FILO, Module 3. Philosophy in Context: Plato’s Political Philosophy

Course content

The course gives a survey of the development of Athenian democracy and places Plato’s and Aristotle’s political philosophy within this context. The course focuses on Plato’s political philosophy, and it provides an overview over important interpretations of it presented over the last decades. In the early days, Plato scholars tended to use Plato’s Republic as a key text to illustrate his political philosophy, and he was frequently seen as an anti-democrat and utopian. Over the last decades, however, several Plato scholars have presented a fundamentally different understanding of his political philosophy, stressing not his opposition to Athenian democracy, but his ambivalence towards it: on the one hand, Plato’s Socrates had a positive attitude to several of its ideals, such as its ideal of freedom; on the other hand, he had a critical attitude to some of its ethical consequences, such as the peer pressure affecting the moral character of (potential) political leaders. Plato’s dialogue Gorgias is regarded as central within this novel interpretation of Plato’s political philosophy, and we shall read it carefully and discuss recent interpretations of it in this course.

                  The course does not require knowledge of ancient Greek, though it is an advantage to know the Greek letters and some basic grammar. (If you are interested in participating in a two-week course in August 2017 (in Danish), please contact Gorm Tortzen: The course will be conducted in English. We shall read the Gorgias in English translation: Plato, Gorgias, English translation by D. J. Zeyl. Hackett: Indianapolis, 1987. If you want to consult the Greek text, accompanied by an important commentary, please use Plato, Gorgias, ed. E. R. Dodds. Clarendon: Oxford, 1959. Besides, we shall use two other books: First, a survey of Athenian political institutions; M. H. Hansen, The Athenian Democracy in the Age of Demosthenes. Blackwell: Oxford and Cambridge, Mass., 1991 or the later 2nd edition from 1999. Second, a collection of articles on Socrates; A Companion to Socrates, eds R. Kamtekar and S. Ahbel-Rappe. Blackwell: West Sussex, 2005.


Kandidatuddannelsen i Filosofi 2017-ordning 

Learning outcome

Filosofi 2017 KA  Modul 3: Filosofi i kontekst  

Type of assessment
Criteria for exam assessment
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 353,5
  • English
  • 409,5