use MLA format: sources must be cited using in-text citations and listed as separate works cited page, 1-inch margins, double-spaced, Times New Roman font, 12pt.