Dr. Cynthia Freeland


Seminar: Plato’s Late Dialogues


PHIL 6395 (Section: 14835)

Room: 512 - AH

Meeting Time: 14:30 - 17:30 TU


This course will involve a close study of four lengthy and complex dialogues thought to be late works by Plato. We begin with the Parmenides, which presents apparently overwhelming objections to Plato’s Theory of Forms, together with an exercise in dialectic which may or may not hold clues about how the objections can be met. Next we turn to the Theaetetus, a dialogue focusing on epistemological issues. Key topics here include the relation between perception and knowledge and the rebuttal of relativism. The third dialogue, The Sophist, focuses on what would now be called philosophy of language as well as on metaphysical issues. The dialogue discusses what non-being is, whether it exists in some way, and how language can refer to it (despite the denial that it can by the pre-Socratic thinker Parmenides). Finally we will study the Philebus, a work in which Plato advances both a revised metaphysics and a new ethics that allows for inclusion of certain types of pleasure in the good life. This work includes a sophisticated analysis of pleasure and desire, and defends Socrates’ controversial claim that there can be “false pleasures”.  Students will be expected to write a weekly exegesis on an assigned text and to write either two ten-page papers or one twenty-page seminar paper. We will consult both the ancient texts (any Greek-readers are welcome!) and recent commentaries and journal articles on these works.

Working Schedule for Discussion and Readings


Required Texts:


   1. Parmenides (Paperback) by Plato (Author), Mary Louise Gill (Translator), Paul Ryan (Translator) Hackett Publishing Company (June 1996) ISBN: 087220328X

   2. Theatetus (Penguin Classics) (Paperback) by Plato (Author), Robin H. Waterfield (Introduction, Translator) Penguin Classics (August 4, 1987) ISBN: 0140444505

   3. Sophist (Paperback) by Plato (Author), Nicholas P. White (Translator)  Hackett Publishing Company (October 1993) ISBN: 087220202X

   4. Philebus (Paperback) by Plato (Author), Dorothea Frede (Translator) Hackett Publishing Company; New Ed edition (June 1993) ISBN: 0872201708