Study Questions for Annas, Voices of Ancient Philosophy

PHIL 302 -- Instructor: Dr. Garrett

August 15, 2003


Herodotus, VAP 427-29

1. How does Otanes criticize monarchy? What political form does he favor? Why?
2. What does Megabyzus favor, and why?
3. How does Darius defend his choice?

The Old Oligarch

Although he is apparently hostile to democracy, what points does he make about it that could be interpreted in a positive light? (VAP 430-33)


This speech, attributed to Protagoras in Plato's dialogue named after the great Sophist, is often thought to reveal Protagoras' real pro-democratic views, which differ from Plato's aristocratic outlook.

1. What was lacking in how Epimetheus equipped humanity? How did Prometheus respond? (320c-321d)
2. Why were humans still ill-equipped to fight off wild animals? (321d-322b)
3. What did Zeus then send? (322c)
4. What question does Hermes ask Zeus? What is the significance of Zeus' reply? (322d-323a)
5. How does the final paragraph support Protagoras' thesis? (323a-b)

Callicles from Plato Gorgias

1. What does Callicles think about the majority who make the rules [in democratic cities like Athens]? (483b-d)
2. What kind of person acts in conformity with nature (phusis)? (483c-e) What does convention (nomos) do to the best? (483e-484a)

Glaucon from Plato Republic II

1. What "facts of nature" does Glaucon cite? (358e)
2. What do people decide is the most "profitable" course? Why? (358e-359a)
3. What is the origin/cause of morality (dikaiosyne, usually translated "justice")? (359a)
4. What is "the point"? (359b) See also 360c5.
5. How does the story of the Lydian shepherd illustrate Glaucon's point?

Socrates from Plato's Crito

1. What act is Socrates supposedly considering? (50a)
2. In what ways does Socrates owe his existence, upbringing and education to the state? (50e-51c)
3. On what basis does Socrates have a duty to obey the state even if it does not treat him in the most perfect manner? (What analogy is operating here?) (50e-51c)
4. How according to the "Laws," did Socrates enter into a tacit contract to obey the state? (51c-53a8)
5. What consequences might ensue if Socrates were to break his tacit agreements? (53a9-54b1)


1. How does hierarchy enter the smallest social unit? (VAP 387-88)
2. How does the city (polis) differ from the household or village? (388)
3. How does the idea of an "end" correspond to the "nature" of a thing? Why does Aristotle say that every city exists by nature? (388)
4. What is lacking in a human without a polis? A human being is by nature ____? (389)
5. How does the human being differ from nonhuman animals? (389)
6. What is the point of the comparison of an isolated individual to a detached hand? (389)
7. What does Aristotle say that the city is prior to the individual? (389)
8. What is necessary for a polis that is not necessary for other kinds of human associations? (390-92)


1. How does Epicurus explain the existence ideas about justice? (VAP 393: doctrine 31ff.)
2. The Critias fragment says that without fear of gods people would do injustice in secret. How does Epicurus try to block this possibility? (34-35)
3. In what sense is justice "the same for all"? In what sense does justice change? (36-38)

Marcus Tullius Cicero's Position on Natural Law
(partially indebted to the Stoics), VAP 397-400

1. What is law inherent in nature? In what way does it appear in the human mind? What is its function? (On Law 1.18)

2. What is the origin of justice? (1.19)

3. When we enter ordinary language, to what does "law" refer? (1.19)

4. What is special about humans? (1.21) To what primordial partnership does Marcus [Cicero himself] refer? (1.23)

5. To what alleged universal conception does Marcus refer? (1.24-25)

6. Summarize the argument from 1.25.5 through 1.27.

7. What is common to all humans? Does it, and the experience of nature around us, have the capacity to perfect us? (1.30)

8. What vices are common to humans (in different places and times), and why? (1.31)

9. Can we detect the elements or suggestions of a notion of conscience, of universal recognition of justice, in this text? (1.33) See also 1.44.

10. How will the wise man relate to another equally endowed with moral excellence? (Is this friendship? Explain.)

11. Are all the decrees and laws of a particular country necessarily just? Explain. What is meant by the statement "There is one, single, justice"? (1.42)

12. If justice is no more than particular human laws, then what would follow? (1.44) If everything is measured by self-interest, then what will happen? (1.43)

13. What is the basis for virtues like generosity and community solidarity? Should we keep up the rituals honoring the gods? Explain. (1.43)

14. Does the natural law position, as expressed by Cicero, endorse ethical realism, i.e., the view that moral correctness (or rather, here, moral excellence) is somehow grounded in the nature of things? Or does it accept ethical relativism, i.e., the view that moral excellence or correctness is merely determined by the opinions or decisions of the particular community and that there is no standard beyond those? (1.44-45)