Notes from Wasserman: Plato’s Republic

Class 1981/ 1983 GVSC

[In progress:]

Using Bloom’s Republic and Shakespeare’s The Tempest, with brief modern contrasts at the conclusion, Wasserman furthered the project of Leo Strauss to recover ancient Socratic Political philosophy.

The torch of philosophy is being transferred in this from Germany to America, having come to Germany through France, Britain and Italy, from the Petrarchan recovery of the texts of Byzantium. The Hebrew American immigrants, having seen Germany seared, have yet been able to graft philosophy onto the native Americans, and we are seeing how this takes.

Class notes are difficult for a reader to decipher, and exclude much, including the note taker’s own participation and questions. I enjoy watching myself learn the importance of what is occurring here, gradually beginning to take study seriously in a new way.

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Dramatic contrast of ancients/moderns

“I see my teaching of philosophy that way”- Irv

Explicit repudiation of the ancients- Machiavelli/Hobbes/Bacon/Descartes

Mathematics- Descartes wipe the slate clear- of truth.

Skepticism endemic- That all must be “proven.”

Certainty- clarity, or else therew is no answer.

Political philosophy (as distinct from political science) (is) dead for all practical purposes.

Is Plato recoverable through modern eyes?


Start with the ancients in order to see what we said “no” to.

History. But Plato didn’t have history.

Context, yes, but relative to time, no.

What is justice? / What is Plato’s justice?

Through Polemarchus to Thrasymachus.

Lecture Friday January 16th, 1981

All of the dialogue is intentional.

Philosophy and political [philosophy appear inseparable.

[Jean] That none is superfluous. Take it as a whole.

There is no Platonic doctrine as ordinarily understood. [Ken]

Bloom renders in translation.

Concreteness and participation.

ancient/modern. Wasserman: specific characters, questions, answers. Socrates can’t give the answers. We don’t know if there is an “answer.”

Nothing concrete is a what

We may have said no to a Plato that is not Plato.

Lecture Jan 19th Monday

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