Understanding Plato is the prize-winning first book in the eight-book series on the classical philosophers.
The series is designed for beginning and intermediate philosophy students who would like more depth than they would ordinarily get from books that give only notes and outlines of the philosopher's thoughts and theories.
Unlike other philosophy study books, each volume in the series focuses on both content and philosophical method. Each chapter breaks down arguments of the philosopher into understandable parts, showing how philosophers reach their conclusions and how they defend against possible objections.
Each chapter concludes with a set of questions for thought and discussion. Some of the questions are on topics that provide an excellent starting point for killer term papers.
References to other books about the philosopher or the topic can be found at the end of the chapter, in footnotes, textboxes or at the back of the book.
Understanding Plato contains a complete discussion of four of the early Socratic dialogues (Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno) and Plato's longer and more famous work, Republic.
Professor Houlgate describes his book as a guide for “smart students” because it engages and encourages beginning philosophy students to think critically about what they are reading.
This is what Socrates saw as his task in ancient Athens and it is what finally got him tried and executed for corrupting the youth of the city.
Critical thinking is still considered dangerous in many non-democratic countries of the world and teaching critical thinking skills has even been banned in some public schools in the U.S.A.
But Understanding Plato is an award winner precisely because it celebrates critical thinking. Unlike other study guides it does not offer “notes,” “summaries” or “flashcards” of the Socratic dialogues and Plato’s Republic.
The objective of Understanding Plato is not to prepare students for a multiple-choice exam but to help them to think critically, participate in classroom dialogue and write an “A” grade term paper or essay.
This is not Plato’s Republic summary or Plato’s Republic SparkNotes. It is Plato’s Republic for smart students.
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