Final Exam, Spring 2013

April 19, 2013

General instructions: The final exam consists of three parts; the first part consists of a few short identifications of some of the key terms we’ve discussed in this class. The second part consists a required short essay, and the third part gives you a choice on which essay you wish to answer. The final exam will be due to me on Thursday, May 9 by 2:00 in the afternoon.  I will be in my office (Eastman Theater, 205) between 12:00 and 2:00 on that day; you can give me your exams then. You may also e-mail me your exam, and I will send you a confirmation e-mail. If you do not receive a confirmation e-mail you must assume that I have not received your exam. It is your responsibility to see to it that I get a copy of your exam.

I. Short identification (10 points each): for each of the following terms, write a 3-4 sentence identification.  Your purpose here is to identify the meaning of the term, explain its importance, and perhaps give an example that helps explain the term more fully.

  1. The Form of the Good (for Socrates)
  2. Justice (for Socrates)
  3. Why should imitative art be banned from the ideal city?
  4. In the Allegory of the Cave, who are the puppeteers and what do they symbolize?

II. Short essay (2-3 pages; 30 points). Answer the following question:

One of the arguments Socrates presents on behalf of the theory of the forms is that there can be no knowledge of particular and empirical objects. Describe and evaluate this argument.

III. Short essay (2-3 pages; 30 points). Answer ONE of the following questions:

  1. You are Meletus. Socrates’ supporters are taking you to task for bringing about the death of their hero. You need to defend your actions on some principled grounds. (You can, say, defend Athenian democracy against Socrates’ charges.) You may want to draw from the critiques raised in the “Clouds,” or from lectures, or construct your own. Make sure it is clear to your reader which Socratic position you are responding to.
  2. Tom and Jack are both working as waiters in a restaurant. Both are relatively poor and need all of the money they earn in order to live a relatively comfortable life.  Tom encourages Jack to cheat on his income taxes by refusing to report the income he gets from tips. “After all,” Tom says, “the tax code requiring the reporting of tips is just some rule that politicians passed in order to raise money to use for pork-barrel spending and corrupt government contracts. Besides, big corporations can use loopholes (or lobbying to change the tax code) to avoid paying taxes. And finally, just think how much you need this money, Jack. What good is being just in this case?” Drawing on the conception of justice Socrates develops in the Republic, develop a response to Tom’s arguments. How should we determine what Jack ought to do?
  3. In the Republic, Socrates insists that the guardians should not learn “dialectics” (which is the technical term for Socrates’s philosophical method of questioning received opinion) until they are older and have had extensive training in mathematics. And indeed, he argues that the vast majority of people should not study philosophy at all. How does this position relate to the one Socrates adopted in “The Apology”? In making this argument, does the Socrates in the Republic now acknowledge that the Socrates in “The Apology” was wrong to practice philosophy in public?

Information for those doing book/article reviews

April 15, 2013

As you’ll recall, one of the optional assignments available is a book or article review. This post contains the information necessary to complete this assignment. Please remember that this post is only relevant to you if you have chosen this optional assignment.

A book or article review will be a short essay (1000-1500 words), in which you must select one book or three articles to review. I am rather open about what texts can be selected; however, they must be scholarly books and articles, and they must be relevant to this class (usually, this means that they must address either the questions we have been exploring in this class, or more commonly, they must discuss one of the theorists we have been covering). After you read this text, you must write an essay in which you present and assess the core claims the author makes. That is, you have to explain what the author is doing in the text and then evaluate it. In order to evaluate a text, you should consider addressing questions like the following (please note, these questions are not all required, nor is this list exhaustive; the point of these questions is simply to get you thinking in the right direction): What evidence does the author present on behalf of his/her claims? Is the evidence true? Does it support the main claim? What is useful or problematic about one of the author’s claims? Does the claim promote or undermine various useful forms of politics? What implications might there be to the author’s position(s)? Are there implications that the author ignores but you wish to highlight? Is the author’s argument useful for issues that the author does not consider? What might these other issues be? And so on. You may find some of these texts to be difficult, so I strongly encourage you to discuss them with me before turning in your review. Your review will be due on MAY 9.

