Essay on the great dialogues of plato

  The aim of this essay is to give you the opportunity to wrestle with one of Plato’s main theories or concepts, as it is expounded in the dialogues we have read, on your own terms.  This means, in a first moment: a) gaining an overall perspective of what exactly the idea is; b) breaking down the arguments Plato leans on to prove its truth into premises (evidence) and conclusions (the idea or parts thereof); and c) exploring how it is connected to some of his other ideas.

In a second moment, and based on the evidence you have accumulated in the first part of your paper, it will mean elaborating a critique of that idea or of one aspect of it.  This can be done by showing how the assertion of that idea results in a tension with some other aspect of Plato’s thought or by pointing to some flaws in some crucial bit (or bits) of evidence Plato uses to support the idea, or by revealing some logical or structural problem with one or several of the arguments Plato makes in the process of constructing the idea.

Note that the interpretation should smoothly lead into the critique.  In other words, there should be no evidence in your critique that is not already discussed in your interpretation.  And that, in turn, means that you should have a pretty good idea of where you’ll end up at the beginning of your paper (an outline) or, at the very least, that you should be ready to engage in some fairly substantial revisions in the second and third drafts of your paper (on that, more below).


Process: Here are some steps you might follow in order to put the first draft of your paper together more easily:

1.Go through your notes and the reading assignments and consider an idea/theory that interests, intrigues, or maddens you.  Identify exactly what you think it says in your own words and actually write it down.

2.Identify and make a note of all the passages in which the idea/theory is referred to or discussed throughout the three dialogues we have read.  What are the core arguments and bodies of evidence Plato uses to support the theory?  Does the idea still look like your initial assessment of it or do you need to rephrase your initial assessment?

3.What do you think is most questionable about this idea or the argument(s) Plato uses to support it?

4.On the basis of these initial preparatory steps, begin planning a paper that both explains what the theory or idea is that you are interested in in clear terms, using textual evidence to support your interpretive claims and that, in a concluding moment, provides a critique of that theory.


Audience: You should imagine your audience as being your peers, other college students, familiar with Plato but not necessarily with the specific dialogues you are discussing.


Some things to look out for:

a. Your essay should be headed by a title that explains what you are interested in talking about and that gives the reader a clue about the perspective you will take on it, for eg.: “How do you Remember What Is? Plato’s Theory of Recollection And The Problem of Eternity”.

b.Within the first paragraph of your essay there should be a thesis sentence that explains what aspect of Plato’s thought you will be examining and that gives a sense of what the ultimate point of view you will be taking on it is.  This sentence should be clear, concise, and to the point and it should reflect pretty exactly what it is you end up doing in the paper.

c. Your essay should be 3-4 pages, double-spaced, with 1’’ margins all around, printed in 12 pt. font.  Formatting should include a header containing your name, the title of the paper (or appropriate abbreviation) as well as pagination.

d.Your final draft should be thoroughly proofread and free of typos, spelling and grammatical errors.


Use of sources: In this essay, you will be using three sources: Plato’s “Apology,” “Phaedo,” and “Allegory of the Cave.”  Each time you quote or paraphrase one of these dialogues you should include a dialogue title and page citation in parentheses at the end of your paraphrase or quotation, e.g. (“Phaedo,” 574).  Since part of the point of this assignment is for you to try to make sense of these texts on your own, the use of secondary sources is strictly off limits.


2nd and 3rd drafts:  You will bring a first (complete) draft of your paper to class, along with a completed peer review (authored by your peer reviewer), on  February 25th

  At that point you will have a week to go home and write a second draft on the basis of the peer feedback you will have received, workshop that draft with a writing center tutor, and on the basis of that workshop complete a third draft to be handed in to me (along with both of the previous ones as well as your feedback notes from your peer and tutor) on 2/27/14


Writing Narrative:  Along with your three drafts, you will need to hand in a 2-page narrative describing how you went about each revision, what the most important feedback you thought you got for each draft was, and how you tried to deal with it in order to make your paper better.


Paper and electronic returns: You will need to hand in the paper versions of all your drafts, feedback notes and writing narrative in class on Friday, 2/27/15. it will be checked for plagiarism at for plagiarism.

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