Wolin, Chapter Two—Plato.

1.    On pp. 27-31, Wolin describes what he calls the great achievement of the Greek political thinkers.  What was it

2.    pp. 33-4.  What was Plato’s “vision”?  Why should we pursue it?

3.    pp. 35-7.  What is the role of knowledge in the reform of society and the moral improvement of its members?

4.    pp. 37-9.  What was Plato’s indictment of politicians?  For an example of a politician’s approach to events, see Pericles’ funeral oration. 

5.    pp. 40-1.  How did Plato’s sense of the political link to his desire for order?

6.    pp. 42-7.  You might think of this section as an account of how Plato conceives of the claim, “desire is the enemy.”  In the good community, what is to be done with desire? 

7.    pp. 47-9.  The topic of question 6, just above, is continued here.  Wolin criticizes Plato’s approach, and yet concludes with a recognition of a “great contribution.”  How are these related to each other?  The point at the bottom of p. 49 is continued through the top of p. 51.  Note this is a repeated and enduring theme in political philosophy.

8.    From pp. 49-53 Plato discusses the motivation of philosophers, and contrasts that with a brief comparison with Aristotle.  What, according to Wolin, was the central disagreement between these two positions? 

9.    pp. 54-58.  This section is entitled “political knowledge and political participation.”  What, according to Wolin, is the difficulty in thinking clearly about these concepts?

10.pp. 58-61.  Wolin accuses Plato of a fatal defect.  What is it?  What did he mean, on p. 60, by “(i)ts tutelary deity is Proteus, not Procrustes”?

11.pp. 61-2.  If Plato had that fatal defect, why does Wolin suggest we should not dismiss him?




Wolin, Chapter Three—Age of Empire

1.    Wolin suggests that this age can be interpreted as a shift of political philosophy from the municipal to the imperial level.  What does this mean?

2.    What makes something political?  (63-4)

3.    How does the “new spatial dimension” affect our thinking about politics?  (65-7)  Does this seem to have implications for our own situation?

4.    One development (at p. 69) was the rise of personified power.  This will show up in a later section. 

5.    On p. 70 Wolin begins a section on the Cynics, Epicureans, and early Stoics.  What does he mean by “a minimal commitment to an association of limited value”?  (p. 71)

6.    What, according to Wolin, was the failure of the Stoics?  (73)

7.    What, according to Wolin, was “the important development” that had taken place since the time of Aristotle?  (74)

8.    The Romans were important for political theory, in large part, because of their use in managing politics through institutional forms.  How did they do this?  (75-8)

9.    What, in this Roman conception, was justice?  (78)

10.There is a trap in the politics of interest—making politics about interests gets away from some sources of conflict, but, according to Wolin, this route carries a great peril.  What is it?  (79-82)

11.What does Wolin mean by a “power organization”?  (82)  What becomes of citizenship in a power organization?  It is in this section that we revisit that idea of politics becoming identified with the personal qualities of a leader.

12.What does Wolin mean by the decline of political philosophy, in the section beginning on p. 85?