1. Reconstruct and analyze Socrates’s argument against the charge that he corrupted the youth of Athens.
2. Reconstruct and analyze Socrates’s argument that we should not fear death.
3. Reconstruct and analyze the arguments for and against escape in the Crito.
4. Write a Socratic dialogue on a term relevant to the course. (Remember what a Socratic dialogue is! It’s not just a conversation! It’s a progressive clarification of the meaning of a term or a concept, the goal of which is to generate a good intensional definition!) Here are some possibilities; remember you only need one, and it need not be one of these – these are just examples!
Virtue, good, right, guilt, innocence, lie, steal, cheat, defraud, responsibility, help, altruism (there are lots of other possibilities).
5. Is Socrates’s approach to ethics that of a mystic, a rationalist, or an empiricist? Defend your answer using appropriate textual evidence. Be sure to discuss why the question matters. (Hint: what he says in the Crito shows that he is not an empiricist about ethics, but you’ll have to look for evidence for his views in all four of the dialogues, I think.)
6. Many in ancient Athens held that “the beautiful is the true, and the true is the beautiful.” Explain and discuss this claim. Make sure that you explain Socrates’s position on this. Why would anyone believe that the two are connected? How might they be connected? Is it the case that only the truth is persuasive, and that what is persuasive is true? Why does this question matter?
7. Socrates held that knowledge is tied to good intensional definitions and rejected extensional definitions as useless, so that, for example, if we have a good intensional definition of a term like “courage” then we can say that we know what courage is. Socrates also believed that we need this kind of knowledge if we want certainty about our moral decisions. Is he correct?
8. Explain the Euthyphro dilemma. For whom is it a dilemma? (Remember that it is only a dilemma for certain divine command moral theories, like those found in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – why? Explain this.) Discuss possible solutions to it – do any of them work? Be sure to discuss any problems you find with each solution.
9. “Wherefore, O judges, be of good cheer about death, and know this of a truth – that no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death. He and his are not neglected by the gods; nor has my own approaching end happened by mere chance. But I see clearly that to die and be released was better for me; and therefore the oracle gave no sign. For which reason also, I am not angry with my accusers, or my condemners; they have done me no harm, although neither of them meant to do me any good; and for this I may gently blame them.” What did Socrates mean by this?
10. Explain the difference between deontological and consequentialist theories. Use the arguments from our readings as examples – you might find the arguments in the Crito especially useful. What reasons do we have to think that some kind of consequentialist theory is is the correct theory? What reasons do we have to think that some kind of deontological theory is the correct theory?
11. Ontology is the branch of philosophy concerned with the study of the nature of being. It is usually thought to be separate from ethics. Is it? Why might we, as ethicists, be interested in ontology?
12. Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with the study of theories of knowledge. It is often thought to be separate from ethics. Is it? Why might we, as ethicists, be interested in epistemology? (You’ll want top say something about the deep connections we noticed between moral theories and epistemological theories.)
13. Select a chapter from Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, and analyze it. Be sure to say something about any epistemological or political claims made in that chapter (remember, many of the chapters in the Tao Te Ching can be assigned either to the mystical author or the political author – and these two look like very different authors).