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Back to Reason and Persuasion: Thinking Through Three Dialogues By Plato

Learner Reviews & Feedback for Reason and Persuasion: Thinking Through Three Dialogues By Plato by National University of Singapore

325 ratings

About the Course

In this course we study the ancient, Socratic art of blowing up your beliefs as you go, to make sure they're built to last. We spend six weeks studying three Platonic dialogues - "Euthyphro", "Meno", "Republic" Book I - then two weeks pondering a pair of footnotes to Plato: contemporary moral theory and moral psychology. Platonic? Socratic? Socrates was the teacher, but he said he never did. Plato was the student who put words in his teacher's mouth. You'll get a feel for it. We have a book: the new 4th edition of "Reason and Persuasion", by the instructor (and his wife, Belle Waring, the translator.) It contains the Plato you need, plus introductory material and in-depth, chapter-length commentaries. (Don't worry! John Holbo knows better than to read his book to the camera. The videos cover the same material, but the presentation is different.) The book is offered free in PDF form - the whole thing, and individual chapter slices. It is also available in print and other e-editions. See the course content for links and information. The course is suitable for beginning students of Plato and philosophy, but is intended to offer something to more advanced students as well. We seek new, odd angles on old, basic angles. Tricky! The strategy is to make a wide-ranging, interdisciplinary approach. Lots of contemporary connections, to make the weird bits intuitive; plus plenty of ancient color, still bright after all these years. So: arguments and ideas, new possibilities, old stories, fun facts. Plus cartoons. The results can get elaborate (some book chapters and some lesson videos run long.) But each video comes with a brief summary of its contents. The lessons progress. I put them in this order for reasons. But there's no reason you can't skip over and around to find whatever seems most interesting. There are any number of self-contained mini-courses contained in this 8-week course. You are welcome to them. Plato has meant different things to different people. He's got his own ideas, no doubt. (Also, his own Ideas.) But these have, over the centuries, been worn into crossing paths for other feet; been built up into new platforms for projecting other voices. (Plato did it to Socrates, so fair is fair.) So your learning outcome should be: arrival somewhere interesting, in your head, where you haven't been before. I wouldn't presume to dictate more exactly....

Top reviews


Feb 2, 2017

Very interesting. The questions were rather challenging. The book clarifies a lot, and porf. Holbroke has a nice way of teaching. The videos were rather enticing and very informative.


Oct 27, 2016

I wish the course was longer! The Professor did a fantastic job of making the content fascinating and engaging. Please please please make another MOOC!

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1 - 25 of 93 Reviews for Reason and Persuasion: Thinking Through Three Dialogues By Plato

By Deleted A

Mar 20, 2016

Was a little uncertain at first but after completing week 1 I have become comfortable with the quirky style of the course. I wasn't game to try the quizzes until I had downloaded the book on my iPad and read chapter six, glad I did and will use this as my weekly process.

Enjoying this course very much. Week 2 quizzes were more testing, took three attempts at both quiz 3 and quiz 4 even though I passed on first attempt: 4 out of 6 / 4 out of 6; 4 out of 6 / 4 out of 6; 5 out of 6 / 6 out of 6. I like the dialogue format and that the language style is in modern conversational English. Socrates guy is hard to please, but he still forces us to think after 2,000 years. Pity the Greeks don't have him around today, their economy might be in better shape. The dentist at our local shopping centre is called Socrates but I don't believe they are related.

By Clifton L

Oct 27, 2016

I enjoyed this course. Professor Holbo developed an effective course for a "philosophy-gentile" like myself. I especially like the Lectures 7 and 8 where Professor Holbo compare and contrast Plato's philosophies to two modern empirical scientists. I believe this was a very effective way to get the Platonic lessons through to students. It is also an excellent thought-provoking technique to get people to think about their morality, ethics and spirituality.

By David L

May 11, 2016

Just wasn't a fan of the videos: way too long and oftentimes unrelated to the course material. Quizzes had no connection to the lectures either.

By erik h

Feb 26, 2017

I enjoyed the course and learned from it. It opened a window to logic and living. It was an exercise in critical thinking which one needs at any age. Also, I now realize that I need to improve my reading skills and plan to do so.

I recommend that the course have a sequel. Why not do all of the Republic? Also, it would be helpful if the professor explained not only which quizz answers were wrong but why. We are trying to learn, not only pass the course. This is philosophy, after all. Finally, why do the students in Singapur get two additional weeks? How about us?

I am a Colombian. Although I speak and write (sort of) English, it would be great to have Spanish subtitles for the lectures. Unfortunately, the Spanish translations of the dialogues may be a problem. I haven´t found any in Cartagena (my home) or on the internet. I do have La República in Spanish with a translation by José Manuel Pabón and Manuel Fernández-Galiano. However, it's very Spanish (from Spain) and for us it seems stilted. Maybe its like the English translations by Benjamin Jowett. Perhaps the answer is to study ancient Greek. Please let Coursera know.

