Plato in Paris

January 30, 2023
Rosie Eden

Warm weather, fresh croissants and my trusty copy of Plato’s Republic: Perfection. This summer, I had the privilege of taking Professor Morison’s famous philosophy course, Plato in Paris. Mid-June, I eagerly set out for Charles de Gaulle airport along with ten other classmates. After adjusting to the initial jetlag, we were enthusiastic to begin our deep dive into "The Republic". The daily voyage from our Cité Universitaire housing to the École Normale Supérieure, where class was held, consisted in a two-stop trip along Paris’s RER B line. We spent between three to six hours in class each day. In class, we would discuss the text in small fragments, ultimately achieving a thorough understanding of Plato’s complex argument. By the conclusion of the course, we had spent over 90 hours exploring "The Republic". In addition to these conversations, we were lucky to receive guest lectures from Parisian scholars of Plato. During the regular school year, it’s difficult to find time for philosophic reflection amid a busy schedule, other coursework, and additional commitments. The unique circumstances of the Plato in Paris, however, created an environment in which all participants were solely devoted to the communal project of understanding this text together. I think all students would benefit greatly to have an academic experience such as this.

Class photo of students and professors sitting around a long table
Class Photo at the École Normale Supérieure

In addition to the many insights on Platonic philosophy I acquired inside the classroom, I also encountered equally enriching experiences outside the classroom. The course featured many excursions, including a Louvre trip, a river cruise and a visit to the top of the Eiffel Tower. During my six week stay in Paris, I grew familiar with the layout and geography of Paris’s 20 arrondissements. In addition to participating in Princeton sponsored excursions, my classmates and I took full advantage of our unique opportunity to explore the city on our own. We often held picnics along the brink of the Seine river or in front of the Eiffel Tower.

Group of students having a picnic
Bastille Day Picnic at Esplanade des Invalides

Eager to see more of the country, a small group of classmates ventured to the South of France for a weekend excursion. Admittingly, I had to push down the overwhelming sense of nausea as we traveled on France’s 200mph TGV bullet trains. During our time navigating between Aix-en-Provence, Cassis, Marseille and Lyon, we were able to meet other Princeton students completing International Internship Programs (IIP) for the summer. We even visited the French beaches! I was able to build a wonderful sense of community with my peers over the time we spent together in France. After returning to Princeton in the fall, I happily encounter the smiling faces of my new friends. I loved every moment of this course, and it has inspired me to continue studying philosophy at Princeton!

Two girls in a staircase in Lyon
Exploring Lyon