Socratic Society

"Affirming Racial Equality: Justice, Acknowledgement, and Collective Memory" by Andrew Valls (OSU, Political Science)

Thursday April 19th, 4:30 pm, Meyer Memorial Trust Boardroom (URBN 710)

Much philosophical work has been done on how to address the material harms of historic injustice. There has been a lively debate, for example, on whether slavery and Jim Crow provide a basis for black reparations. Less philosophical attention has been given to the nonmaterial harms of historic injustice, such as the denial of moral and civic equality. In this paper I argue that justice requires that the state acknowledge the harms of the past and reaffirm the equal citizenship and equal moral worth of all citizens. It must reject the racist practices and norms of the past and the symbolic and cultural expressions associated with them. It must memorialize the past so as to convey the appropriate interpretations and evaluations. I explore these requirements of justice by considering the role of truth commissions, apologies, museums, memorials, among other means of affirming the values of a liberal society in the wake of historic injustice. I also consider symbols that express resistance to racial equality and that reflect nostalgia for de jure racial hierarchy. 


"The science of number in Plato's Parmenides" by Sophia Stone (Lynn University, Philosophy)

Thursday May 17th, 7:00 pm, location TBD

The deductions in the Second Part of Plato's Parmenides are puzzling. The traditional view is that Socrates is correcting Plato's theory of Forms from the First Part of the dialogue, and the First Part represents Plato's developmental "middle period". Another view is that he is just being playful and that these deductions in the Second Part aren't serious. Perhaps there is a third way of thinking about the deductions. Perhaps we should think about them as preparing us for a study in number? When we analyze the propositions in the Second Part with respect to the problems and proofs that the mathematicians were concerned with about number in ancient Greece that Plato would have known, the deductions seem to prepare one for the study of mathematics. 

Perhaps contrary to the tradition, the Second Part is not meant to correct Plato's mistakes in the theory of Forms from the First Part. The properties of number, equality, oddness and evenness, commensurability and incommensurability, seem to be treated in the same manner as they were in Plato's Phaedo. Perhaps it is our understanding of Plato's theory of Forms that needs to be revised, not the theory itself, and perhaps the deductions in the Parmenides are exercises for thinking about mathematics, not Forms, and that once we've understood the deductions, we then are prepared to read correctly Plato's theory of Forms. 

If it is true that Plato thought the philosopher needed instruction in mathematics before studying his theory of Forms, then we might first try to understand how Plato thought about and used number before we think about Forms. This paper would be the beginning then, of such a project.



Past Events


The Socratic Society of Portland State University is a venue for Philosophy faculty and philosophers from outside the University to present papers or speak on various topics of interest. 

Please check periodically for upcoming events, and if you are interested in presenting or participating with the Socratic Society at PSU, please contact Avram Hiller at or Brad Berman at