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P120 Research

Unit 1 – Week 1

Due Monday Jan 23, 11:55 PM EST

Research – do enough poking around on the Internet to identify the people listed below. (When I say “identify,” I mean for you to find out who these people are, when and where they lived, what they’re famous for, etc.)  These are people whose works we’ll read (or read about), and since we’re entering into an academic conversation with them, I want you to have some sense of who they are. 


Wikipedia is perfectly fine as a source for this assignment, but you may not find what you need in Wikipedia.  If not, look elsewhere.   In the process, make sure you’ve got the right person: if Martin mentions them, check his footnotes and suggested readings for titles of what they have written.  If in doubt, the right person is probably a philosopher!


Put what you discover into your own words rather than simply cutting and pasting from a website. 


Remember to provide citations! URLs work well for this assignment. Remember, too, that if you get the information from a large, multifaceted source such as Wikipedia, you need to provide the name of the article, not just the name of the large work. For example, if one obtained information from Wikipedia on ethical egoism, the citation would look like this: If you don’t provide a proper citation, you won’t get credit for what you submit. 


Here’s the list for this unit:

a.       Plato

b.      Socrates

c.       Glaucon

d.      Eric Katz (hint: he wrote about Tolkien and Plato)

e.      J. R. R. Tolkien

a. Plato

Plato (428-347 BC) was a well-known Athenian philosopher who posed the fundamental questions about education, human nature, and justice. He was the student of the famous philosopher Socrates and the founder of the school of mathematics and philosophy called the Academy. Plato was born in Athens from a rich and politically powerful family. Many of Plato’s works, referred to as the dialogues, have had great influence on the Western thought (Rudebusch, 2001). Western thought has developed either by following and adapting his works or by reacting to them. As an example, Plato’s theory of the Forms has served as the basic concept of science as it was practiced in Europe. Plato’s beliefs of the immortality of the soul and values have also “reinforced and shaped systematic thinking” within the world’s three great religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Rudebusch, 2001).

Modern scholars have criticized Plato’s works on the republican scheme as “elitist and tyrannical” in suppressing over individual liberty (Terzian, 2003). Plato believed that the majority of individuals would never be able to reach their own internal harmony of virtue. This inability therefore, would need them to merely obey (and not question) the laws and leave their matters to those who have knowledge. However, modern scholars did agree that Plato’s contribution to education (his method of inquiry)—“critical examination through the dialectic interplay of teachers and student”—was his primary contribution to educational thought (Terzian, 2003).

b. Socrates

As the first Western Greek philosopher, Socrates (470?-399? BC) was the central figure in the subsequent development of philosophy. He was a religious man who understood clearly the limitation of human reasoning and the need to ask the gods for any dealings beyond human best comprehension. Although Socrates did not write anything himself—Socrates viewed dialogue as far superior than written words—the sources of his teaching were abundant. These aspects were due primarily to Plato, his student. It is through Plato’s portrayal of his literacy genius that Socrates is now “the living figure for subsequent generations, and/thereby an exemplar of the ideas of philosophy, above all dedication to truth and intellectual integrity” (Taylor, 2006). Another contemporary sources of Socrates is Xenophon who portrayed Socrates more matter-of-fact accounts in his Memorabilia, Apology, and Symposium (O’Neill, 2003). Aristotle gave also some assessments of Socrates in his Metaphysics and Nicomachean Ethics that are confirmed in the Magna Moralia that there was a life of Socrates in Diogenes Laertius (O’Neill, 2003).



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