The biennial Nellie Wallace Lectures, which are shared between the Faculty of Classics and the Faculty of Philosophy, enable scholars from outside the University to visit Oxford in order to lecture and conduct seminars in a subject in the field of Literae Humaniores (that is, ancient philosophy, ancient history, and the Greek and Roman languages and literatures)
Nellie Wallace Lectures 2022
Prof Rachel Barney, University of Toronto
The Just Society and its Enemies, Rereading Plato’s Republic in 2022
Since the publication of Karl Popper’s The Open Society and its Enemies in 1945, Plato’s political ideas in the Republic have generally been shunned with distaste. These lectures will make a case for the permanent value of the Republic as a work of political theory. While it has detailed and highly pertinent arguments to make about the requirements for a just society, it is a book not so much about justice or politics itself as about the preconditions for both: about the features of human nature and society which make the problem of injustice universal, urgent, and -- just barely -- solvable.
Lecture Three: 'Human Nature: A User's Guide'
On Plato's view a theory of politics must start from a theory of human nature. The features of human psychology which shape our political problems are a triad of kinds of desire: reason, aggression, and irrational appetite. Plato uses this account of the psyche to explain justice as a distributive principle: what it distributes first and foremost is kinds of labour. A just city will be one in which human nature finds proper expression in the work we do: it will also be a 'naturally happy' one.
Those who are unable to attend in person are welcome to join remotely via MS Teams, by clicking this link. You will be redirected to a page in which you will be prompted to sign in with your Oxford SSO.