Hi my Philosophy paper based on the teachability of virtue as talked about in Plato's Protagoras. It's a really confusing topic and it's hard to be concise and clear in your writing. Could someone(s) please read over my paper and say whether or not I get my message across?
The Topic is: The Teachability of Virtue.
"In Plato's Protagoras Socrates and Protagoras discuss whether or not virtue is teachable. Socrates explains that it cannot be taught because virtuous parents often have bad children. Explain why Socrates thinks that this shows that virtue is not teachable and explain Protagoras' reply."
Here is my paper:
The Teachability of Virtue
The topic of piety, virtue and what it means to make a good citizen are central ideas discussed in Plato's fourth century B.C.E dialogue, Protagoras. The debate over the teachability of virtue takes place between Socrates and Protagoras, the latter arguing that virtue can be passed on, the former arguing in opposition. One of Socrates' two reasons for doubting that virtue can be taught is that virtuous parents often have unvirtuous children.
Socrates explains this argument by illustrating many examples in which this has been proven to be true. Pericles was a leading figure for Athens, meaning that he was a good, virtuous citizen. However, when Clinias - the brother to Alcibiades - was placed into Pericles' care in an attempt to separate him from negative influences and to impart on him good virtue. As Socrates explains, Clinias was returned after six months in Pericles' care because he could do nothing for him. Socrates thinks this example shows that virtue is not teachable because a Pericles was a virtuous man who could not teach others how to be virtuous, therefore a virtuous man cannot teach others to be virtuous, saying "the wisest and best of our citizens are unable to transmit to others the virtues they posses" (Protagoras. 319e). By logic, if one who posses qualities cannot teach another those qualities, than one who does not posses them should be no more fit to teach therefore, no man can teach another upon the matter of virtue.
Socrates goes forth to build on this idea presented. It is said that Pericles himself did not teach his sons how to be virtuous and instead they must "browse like stray sacred cattle and pick up virtue on their own..." (Protagoras. 320a) meaning that not only did he not teach it himself but also he did not employ another to teach it. The conclusion from this is that if Pericles as a father would wish his sons to be successful in terms of virtue and being a good citizen and he himself did not see that he, who possessed good virtue, or anyone else could impart this knowledge to his sons, then the best way to gain good virtue is to discover it on you own. Previously Socrates had illustrated the idea of Athenians being wise thus Pericles, being an Athenian, is also wise. If wise Athenians think that virtue cannot be taught (319e), then it must also be wise to think that it cannot be taught, Pericles, being a wise Athenian therefore must also think that virtue cannot be transmitted from one to another.
Protagoras' response to the ideas Socrates presents, although verbose, responds to this point in many ways, the first drawing upon a widely accepted myth concerning the origins of humanity. Protagoras explains that at the dawn of time Prometheus and Epimetheus assigned each of the earth's creatures qualities that would ensure the survival of their species (Protagoras. 321a) However a foolish Epimetheus left humans until last and a result no qualities were left. To remedy this Prometheus stole fire from Hephaestus' forge and wisdom from Athena's possession (321e). Protagoras explains that this wisdom was limited in so that humans lacked social wisdom, in that they could not form groups and when this was attempted, "they wronged each other." (Protagoras. 322b) his point being that humanity originally did not posses knowledge of how to live and function in a society and that humans currently posses that knowledge and societal wisdom therefore at some point the knowledge had to have been learnt and if it could be learnt then it must also have the quality of being able to be taught. For things that are learnt must have been taught.
Protagoras further replies to Socrates' by bringing attention to the ways in which "virtue" is taught. As soon as children can understand what a parent or teacher is saying, they are told what is ugly, what is not, what is just, unjust, noble, pious, don't do that, do this and the list continues. If the child listens to these instructions they are often rewarded however if not then the child is punished (Protagoras. 325d). In addition, while receiving their formal education it is not isolated to simple schooling, it was recognized that teachers also teach "good conduct" (Protagoras. 325e). Students learn the works of the great poets, which contain examples of traditional heroes who are embodiments of good virtue (326a). Music is taught to calm the soul and give a "rhythm and harmony" to daily life while an athletic trainer aids in complimenting a sound mind with a strong body (326b). All these lessons aimed to mold the children into moral and virtuous citizens, the proviso being that such things are teachable otherwise why go to so much effort. After all, the aim of teaching is to educate one on things currently unknown and, because not everyone is virtuous, the assumption is that children do not know the qualities of virtue; therefore children are taught the qualities of virtue. Protagoras goes on to explain how being taught the qualities of virtue equates to being taught virtue. Virtue is a single entity in the same way that a face is a face; virtue is made up of component qualities in the same way that a face is made up of parts (eyes, nose, mouth). Therefore virtue is the sum of its component qualities. If children are taught the component qualities of virtue, and virtue being the sum of its component qualities, Protagoras is arguing that children are taught virtue (Protagoras. 329d-330b).