How do you find scholarly books and articles? I might recommend that you start with the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. This resource can help introduce you to the many issues surrounding a subject or a philosopher, and will also contain a useful bibliography that you can look at. To find the materials cited in the encyclopedia or other relevant books and articles, you’ll need to use the library’s resources. You can find books through the voyager catalog. Finding articles is a bit trickier, but happily, the subject librarians link to the relevant databases. I would suggest that you search through either the Philosopher’s Index or the Political Science Complete database. You can find the Philosopher’s Index linked from Eileen Daly’s website at the library (she is the philosophy librarian at the UR), and you can find the Political Science Complete database on Ann Marshall’s website (she is the political science librarian). Finally, if you are having problems finding material that is interesting or useful, please contact me, or contact one of the librarians; they are very helpful.

Formness As It Relates To Languages

April 12, 2013

I have slowly become more and more fascinated by the implications of languages in everyday life.  Finding that most areas I enjoy learning about are in fact the study of a language, despite my deplorable use of English.  From my self study of German, to computer programming languages such as Java and Python, and Music.  I am starting to see my life through a lens of language analysis.  And so I would like to offer these ‘thoughts’ on Plato’s Theory of Forms and what, to me, are some implications of his theory.

1.) Plato’s Forms, Forms as an Idea

Plato discerns Forms through a series of examples, the result of which leave us with a definition roughly:

the Form(X) is the most perfected example of X

so what does this mean? It means that the Form(Toy Poodle) is the perfected ideal of the Toy Poodle



Lets think of it this way, if I ask you what makes a Toy Poodle a poodle you might say:

It is a dog

It is small

It walks on four legs, barks, and likes to chase the mailman, etc…

But wouldn’t all of this be true of say a Yorkshire Terrier?


“Back off Beotch!”

They are a dog, small, walk on four legs, bark, and trust me, love to chase the mailman.

Then we would need to find more descriptors to further define the Toy Poodle from the Yorkie such as “the Toy Poodle is a species originating from Germany or France, where as the Yorkshire Terrier is from England

This type of differentiation is a classic example of how many (if not all) language gather the bulk of there validity.  We cannot know the Toy Poodle from the Yorkie without the Yorkie.  In fact right now we don’t know the difference between a Toy Poodle and a Smarfuldorg, and being such they could very well be one and the same.

So a word/Form (noun to be more specific) is a direct resultant of its containing of attributes that define itself and its differences from another.

This methodology is abundantly available in the programming language JAVA, where you have the ability to create Classes and Objects.

Our class could be:

Dogs (





In this statement we are saying “all things considered dogs have AT LEAST a size, hair type, and weight” without which we cannot call it a dog.  (note: hairless is still a hair type, the type without hair.  Where as weightless is most certainly an Alien).  You could also make the subclass Toy_Poodle e.g.



country_of_origin(Germany or France)


Now after passing the test of ‘is it a Dog’ it can undergo the subtest of ‘is it a Toy_Poodle’

Then within the Class Dog(Poodle()) we could have the Object(Toy_Poodle(Frankie)) that, is to say an ACTUAL TOY POODLE NAMED FRANKIE!









Congradulations Frankie is indeed a Toy Poodle by our standards =D


“I always wanted to be real…”

So where does this tie back into other language.  Well I like the example of computer programming because it really takes out all of the emotion from the communication and gives us the meat of the process, allowing us to ask the question “why is it that the Form/Object/Noun Frankie (the now official Toy Poodle) coming to be in the first place and is Frankie really a Poodle?

I would argue the only reason Form/Object/Noun Frankie is coming to existence is because we are in fact trying to reach a consensus or impose our ideas on or with others.  This very act of Form/Object/Noun creating is the fabrication of ‘common knowledge’, which I would define as: any knowledge prerequisite to interaction.

And if this is the case then isn’t it possible this form of Knowledge is entirely fabricated?

I will leave you with this last thought as well (as this is already a lengthy post)…

Can one prove we can not communicate w/o forms?

If so then forms are a prerequisite to communication?


Some Food for Thought for All the Mice Out There

April 7, 2013

Gotta love Kafka :p