Plato’s Republic



The course is an examination of one of Plato’s most obviously political works (the other two being the Laws and the Statesman).  Its primary purpose is to expose students to the sort of analysis that is necessary for making any headway in understanding a work like the Republic.  We will scrutinize the dialogue closely, which requires that you have taken considerable pains in reading it before class meets.

The only way to make it through the entire Republic is for us to start immediately, and so we shall.  I will assume that everyone is familiar with everything on the required readings list before the semester begins:  if this is not true for you, catch up quickly.  Classes may run long, so tell me immediately if you have a 6:30 seminar.

In order to better facilitate class discussion, I will post my lecture notes online after I have given them.  You are thereby encouraged to ask questions, rather than practice your shorthand.  Submit all written work via blackboard.


Required Readings

  • Plato.  The Republic.  Trans. Allan Bloom.  2d ed.  New York:  Basic Books, 1998.  ISBN: 0465069347.  Do not use any other translation.
  • Allan Bloom.  Interpretive Essay.  The Republic.
  • Leo Strauss.  The City and Man.  Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 1964.  ISBN:  0226777014

Recommended Readings

  • Devin Stauffer.  Plato’s Introduction to the Question of Justice.  Albany:  SUNY Press, 2001.  ISBN:  0791447464
  • Stanley Rosen.  Plato’s Republic:  A Study.  New Haven:  Yale University Press, 2005.  ISBN:  0300126921

Literature Often Cited

  • Julia Annas.  An Introduction to Plato’s ‘Republic’.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1981.
  • Ernest Barker.  The Political Thought of Plato and Aristotle.  New York:  Dover Publications, 1959.
  • Seth Benardete.  Socrates’ Second Sailing:  On Plato’s Republic.  Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 1989.
  • Leon Craig.  The War Lover:  A Study of Plato’s Republic.  Toronto:  University of Toronto Press, 1994.
  • Hans Gadamer.  The Idea of the Good in Platonic-Aristotelian Philosophy.  Trans. P. Smith.  New Haven:  Yale University Press, 1986.
  • Jacob Howland.  The Republic:  The Odyssey of Philosophy.  New York:  Twayne Publishers, 1993.
  • Richard Kraut, ed.  Plato’s ‘Republic’:  Critical Essays.  Lanham, MD:  Rowman & Littlefield, 1997.
  • Mary P. Nichols.  The Republic’s Two Alternatives:  Philosopher-Kings and Socrates.  Political Theory 12 (1984):  252–74.
  • Nickolas Pappas.  Plato and the Republic.  London:  Routledge, 1995.
  • C. D. C. Reeve.  Philosopher-Kings:  The Argument of Plato’s Republic.  Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 1988.
  • Stanley Rosen.  The Role of Eros in Plato’s RepublicReview of Metaphysics 18 (1965):  454–62.
  • Friedrich Schleiermacher.  Introductions to the Dialogues of Plato.  Trans. William Dobson.  New York:  Arno Press, 1973.
  • Leo Strauss.  The Origins of Political Science the Problem of Socrates.  Ed. David Bolotin, Chrisopher Bruell, and Thomas Pangle.  Interpretation 23, no. 2 (Winter 1996):  127–207.


10%     Weekly Papers, no more than 300 words in length, due by the beginning of each class on topics assigned.  There will be no paper due in weeks where you hand in an essay.  The lowest paper will be dropped (i.e., twelve papers, eleven of which count).
15%      Attendance and class participation.
30%     First Essay, due March 7 by 5:00pm.  Essays should not exceed 3500 words.
45%     Second Essay, due May 2 by 5:00pm.  Essays should not exceed 4500 words.


Course Expectations and Policies

CANCELLATIONS:  I have a cell phone, and will call to cancel class if necessary.

LATE ESSAYS:  No weekly papers will be accepted if submitted late.  Late essays will be penalized 5% per day (including holidays and weekends).  The last day to turn in the final essay is three days before grades are due, unless you have been granted an incomplete for the course.

INCOMPLETES:  Incompletes will only be given in rare circumstances, such as illness, death in the immediate family, or other unusual and unforeseeable circumstances.  Incompletes are given at my discretion and only when it is possible that the completion of the remaining work could result in a grade of A or B. An incomplete must be resolved within the appropriate time limit or it will automatically be changed to an F.  You are responsible for seeing that incompletes are made up before the expiration date.

ACADEMIC DISHONESTY:  All work must be the product of the student’s own original effort.  It is the student’s responsibility to familiarize him- or herself with university policy regarding plagiarism and academic dishonesty.  Students should take the university’s Academic Integrity tutorial (  All infractions will be punished with sadistic abandon.

DISABILITIES:  Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities.  Students who believe that their disability may have some impact on their coursework and for which they may require accommodations should notify the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR) on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building.  CAAR will assist students in making appropriate accommodations with course instructors.  It is important that CAAR and the instructor be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester.


Tentative Class Schedule

01/17     Book I — Setting & Cephalus
01/24     Book I — Polemarchus
01/31     Book I — Thrasymachus
02/07     Book II — The Brothers’ Complaints
02/14     Book II — The Healthy City, the Feverish City, and Theological Reform
02/21     Book III — Poetry, Education, and Lies
02/28     Book IV — The City in Speech and the Soul
03/06     Book V — The Communism of Women and Children
03/03     [Spring Break]
03/20     Book V — Philosopher-Kings
03/27     Book VI — Philosophy & Politics
04/03     Books VI—VII — The Form of the Good, the Divided Line, and the Cave
04/10     Book VII — Educating Philosopher-Kings
04/17     Book VIII — Types of Regimes and Souls
04/24     Book IX — The Tyrant, the Tyrannic Man, and the Philosopher
05/01     Book X — Imitative Poetry, Immorality, and Er

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