If Socrates was to remain still dubious over the teachability of virtue, Protagoras furthers his reply by stating his argument in symbolic terms. If it was a requirement of good citizenship to be the best one could be at the flute, then if one was bad at playing, he would seek tutoring from a better player for it was in the cities' best interests for every citizen to be good. This theory is applicable to the teachability of virtue. Furthermore, Protagoras argues that while everyone is a teacher of virtue, no one is, which seems somewhat paradoxical. He explains that children grow up knowing Greek although they were never "taught" Greek. They are immersed in it; everyone who speaks Greek is therefore a teacher (Protagoras. 328a) while they themselves are not teachers of Greek. It is argued that virtue is much the same therefore while there are no men who (should) proclaim to teach virtue, every man he himself possessing virtue is a teacher.
THIS IS ADDITIONAL PROMT THAT THEY GAVE US (you can stop reading here if you want to)
Some advice on writing your paper
The single most important piece of advice I can give you is: answer the specific question (or questions) you are asked. You will be graded on how effectively you answer your chosen question. If the question consists of multiple parts, be sure to answer every part of the question.
Be disciplined: everything you say in your paper ought to be directly relevant to answering your chosen question. You really don't have the space to discuss anything else, no matter how interesting it might be.
2. Explain and evaluate
Each question asks you to explain and evaluate a philosophical argument. A good way of thinking about these two tasks is as follows:
(i) Explain. Imagine that the reader of your paper does not yet understand the argument. Your task is carefully to show this reader how (in your view) the argument is meant to work. This will often involve:
- identifying the argument's premises and conclusion;
- explaining what can be said in the premises' favor;
- explaining why the premises are meant to support the conclusion.
Sometimes an argument will rely on an implicit (i.e. unstated) premise. If this is the case, say what the implicit premise is and what might be said in its favor.
Sometimes there may be multiple alternative interpretations of an argument (or part of an argument). If this is the case, explain what the different alternatives are, and present your reasons for preferring your interpretation. (Remember the principle of charity.)
Support your analysis of the argument by citing the text, but avoid lengthy quotes.1
(ii) Evaluate. Is the argument a successful argument? Stake out your own view of the argument's success. Give reasons backing up your assessment of the argument. Try to convince your reader of the correctness of your assessment.
(Note: You don't need to address everything that might be said for or against the argument. It is often a good idea to identify one or two problems, and tackle these in detail. Spell out the problem(s) clearly, and explain why you think it/they can or cannot be overcome.)
Use your introduction to introduce your topic and to give a brief description of what you are going to argue in your paper. After your introduction, proceed methodically. Resist the temptation to go off on tangents.
1 A note on citation:
If you are citing Xenophanes, give the fragment number. This is the number in square brackets, printed after each fragment, e.g. B 15, B 16.
If you are citing Plato, give the dialogue name and the 'Stephanus' number, e.g. Euthyphro 8d.
If you are citing Aristotle (e.g. his reports of Zeno's arguments), give the treatise name and the 'Bekker' number, e.g. Physics 239b5-7.
Each paragraph in your paper should ideally make a single point, and it should be obvious to the reader what that point is.
Make sure your reader knows what is going on at each stage of the paper. One effective way of doing this is by using 'signposts' to let the reader know what you've done so far, and what you're going to do next. (Example: 'I have now explained how I take Zeno's argument to work. In the next section of the paper I shall explain where I think it goes wrong.'2)
It can also be helpful to break up your paper into numbered sections to make its structure clearer.
The best way to produce a well-organized paper is by writing a plan first.
Good philosophical writing is simple, clear, and straightforward. Write in short sentences, and use plain prose. Avoid jargon: If you use a piece of technical vocabulary, explain what you mean by it. Do not gesture or hint at things. Spell everything out as carefully and as explicitly as you can.
5. Read what you write
Grammatical and spelling errors are distracting and detract from the clarity of a paper. Proof read your paper several times. Use the spellchecker, but don't assume it will catch everything.
You can also ask a friend to look over your paper. They can catch errors you miss, and will be able to tell you if they find something unclear or unpersuasive. (Of course, if your friend makes a suggestion that you end up incorporating into your paper, make sure you acknowledge their contribution.)
6. A note on doing research and avoiding plagiarism
Your research for this paper should consist in reading, re-reading, and thinking hard about the relevant ancient text. For this class you do not need to do any outside reading (e.g. looking at modern secondary literature). I recommend that you focus exclusively on the primary texts.
If you do nevertheless decide to look at other sources, you must be careful to acknowledge anything that you use in your paper. (Obviously, this includes anything you find on the Internet.) Failure to acknowledge your debts is plagiarism: presenting other people's writing or ideas as your own. Plagiarism has extremely serious consequences.