Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2015

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



In this dissertation, I challenge common readings of Plato according to which epistemic vice is either always bad, or is merely beneficial for non-philosophers. On my reading, false beliefs and defective forms of reasoning can benefit everyone in two ways. First, there are commitments--to care for the health of your soul, to care for the well-being of other human beings--that a person needs to have in order to live well, and a reliably good life requires that these commitments be entrenched and unwavering. For those people and soul-parts that lack philosophical understanding, some falsehoods can help sustain these crucial normative commitments. I argue that this is how the Noble Lie and the Preludes work in the Republic and the Laws, respectively. Second, there are some questions that outstrip our ability to answer them with full justification--questions, for instance, that concern the nature of the soul, the gods, and death. Nonetheless, sometimes the demands of living well require us to form beliefs about these questions even though we risk error. I argue that this occurs in Socrates' attitude towards death and the afterlife in the Phaedo. This interpretation has far-reaching consequences in that it reshapes how we understand the relationship between Plato's ethics and epistemology.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Eric Brown

Committee Members

Hugh Benson, John Doris, Julia Driver, G. Fay Edwards, Robert Lamberton


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