Below, you will find your second writing assignment of the semester. You are to pick one of the following 4 prompt questions and compose an essay of no less than 600 words—or, roughly, two full pages, double spaced, size 12 Times New Roman font, standard margins—due no later than midnight (via ecampus) on Friday, November 13th. Late assignments will not be accepted without previous arrangements having been made prior to the deadline, and, as the syllabus clearly states, you must turn in all assignments in order to be eligible to pass the class. Your response must be thorough and well-written, with references to the text. I highly recommend visiting the Writing Lab (remember that providing proof that you visited the Writing Lab, Online Writing Lab, or a Grammar Review session will automatically raise your grade half a letter). Lastly, I encourage you to use secondary sources, but be sure to cite them to a fault; if I catch a whiff of plagiarism, then you automatically fail the assignment and are subject to further disciplinary actions by the Dean of Liberal Arts.
Be bold in your undertaking; again, I wish you the best of luck!
Q.1) In what way is Plato’s understanding of the nature of reality and of the good life different from that of his sophistic contemporaries? One would be wise to include considerations of the following in one’s response: skepticism; relativism; opinion (or belief); knowledge; the Forms; morality; immorality; rhetoric; dialectic.
Q.2) What is it that one can know, maybe know, and never know, respectively, according to Plato? One would do well to consider the following: knowledge, opinion, and invincible ignorance; what is, what could be, and what is not; unreality and perfect reality; the world of sensory experience—and all of its characteristics—and the intelligible realm of the Forms; the qualities of objects of sensory perception and the faculties required to perceive them; the qualities of the objects of thought and the faculty required to consider them.
Q.3) What is the structure of reality according to Plato? A satisfactory response must include focused consideration of Plato’s diagram of the ‘divided line’ and might include reflection on some of its following aspects: reality exists in degrees; seeing is a “watered-down” form of thinking; that which makes the visible half of the divided line a ‘shadow’ of the intelligible half; that which makes each quadrant of the divided line a ‘shadow’ of the quadrant that comes immediately to the right of it; why the line is best represented vertically rather than horizontally (as in our text); the domain of understanding that corresponds to each quadrant of the line; materiality vs. immateriality/ temporal, vs. eternal, sensory vs. intelligibility; the way in which the form of the Good is the condition for the possibility of all of existence; the Forms’ proximity to the Good as indicative of their value; the sun as a metaphor of the Good; unity vs. multiplicity (that old ‘One vs. the Many’ question from essay prompt 1).
Q.4) According to Plato, what is the necessary condition for human happiness? One would do well to consider the following: the way in which the form of Morality participates in the Form of Good; the tripartite structure of the human soul, including the proper function of each of its constitutive parts; the distinction between feeling happy and being happy; justice, or harmony, as it exists—or fails to do so—in the state of one’s soul.
Bonus Question: (For Those Among You Who Are Feeling Particularly Introspective):
Q.5) What would you do if the Ring of Gyges fell into your possession? Describe your actions and then evaluate the state of your soul as suggested by your actions. In crafting one’s response, one would do well to do the following: identify the three parts of the soul; suggest how the three parts of your soul relate to each other in light of your deliberation, decision, and subsequent action; explain why you would behave in the way that you claim that you would; according to the Platonic standard, determine whether you are an immoral or a moral person as suggested by your action(s); determine whether or not you are happy. *This is the most difficult—and fascinating—of prompt questions for Essay 2.