Syllabus for Bruce Hauptli's Midcoast Senior College Course for Spring 2017

Plato's "Aristocratic and Authoritarian" Republic vs. Dewey's "Pragmatic" Democracy"

Wednesdays, 1:00-3:00 March 15, 2017-May 10, 2017 at The Highlands

Copyright © 2017 Bruce W. Hauptli

Course Location: The Main Lodge of The Highland, 30 Governor's Way, Topsham, ME 04086.  Enter through the Front Doors of the Main Lodge and check-in at the Visitors' Desk to receive a visitor's pass.  The class will be held in the basement and the elevator is across the lobby from the front desk.  Park in the lot in front of the Lodge or along Governor's Way. 

Course Description:

In his Republic Plato provided a characterization of, and an argument for, his ideal individual and state.  His view is that those who know what is good should rule, paternalistically if necessary; and that those who lack such knowledge have the best chance of living the good life if they surrender their freedom and accept the rule of the wise.  On his account democracy (which was the sort of government in his beloved Athens at his time) is one of the worst forms of government imaginable!  He emphasizes the transformative role which education can play in producing good individuals and states and the importance of acquiring both knowledge of unchanging and objective essences, and the objective and unchanging nature of human virtue.  His influence on our culture is immense. 

Writing roughly twenty thee centuries later, John Dewey provides both a critique of Plato’s views, and a defense of democracy rooted in an American pragmatism which provides some significant challenges to a number of deep contributions which Plato has made to the Western culture.  Rejecting Plato’s fixations with the fixed, permanent, unchanging essences (of man, justice, virtue, and knowledge), Dewey offers a contrasting view of the good life for individuals and civic states.  In this course we will study Plato’s views and arguments and contrast them with Dewey’s. 


Plato’s Republic, trans. G.M.A. Grube, revised by C.D.C. Reeve (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1992).  ISBN: 978-0872201361

John Dewey’s “The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy” (available online)

John Dewey: The Political Writings, eds. Debra Morris and Ian Shapiro (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1993).  ISBN: 978-0872201903

The two texts are available in the Midcoast Senior College offices, and should be picked-up prior to class.

Brief Biography:

I earned a BA in mathematics from Lawrence University in Appleton, WI (1970); and an MA and PhD in philosophy from Washington University in St Louis, MO (1973 & 1974).  I am an Emeritus Professor of philosophy at Florida International University in Miami, FL (The State University of Florida in Miami) where I taught for thirty-nine years, and before that I taught at Drake University in Des Monies, IA.  I used some of Plato’s early dialogues in my Fall 2016 MSC course “Introduction to Philosophy,” and regularly taught Plato's Republic in the Introduction to Philosophy course I taught most semesters.  I intentionally used that text to help students think about the value and importance of democracy by getting them to understand Plato's reasons for rejecting democracy.  I regularly taught Dewey's views in an American Philosophy course which I taught, but did not focus on his social and political theories.  In this course I hope to bring the differences between these two philosopher's views into clear focus. 

Recommended readings prior to first class: I do not presume you will have studied philosophy or that you will be familiar with Plato and the Ancient period.  The first class will provide an introduction to both, but I have found that it frequently helps for students to have done a bit of exploration so that the new materials may take hold.  Over my 40 years of college teaching I have developed many "lecture supplements" which were designed to allow students to enhance their experiences in my courses.  These can be read before or after class, and remain on my website for interested individuals.  Three of them are relevant for our first class: "What Is Philosophy?"  "Introduction to Plato," and "Introduction to Plato's Republic" and you might want to look at them prior to the first class.  I will not be spending much time introducing you to the philosophic activity as the whole course is designed to provide such an introduction via the discussions and critical contrasts of Plato's and Dewey's views.  If you don't find them helpful, don't spend time on them!  The first class will be primarily devoted to providing an introduction to Plato and his society. 

 Anticipated Course Schedule:  (I think this is a likely trajectory, but if discussion needs to run longer on a topic that may mean some adjustments will be called for in the later classes)

March 22 Class: Introduction to Philosophy, to Plato, and to his Republic.  We will not fully cover the materials in either the "What Is Philosophy," the "Introduction to Plato," or the "Introduction to Plato's Republic" supplements below, and some of what is not covered in this class will be discussed in the second week. 

A brief characterization of the philosophical activity, "how to read philosophy" and an introduction to Ancient Greece and Plato’s views. 

Supplementary materials: [these may be helpful before or after class]

“What Is Philosophy?”“Introduction to Plato”,  and "Introduction to Plato's Republic."   