In any case, thanks to Professor Holbo for an outstanding and challenging course.

Erik Hoffman

Cartagena, Colombia

By Susan S

Feb 24, 2020

This was a stimulating and challenging course. The use of cartoons was very useful and I loved the jokes as well. The course was a good introduction to Plato's thought. It also helped me realise that I need to read more closely and think more critically than I do. I have been inspired by it to enrol in another course specifically to improve my critical thinking. The last two sections are very worthwhile and should not be skipped.

By Reymond G

Apr 1, 2020

Definitely engaging my curiosity mind to a new level. Hard and challenging quizzes but regardless interesting.

By Mustafa D

Mar 29, 2020

Exceptional analysis, along with the effective use of commonplace terms, analogies, and cartoons, (though unconventional) a highly pragmatic method of explaining and deconstructing Plato's works. Also commendable is the unearthing of recurrent themes and subtle philosophical indications in the subtext of each of the three dialogues discussed, revealing the oft-overlooked congruity and consistency of various dialogues.

By Neil W

Aug 8, 2019

I really enjoyed the course. Here is why.

The videos, book and supporting text summaries all offered a slightly different angle or way of understanding the content.

The end of section questions were challenging and thought-provoking. John's style is highly engaging.

On the downside, he does tend to ramble a bit. Personally, I don't mind that as I find the more narrative approach engaging.

By Florian L B

Dec 6, 2016

Amazing class. Professor Holbo is a wonderful lecturer and makes the material really interesting. He's the perfect guide for navigating this ancient philosophy, so much that he makes it come out modern! Although the class can be challenging at times (quizzes are especially hard), it's fun and full of interesting historic references to Greece that show our own world in a different light.

By Sebas S

Jun 20, 2016

R&P is a great course for anyone with a slight interest in the basic questions about life. If ever I found myself begging for answers on this questions or trying to understand myself in a wider perspective, or simply bored out of my mind, finding this course has meant finding my life, or at least finding a better way to live my life.

By Tshewang R

Sep 25, 2022

Very interesting and valuable course in day to day life. The dialogues by Plato are thoroughly explained with suitable examples. The course really opened and enhanced my knowledge regarding reason and persuasion and definitely help me in the rest of my life. Thanks you NUS.

By Mark R

Sep 25, 2019

Very insightful teacher, never poised to understand all of what was going on in Plato's works, and took a Socratic attitude in teaching Socrates; as far as i can understand it, the Professor taught as though he were also learning and attempting to understand the dialogues

By Paulius J

Oct 22, 2016

Thank you for opening my eyes on Plato.

I always thought that he was an old demagogue. (I was obliged to read Republic during my University


I still think so, but finally I understood finally his greatness. Thank you, professor Holbo!

Any next course by you, I am in.

By Brenwen N

Mar 16, 2020

This course was excellent. The style of the presenter was also quite accessible. I think the highest praise I can give it is that it has fed my intrigue about philosophy to the extent that it has now become a genuine interest which I actively pursue.

By Dimitris S

Mar 26, 2019

That was quite a task...although prof. Holbo shooted like a machine gun his theatrical performance was astonishing. I enjoyed so much this course. I am so thankful that i participated to a course so skillfully crafted by a brilliant professor.

By Tahir S

Jun 29, 2017

A, rather, novel and energetic approach to ancient philosophy. The assessment method was challenging but though-provoking! The last two weeks on moral psychology are gems even for those who have read Plato's three dialogues on their own.

By Chen Y

Jul 24, 2020

This is my first complete philosophy course. In my university, my professor led us to some bits of it but i never picked it up again until this year. I'm happy that i persisted and completed this course. Thank you so much Mr. Holbo!

By Carla L R

May 22, 2018

John Holbo is an outstanding Professor who has successfully managed to explain such a complex reading that is Republic using down-to-earth language and making you feel comfortable while reading it. I highly recommend it!

By Bob B

Apr 22, 2018

Very well explained how Socrates use dialectic inquiry and reasoning with the virtual topic, which the concepts are hard to be well defined and commonly people have very intuitive understanding about them.

By Tony W

Dec 17, 2017

Very interesting, diversity of material (drawings used) and of texts used makes every chapter seem fresh. Professor is funny and random jokes kept me involved whilst staying relaxed.

By Jacob R

Oct 27, 2016

I wish the course was longer! The Professor did a fantastic job of making the content fascinating and engaging. Please please please make another MOOC!

By Serena F

Aug 25, 2022

Loved this course! The instructor made the lectures fun and exciting and explained the material well. The quizzes were tricky.

By Dzulhafiez I

Mar 29, 2022

This course is based on Logic and is not that difficult. It is a good course on philosophy and greek mythology.

By Marianne L

Nov 14, 2019

Very interesting. A little bit long and tests are harsh especially when you are not a native english speaker.

By Maria

Aug 17, 2017

I highly recommend this course. I have learned a lot and really enjoyed Profesor Holbo sessions and cartoons.