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Plato's Politeia


Admission requirements

Admission to one of the following programmes is required:

  • MA Philosophy 60 EC: specialisation Ethics and Politics

  • MA Philosophy 60 EC: specialisation History and Philosophy of the Sciences

  • MA Philosophy 120 EC: specialisation Philosophy of Law

  • MA Philosophy 120 EC: specialisation Philosophy of Political Science

  • MA or ResMA Classics

For students in philosophy introductory courses in Ancient Philosophy, Ethics, and Political Philosophy will be required.


Plato’s Republic (Politeia) is arguably the most controversial ancient Greek philosophical text. It has been read as a manifesto of a radical political thinker against democracy, a profound study of human psychology, the fullest exposition of Plato’s metaphysics (theory of Forms), and the first serious attempt at aesthetics, or all or some of the above. In this seminar we will read and discuss the entire dialogue with the help of some of the relevant secondary literature. Moreover, we will take a look at the reception of Plato’s Republic in the debate in the 20th and 21st century about the merits and shortcomings of democracy.

Course objectives

Aim of the course is to introduce the student to the in-depth study of a Platonic dialogue and the scholarly discussion of that text. The student is trained to analyse a Platonic passage with the help of existing scholarly literature within the broader context of the Republic and to develop his/her own position on the correct interpretation of this passage in a critical exchange with the scholarly literature. (S)he should be able to present his/her own interpretation successfully both orally and writing and defend it against criticsm. Moreover, the student is trained in criticizing the interpretations of others. The student is furthermore trained in the critical evaluation of applications of ancient philosophical ideas to modern debates.

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • content and argumentation of Plato’s Republic;

  • major controversies in the academic literature concerning the Republic;

  • the reception of Plato’s Republic in the 20th and 21st century.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • analyse and clarify the argumentation of a Platonic passage in a critical exchange with the modern literature;

  • defend his or her interpretation against (academic) criticism;

  • offer (academic) criticism of the interpretations of others;

  • analyse critically the application of Plato’s ideas to modern debates;

  • present his/her analyses and criticsm in a clear and convincing manner both orally and in writing.


The timetable is available on the MA Philosophy 60 EC website and the MA Philosophy 120 EC website

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours= 280 hours

  • Attending lectures (14 x 3 hours): 42 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature / preparation seminars 72 hours:

  • Preparation 20 minute presentation: 42 hours

  • Research and writing final paper: 124 hours

Assessment method


  • Oral presentation plus handout and/or powerpointpresentation: 30%

  • End of term paper: 70%


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of several subtests (presentation, final paper). A subtest can be graded as unsatisfactory.
Class preparation and attendance are required and are conditions for submission of the paper.


The resit will consists of one examination, a paper. The mark will replace all previously earned marks. No separate resits will be offered for mid-term tests. Class preparation and attendance are required and are conditions for submission of the paper for the resit. Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination(s) cannot take the resit.

Exam review

The oral presentation will be discussed and graded immediately after class; discussion of the paper is by appointment.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • instruction and communication

  • sharing additional materials, PowerPoints and bibliography.

Reading list

  • Robin Waterfield, Plato Republic. A New Translation. (Oxford World’s Classics), Oxford 1993 (or later).

  • G. F. R. Ferrari (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Plato’s Republic, Cambridge 2007 [electronically available via University Leiden Library]


Enrolment for courses and exams through uSis is mandatory.

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetables for courses and exams.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. R.M. van den Berg