Assignment for next session: read Plato’s Republic 327-373e [these numbers refer to the marginal numbers in our edition of Plato’s Republic, translated by G.M.A. Grube, revised by C.D.C. Reeve (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1992).  They refer to a collection of Plato’s works (Platonis Opera [Paris: 1578]) edited by Henri Stephanus.  That edition’s pagination has become the standard way of identifying and referring to Plato's works--thus the Republic began at 327a, and I would like you to read through 374a at the top of p. 49.  Students are encouraged to have read the whole Republic prior to the fifth week, and are encourage to read ahead if they can. 

March 29 Class:

   1. Book I—A preliminary overview [327-354c]

   2. The challenges of Glaucon and Adeimantus [357a-368c]

   3. Socrates begins developing the ideas behind the ideal state [368d-373e]

Supplementary materials: Plato’s Republic Lecture Supplement A. 

Assignment for next session: read Plato’s Republic 374a-434c. 

April 5 Class:  

 4. The need for guardians—to protect our valuables and ourselves [374-376d]  

 5. Stories and the early education of the guardians [376e-411d]

     -this material may be read less carefully.   

 6. Rulers, Auxiliaries, the noble fiction, and the Guard Dog Problem [412c-427d]

 7. The Four Virtues in the City [427e-434c]  

Supplementary materials: end of Plato’s Republic Lecture Supplement A and Plato's Republic Lecture Supplement B

You may wish to look at Some Optional Exercises after you have finished reading the Republic

Assignment for next session: finish reading Plato’s Republic

April 12 Class:

   8. Justice in the Individual [434d-445e]

  9. Role of Women, and the Lives of Rulers [449-471e]  

 10.  “Is this “Ideal State” Merely “Ideal?”: The “Ideality” of the Ideal State and the Role of Philosophy [472-475e]

 11. Knowledge and the Forms [476-480b]

 Supplementary materials: Plato's Republic Lecture Supplement B

Assignment for next session: finish reading Plato's Republic.

April 19 Class:

 11 continued: Knowledge and the Forms [476-480b]

 12. The Parable of the Navigator and How Potential Philosopher Kings Are Mis-Understood and Mis-Educated by Existing States [484-502c]

   -the discussion from 490c-505e can be read with less care. 

 13. Analogies and allegories regarding philosophic knowledge [502c-521b]

 14. Higher Education of the Rulers: Mathematics and Dialectic [521b-541b]

     - this material may be read less carefully. 

  15. The Comparison of the Just and Unjust States and Individuals and the Tyrannical Life [543-576b]

   15. The Comparison of the Just and Unjust States and Individuals and the Tyrannical Life continued [543-576b]

   16. Which Life is the Better One? [576c-592b]

Supplementary materials: Plato's Republic Lecture Supplement B

Assignment for next session: read Dewey's “The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy” (available online), "The Ethics of Democracy" (pp. 59-65 of John Dewey: The Political Writings--all the remaining Dewey essays are from this volume), "Intelligence and Morals" (pp. 66-76), "The Democratic Conception In Education" (pp. 110-120), and "Philosophy and Democracy" (pp. 38-49). 

April 26 Class: Introduction to Dewey and his significant differences with, and criticisms of, Plato. 

Supplementary materials and readings: "Introduction to Dewey," "Supplement to Dewey's "The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy," "The Ethics of Democracy," "Intelligence and Morals," "The Democratic Conception In Education," and "Philosophy and Democracy." 

May 3 Class: Continuing discussion of Dewey's conception of, and defense of, democracy. 

Assignment for next session: finish reading last week's essays, and read Dewey's "Democracy and Human Nature" (pp. 219-229), "Creative Democracy--The Task Before Us" (pp. 240-245), "The Problem of Method" (pp. 184-191), and "Philosophies of Freedom" (pp. 133-141). 

Supplementary materials and readings:  "Democracy and Human Nature,' and a supplement for "Creative Democracy--The Task Before Us," "The Problem of Method," and "Philosophies of Freedom."

Assignment for next session: finish the Dewey readings. 

May 10 Class: Finish the discussion of Dewey's "moral argument for democracy," finish critical contrast between Plato's and Dewey's views, and critically consider Dewey's view. 

Recommended Additional Readings:

Rebecca Goldstein, Plato At the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won't Go Away (NY: Pantheon, 2014). 

Tim Whitmarsh, Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World (NY: Knopf, 2015). 

Eli Sagan, The Honey and the Hemlock: Democracy and Paranoia In Ancient Athens and Modern America (Princeton: Princeton UP., 1991). 

Robert Westbrook, John Dewey and American Democracy (Ithaca: Cornell UP., 1991). 

Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson, Why Deliberative Democracy? (P:rinceton: Princeton UP., 2004). 

Midcoast Senior College Website

Bruce Hauptli Home Page


Last revised: 05/11/17.