MLAS Course Roster

Summer 2014 Courses

MLAS 260 10:

Socrates, Plato, and The Good Life

Instructor: Robert Talisse
Location: 109 Furman
Days and Time: Tuesdays from 6:00 to 9:00pm.
Dates: June 3rd – August 5th

Course Description:
Plato wrote philosophical dialogues in which a main character, Socrates, engages with a wide range of interlocutors about questions concerning the good life. Famously, Socrates contends that "The unexamined life is not worth living." But Socrates also advances stranger claims like, "Philosophy is practice for death"; "It is better to suffer harm than commit harm"; "No one ever does wrong knowingly"; "I know that I know nothing"; "The body is the prison of the soul"; "Next to Tyranny, Democracy is the worst kind of society"; and (a personal favorite) "Philosophers should rule as kings." Socrates was executed by the Athenians in 399 BCE, in large part for publicly defending claims such as these. In this course, we will read and discuss several of Plato's dialogues. We will begin with the dialogues surrounding Socrates' trial and execution (Apology, Euthyphro, Crito, Phaedo); then we will read a few dialogues especially aimed at questions concerning virtue (Meno, Euthydemus) and then we will read Plato's masterpiece on justice and the good life, The Republic. Throughout the course, we will have ample occasion to reflect on the question of whether the Athenians were right to have executed Socrates. We will also ask ourselves whether Plato and Socrates have any important insights into the nature of justice, virtue, obligation, courage, and the like. But the central question which will loom persistently is the Socratic question, "How ought we to live?"

Required Texts:

  • Plato. Five Dialogues. Hackett Publishing
  • Plato. Euthydemus. Hackett Publishing
  • Plato. Republic. Hackett Publishing

Each week, each student will write a one-page reaction to the week’s reading assignment.  In addition, students will write two short philosophical papers, one about Socrates and his trial, the other about The Republic.

Course Instructor:
Robert Talisse is Professor of Philosophy, Professor of Political Science, and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Vanderbilt. His primary areas of research are social and political philosophy, ethics, and democratic theory. Accordingly, his main publications and teaching duties lie in those areas. However, he decided to become a philosopher after taking a course in Plato as an undergraduate, and so he sustains serious side-interests in classical Greek philosophy.

Email:  robert.talisse@Vanderbilt.Edu

Phone:  615-343-8671  

MLAS 260 26:

Twentieth and Twenty-First Art and Politics

Instructor: Leonard Folgarait
Location: 308 Cohen Hall
Days and Time: Mondays from 6:00 to 9:00pm
Dates: June 2nd – August 4th

Course Description:
This course will investigate the rich and complex relationship between art and politics in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  Examples will be drawn from the art of the Mexican Revolution or 1910, the
Russian Revolution of 1917, the aftermath of both World Wars, the Cold War, and more general social issues such as censorship and civil rights. Political contexts will range from far left to far right to
feminism.  The media to be studied will include painting, sculpture, architecture, photography, and cinema. The course will ask how, when and why did art become political. What are the implications and responsibilities of political art? Is there any art that is not political?

Leonard Folgarait is Professor of History of Art at Vanderbilt University, where he has served as Chair of the Department of History of Art. His areas of teaching and research are the modern art of Latin America, with a specialization in the twentieth-century art of Mexico, modern European and American art and architecture.  Special interests are: the relationship of art to politics, early cubism, surrealism, performance art, film, photography, and historiography. He has published four books on modern Mexican art and his articles have appeared in journals such as Oxford Art Journal, Arts Magazine, Art History, Works and Days, and Quintana.

Email:  leonard.folgarait@Vanderbilt.Edu

Phone:  615-322-0090