It is possible to go surprisingly far in the study of Plato while skirting an in-depth response to the question, "what are Plato's 'Forms'?" In this seminar we will address that question squarely and in as much depth as the semester permits.
We will pursue the investigation on four fronts: (1) by reconsidering the principal passages in Plato's dialogues that pertain directly to the Forms, with sustained attention being given especially to the Parmenides; (2) by asking ourselves what advance the theory was intended to achieve by comparison with the theories of Plato's predecessors; (3) by assessing Aristotle's criticisms of the theory of Forms, with some attention also to arguments from the treatise On Ideas; (3) by canvassing a variety of modern interpretations of the theory. Particular attention will be given to accounts that contest a "two worlds" interpretation of the theory.
Participants should have a good basic grounding in Plato's philosophy; advanced students of philosophy who study ancient philosophy in translation rather than in the original are also welcome.
Requirements: for 2 units, regular participation in class and one oral presentation; for 4 units, a term-paper is required in addition to regular participation and an oral presentation.