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Political Philosophy- Lewis and Plato


In 5 pages (12 point font, double-spaced, one inch margins), please respond to one of the two 

following prompts: 


1) In The Abolition of Man, Lewis argues that a “dogmatic belief in objective value is 

necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not 

slavery” (73). What are Lewis’ most important reasons for making this claim? Bearing in 

mind Socrates’ account of his moral duty to the city in Apology and Crito, to what degree 

would Socrates agree with this statement? 


2) In both the Apology and Crito, Plato presents Socrates as a staunch defender of law, 

particularly in the sense that respect for the legal order of one’s polity is a basic 

obligation of citizenship. What are the most important reasons Socrates provides for this 

position in defense of Athenian law? If we accept Lewis’ critique of emotional 

subjectivism (Gaius and Titius’ position) in Abolition of Man as sound, we cannot 

interpret Socrates’ actions as merely the result of his subjective feelings. Why would 

Lewis insist we interpret Plato’s Socrates this way? 





C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, HarperCollins, ISBN: 0060652942


Plato, The Trial and Death of Socrates, John M. Cooper and G.M.A. Grube trans., Hackett Publishing, ISBN: 0872205541



Tips from the Professor:


The first paragraph usually makes or breaks your essay. Begin your essay with a clear and 

focused thesis statement that directly responds to the questions in the prompt. The next couple 

sentences should give us some indication of the paper’s plan, or briefly elaborate upon the thesis. 

Do not hope things will come together and attempt to write your essay before you have a clear 

thesis. Such efforts do not work. Outline your essay with this thesis in mind and evaluate every 

subsequent paragraph in your essay for fit with that thesis. If you cannot establish a clear link 

between a point you think is important later in the essay and your thesis, it probably does not 

belong. This means you need to get the point immediately: Long-winded written equivalents of 

throat clearing that tell us how important these authors merely waste space you will need. 

Generic efforts at comparison do not help either (ex: “Plato and Aristotle were both Greeks who 

cared about politics”). Both of these types of openings indicate a) you are not sure what you are 

doing, b) you are trying to fill space, and c) you really have not thought about how this will 

irritate us in the fourth or fifth hour of grading. 


Devote serious attention to each of the elements of the prompt you choose – one sentence about 

half of the prompt and five paragraphs about the rest is not a complete response to the prompt. 

You should not attempt to outline or laundry list every idea you have, rather choose one focused 

line of argumentation that brings a handful of the most important points you think support your 

case to bear on the subject. The best method of accomplishing this is to engage in a close reading 

of the texts and marshal evidence from them to support your claims. Do not use any outside 

sources. If you do, you will lose credit. 


Avoid editorializing. This essay demands careful textual analysis rather than a judgment about 

the rightness of the arguments under consideration. We are looking for a sustained effort on your 


part to understand what these authors are saying and we are not at all interested in what you think 

about the merits or deficiencies of their arguments. So, do not waste the space and effort. 


While we are not seeing your judgment about whether these authors are correct, note that merely 

attempting to summarize what the authors say will not fully answer the question. Usually 

students go wrong when they try to tell us everything they know about the thinker in general and 

lapse into a kind of comparison and contrast. So read the questions very carefully and decide 

what arguments are actually important from each thinker for your answer to the questions. 


Cite both direct quotes and all specific references to the text. By this, I mean: each and every 

time you use or refer to a specific passage to help develop your essay, you must use a page 

citation to tie this to the book. In this case a parenthetical (author, page number) is fine. Failure 

to cite sources is plagiarism and will result in an automatic F on the assignment.

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