Philosophers and Kings: Plato's Republic, I-II - YALE

Group: The History Book Club

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Introduction to Political Philosophy (PLSC 114)

Lecture 4 introduces Plato's Republic and its many meanings in the context of moral psychology, justice, the power of poetry and myth, and metaphysics. The Republic is also discussed as a utopia, presenting an extreme vision of a polis--Kallipolis--Plato's ideal city.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Introduction
03:04 - Chapter 2. What Is Plato's "Republic" About?
17:38 - Chapter 3. I Went Down to the Piraeus
22:05 - Chapter 4. The Seventh Letter
30:00 - Chapter 5. A…more

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message 1: by Bentley (last edited May 05, 2016 10:32AM)

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Please let us know that you like this video by clicking on the like button under the video box.

I am adding the remaining lectures by Smith on The Republic and Plato here (see below)

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Introduction to Political Philosophy (PLSC 114)

The discussion of the Republic continues. An account is given of the various figures, their role in the dialogue and what they represent in the work overall. Socrates challenges Polemarchus' argument on justice, questions the distinction between a friend and an enemy, and asserts his famous thesis that all virtues require knowledge and reflection at their basis.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Polemarchus
08:25 - Chapter 2. Thrasymachus
18:59 - Chapter 3. Glaucon
26:09 - Chapter 4. Adeimantus
37:28 - Chapter 5. Spiritedness and the Establishment of the Just City

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website:

Here is the link:

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Introduction to Political Philosophy (PLSC 114)

In this last session on the Republic, the emphasis is on the idea of self-control, as put forward by Adeimantus in his speech. Socrates asserts that the most powerful passion one needs to learn how to tame is what he calls thumos. Used to denote "spiritedness" and "desire," it is associated with ambitions for public life that both virtuous statesmen as well as great tyrants may pursue. The lecture ends with the platonic idea of justice as harmony in the city and the soul.

00:00 - Chapter 1. The Control of Passions
08:53 - Chapter 2. A Proposal for the Construction of KallipolIs
17:34 - Chapter 3. Justice
26:28 - Chapter 4. The Philosopher-King
33:26 - Chapter 5. What Are Plato's Views on Modern America?

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website:

This course was recorded in Fall 2006.

Here is the link:

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Reading the Republic

Published on Dec 3, 2014
From Voegelin in Toronto, 1978. Panelists: Allan Bloom, Hans-Georg Gadder, Eric Voegelin, and Frederick Lawrence

Here is the link:

message 5: by Jeffrey (last edited May 17, 2016 01:18PM)

Jeffrey Taylor I found it to be a very solid presentation as we might expect given the source.

The rest may contain spoiler information but I could not get the function to work after several attempts. Please direct me to instruction.

I was one of those who have kept the Republic at hand for the current 70 years of my life. I was first exposed when I saw it on my college pre-freshmen reading list. One of those books students were expected to read before beginning college. I received an undergraduate degree in history and went on to graduate school. As a GTA, graduate teaching assistant, I was responsible for teaching several semesters of Introduction to Philosophy, and used Republic as the basic text of my course along with Bertrand Russell's Bertrand Russell Problems of Philosophy The Problems of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell . I did not continue with higher education. I am currently retiring as a compliance auditor with the procurement department of Triumph Aerostructure's composite facility in Milledgeville, GA

I appreciated the way the speaker related the work to current life. I think it fascinating that we are still struggling with some of the same issues that were current at the early written history of Green civilization. However I think it undesirable to chop off consideration of the book and offer the first five books as a whole. This sort of condensed book approach removes much of significant value and may leave the reader who stops there with incorrect ideas.>

Jeffrey Taylor

Starting at about 17:00 minutes into the discussion, Smith talks about the first five words of the Republic, "I went down to the Piraeus'" By about 20:00 he is saying this is a dramatic discussion in which time and place are important. Why then did he not concern himself with the first six words of the Republic: "I went down to the Piraeus yesterday?"

The discussion we are considering came about as a descent to the port yesterday. Both the odyssey to the port and the discussion that took place there took place yesterday. Plato's audience is not listening to a narration of the discussion as it took place but a second hand presentation of the the discussion. Did Plato add this detail for a reason? If it were removed would it change the meaning of the work? Perhaps this is a back burner question we will not be able to well answer until we have read the work completely. Completely.

message 7: by Bentley (last edited May 21, 2016 09:44PM)

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Interesting Jeffrey - I don't know but I would write to the professor and ask. It sounds like he would be receptive to responding.

Your Adobe Flash has to be up to date but they are all on youtube as well. I think you are correct and we will add other discussions for the remaining books - this particular professor and approach I liked and thought we would benefit. We are discussing all of it.

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Karen - glad you liked it too.

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This is the link to the transcript.

message 10: by Bentley (last edited May 21, 2016 11:17PM)

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From what I can read - Smith is likening it to a "descent"

I went down to the Piraeus

Let's now peek into the book itself. Just peek. We won't go too far. Let's start with the first line. Who remembers what the first line is? Oh, come on. You should know this. You're looking at the book. You're cheating. "I went down to the Piraeus." I went down to the Piraeus. Why does Plato begin with this line? There's a story that I heard. I'm not sure if it's altogether true, but it's a good story, at least, about the famous German philosopher Martin Heidegger, who said that on his first teaching of the Republic, he went through the whole book, taught the whole book in one seminar, one semester. The last time he taught it, the final time he taught it, he never got beyond the first sentence, "I went down to the Piraeus." What does it mean? Why does he begin with this? "I went down," a going down. The Greek word for this is catabasis. "I had made a descent."

There is a book by a famous contemporary to Plato. It's a man named Xenophon, who wrote a book called the Anabasis. The anabasis means a going up, an ascent. But Plato begins this dialogue with this stigma. "I went down." The descent to the Piraeus. It is clearly modeled on Odysseus' descent to Hades in the Odyssey. In fact, the work is a kind of philosophical odyssey that both imitates Homer, but also anticipates other great odysseys of the human mind, works by those like Cervantes or Joyce. The book is full, you will see, of a number of descents and ascents. The most famous climb upward, although we will not actually read these parts for this class, concerns the climb to the divided line, the famous image of the divided line in Book VI, and the ascent to the world of the imperishable forms. Then, in the last book of the Republic, Book X, there is, once again, a descent to the underworld, to the world of Hades. The work is not, in a sense, written simply as a sort of timeless philosophical treatise, but as a dramatic dialogue with a setting, a cast of characters and a firm location in time and place.

Let's say a little more about that time and place already indicated in the sentence, "I went down to the Piraeus." Plato was born in 427, which is four years after the commencement of the Peloponnesian War. He was a young man of 23 when the democracy in Athens was defeated. He was only 28 when the restored democracy executed his friend and teacher, Socrates, in 399. Almost immediately after the trial of Socrates, Plato left Athens and traveled extensively throughout the Greek world. Upon his return, he established this school at Athens he called the Academy, for the training of philosophers, statesmen, and legislators. Plato lived a long time. He lived until the age of 80. Except for two expeditions to Sicily, where he went at the request of Dionysius to help try to establish a philosophical kingship in Syracuse, he remained in Athens teaching and writing. The Republic belongs to that period of Plato's work after his return to Athens, after the execution of Socrates.

Source: Professor Smith's Transcript

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