Fdn 111A—Revolution and Renaissance Reading Questions 2: Plato’s Apology Due: Friday, Sep

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FDN 111A—Revolution and Renaissance

Reading Questions 2: Plato’s Apology

Due: Friday, Sept. 16th (beginning of class)
Read Plato’s Apology. Then answer the questions listed below. You’re not expected to come up with anything like THE right answer for several of these questions. Do your best, and we’ll discuss your answers in class. Note that after several of the questions, there is a footnote that contains a brief description of the element of analytical reading each question is intended to help you practice (As a quick reminder, analytical reading involves reading for context, structure, interpretation, and critical engagement). The goal of these assignments is to encourage you to ask the right KINDS of questions of a text as you read. Hopefully after you’ve done several of these assignments, you’ll begin asking these KINDS of questions on your own! Note that questions 1, 2, 4, 5 are worth 15pts and 3, 6 are worth 20pts.
1. Appealing to both evidence from the text itself and any credible outside sources you might find, state and briefly explain at least two of the accusations brought against Socrates. (context)1

2. Identify the basic structure of the Apology by offering an outline including only Roman Numeral and capital letter levels (I, A, B…; II, A, B…; III, A, B, C…, etc.). For this particular piece you should strive to have less than five major structural headings (Roman Numeral levels) to make sure you’re actually tracking only the major structural shifts. (structure) 2

3 (a). Socrates speaks a great deal of wisdom in the Apology. Socrates professes that he does not have it, the Oracle at Delphi proclaims that he has it to the greatest degree, and Socrates claims that he has at least has more than the politicians, the poets, and the craftsmen. Clearly “wisdom” is an important concept in the Apology. On the basis of what you can infer from the text, offer Socrates’ definition of “wisdom.” (interpret) 3
(b) Now that you’ve offered a possible interpretation of “wisdom,” should we take Socrates seriously when he says that he doesn’t have it? Explain your answer. (interpret)

4. In typical court cases like this one in Athens, people condemned to death were frequently able to plead, cry, and bribe their way to a lesser penalty. When asked for a counter-penalty, what did Socrates say he deserved? Why would he say this, knowing it would only enflame the jury further and insure his death? (interpret)

5. On a few occasions, Socrates offers arguments in behalf of the conclusion that no one should fear death. Offer a brief reconstruction of one of those arguments, paying special attention to the primary support (individual supporting claims called premises) he offers for the conclusion. (interpret/micro-structure)

6(a). On pg. 95, Socrates famously claims that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” In a brief paragraph, explain what he might mean by that, appealing to the text itself to help develop your interpretation. (interpret)

(b) Do you agree with Socrates’ statement in 6(a)? In a brief paragraph, explain and defend your answer. (critically engage) 4

1 This question illustrates the attention you should pay to the context of each of the works you’ll read this term. In this case, the context that we care about is the specific historical setting of Socrates’ trial, but reading contextually would also involve attention to who the author is, the time period written, any other works to which the given text refers (explicitly or implicitly), the audience that’s being written to, etc. You should always be on the lookout for clues within the work itself that help you to determine context, but often, you’ll need to practice looking beyond the text itself to get a sufficiently rich picture of its context.

2 Question 2 asks you to pay attention to the structure of the text. When we read for structure, we break a text down into its parts and see how those parts relate to one another. To prevent the things you’ll read in college from just appearing as a mass of details, you need to be attentive to the parts into which the text may be broken down. Practicing this will not only help with your general understanding of the text, it will also help you to retain the material you’ve read. We’ll get a lot more practice at discovering the kinds of clues texts themselves offer about their internal structure (when it’s not clear from subheadings, etc.). For now, just do your best!

3 Questions 3, 4, and 5 ask you to look for and interpret key elements of the text (offering your best and most well-supported understanding of the meaning of those elements). Sometimes you’ll be asked to identify and try to grasp the meaning of key concepts, key propositions or claims, key arguments, or in the case of imaginative literature, key characters, episodes, or other plot elements. Interpretations are rarely simply a matter of opinion, even though several interpretations may be reasonable. Interpretations should always be supported by evidence whenever possible.

4 Question 6(b) asks you to critically engage your particular interpretation of a text. What we mean by “critical engagement” will differ according to the kind of text that we’re reading. Many of our readings this term will express arguments for some position or another, and hope to convince you, the reader, that the positions are right. When texts are offering arguments for some position, the goal of critical engagement will be to evaluate the arguments themselves and see whether or not we should accept their conclusions. In this case, you yourselves have offered an interpretation of a claim, and in 6(b), you are giving reasons for your acceptance or rejection of the claim.

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