Truth Through Combat

A Notetaking Tool for Plato’s Republic

It is a surprising fact that one of the greatest works of western literature has little in the way of pedagogical aids to assist instructors who teach the text, but that is in fact the situation with regard to Plato’s Republic. Sure, there are commentaries galore; and yes, there are the occasional summaries and even a decent treasure trove of related images (there’s good stuff on the Allegory of the Cave, the Divided Line, and not-so-good imagery on The Myth of Er).

Still, with all of the accumulated commentary of two millennia and the subsequent rise of the web in the last two decades, we should have more. We need good processes for studying the text and for teaching it, and these are unfortunately lacking.

This document is an attempt at a partial remedy: Notetaking Tool for Platos Republic.Its objective is not to summarize the text, or to depict it visually, or to comment upon it (at least this is not the principal aim), but to assist the student and instructor who determine to read it (either in its entirety or partially).

The document does not attempt to promote a particular interpretation, although one probably emerges out of it. Its chief purpose is to ask questions that are relevant to each of the sections (roughly carved up in the same way as in Desmond Lee’s translation and Penguin Books publication).

It’s my hope that it will prove useful to those who seek to study it, but I am also under no illusion of perfection. I have undoubtedly missed many questions and relevant issues, and there is no doubt that my lack of Greek hampers my understanding.

Critical comments are most welcome.

Filed under: Philosophy, Political Philosophy, , , , , ,

The Meaning of Openness in Open Educational Resources

An analysis of openness in the area of open educational resources shows us that there is just no such thing as a truly open educational resource.

The colloquial definition of “open” varies according to the available resources. I would argue that JSTOR is an “open” resource at Erie Community College just by virtue of the fact that we purchase it. This definition is contrary to the spirit of the OER movement, which instead looks for resources that are truly “free” in some sense. However, I believe this just goes to show that there is some conceptual ambiguity in the concept of openness to begin with (and the frequent conflation with “free of charge to the end user”): the cost of JSTOR is not transparently being passed down to me or my students, so as far as an uninformed observer is concerned JSTOR is in the commons just as much as Wikipedia is in the commons.

Some will point to the obvious: that the distinction between JSTOR and Wikipedia is that one has to pay for JSTOR access. My point, however, is that the distinction means nothing to someone that has never paid for JSTOR or any other library database. Furthermore, the point can be extended to any other educational resource that an instructor might attempt to use in the classroom: there is a cost to the copies I’ll make for an OER/public domain text, and there is a cost to the instructional design of the class that will house the OER/PD text. This means that “openness” is really about externalizing the cost of publication and distribution to someone other than the institution and student. An OER in Merlot, for example, might have cost one million dollars to create, but that cost is not mine to bear. It’s therefore “open,” but only by virtue of someone else’s generosity.

Filed under: Higher Education Policy, , , , ,