Wednesday, February 10, 2021

More Socratic seminars!

I'm reposting this: a final call for expressions of interest. Many of those involved in the first series are carrying on with the second, and others have asked to join. If you would like to join Series 2, which will begin in the week starting 21st February, please let me know by the end of this week so groups, times, and dates can be arranged. Email joseph.shaw99 AT (replace AT with @).

Socrates is in green up on the left, in profile.

In early January I offered to lead some online seminars on early Socratic dialogues, as a small personal response to the lockdown, and (almost to my surprise) this has actually happened. We have now done three of the four proposed seminars, with seven students spread across two groups. It has been fun and I am planning the next set.

It is a remarkable fact of my experience - and I know other academics have found the same - that however many times one looks at a great text, discussing it with students seems to bring out new aspects of it. Different people notice different things, and these texts keep surprising us.

It's not that I think Plato (or Socrates) is right about everything in these dialogues. Indeed, in some ways he is stubbornly wrong-headed, in my view. What I value about them is that they are carefully crafted arguments addressing important ideas without too many preconceptions. I mean this in the sense that they are at the beginning of a tradition, rather than at the end of one (though these things are a matter of degree): in relation to Plato's own thinking, and in relation to great Greek-Roman-Latin-European philosophical tradition.

It is inevitably more difficult to understand later products of a tradition without understanding the earlier stages. Nothing comes without a background, but the background here is more managable than that of some other texts I could mention. For these, I've been putting together a single page of information about the cultural and historical background to each dialogue, and not asking students to do any other reading apart from the text itself.

I'd love to hear from anyone who'd like to join us to discuss the next four in my projected list. These will be the Apology, Crito, Charmides, and Hippias Minor.

More details, including prices, here.

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1 comment:

  1. Joseph, yours is a marvelous idea and effort. I, too, love to read the early dialogues, and only get to teach freshman from bits and pieces of the texts in an intro to philosophy class once every three or so years. Problem is, unless I am 'forced' to read these texts between semesters, I won't. I'll send you an e-mail to request to inscribe. Am solely concerned with the trans-Atlantic time difference. Pax et fides, G. Lloyd