Thursday, April 29, 2021

Who'd like to talk about Socrates and his friends? Yet more Socratic seminars

I'm reposting and updating this as I'm preparing yet another series of online seminars, my fourth, for all comers, on the early dialogues: explorations of moral concepts designed to draw non-specialists into philosophy, which lie at the root of the whole western philosophical tradition, and which rank as among the greatest works of European culture.

It has been a lot of fun for me and I think for the participants, of whom there must have been about twenty so far. The advance reading is limited, the seminars are one-hour long, students and the 'unwaged' pay 50%, and you can fit them in wherever you are in the world. I lead seminars of between two and five people (not counting me).

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. 

These dialogues are uniquely suited to stimulating discussion among people who don't necessarily already have philosophical training: indeed, it seems very probable that this is the point of them. They introduce us to the thought-world of ancient Athens, and to the methods of philosophy: careful argumentation, exposing hidden assumptions and logical fallacies, all in the context of the personal dynamics of the dialogue format, which adds another layer of interest to these works.

Nothing comes without a background, but the background here is more manageable than that of pretty well any other texts which come to mind. 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. The dialogues themselves are pretty short (though they vary). So these hour-long seminars don't require a huge amount of preparation.

Having done eight dialogues, including the shorter ones, I am, however, now getting to the point that somewhat longer and more complex texts remain, among those regarded as 'Socratic' dialogues. My selection for the next four seminars, therefore, makes sense for those who have done one or other of Series 1 or 2. For those coming to this fresh, I shall be returning to the first two series, which serve as a good introduction to the genre.

So those interested can choose between these two options:

For those coming to it fresh:

2: Apology (on Socrates' mission), the Crito (on political obligation), Charmides (on temperance), and Hippias Minor (on voluntary wrongdoing).

For those who've done either or both of the Series 1 or 2, the slightly more advanced Series 4:

4: Protagoras (virtue and its teachability) and Gorgias (oratory and justice), each divided into two parts.

I expect to start these in the week beginning 3rd May: those interested will take part in a Doodle poll to choose mutually convenient times. I've already had participants from Seattle, Chile, and South Africa!

If you are looking at this and wondering if it's going to make any sense to you, go and read  Apology and ask yourself if you'd like to talk about it with others.

More details, including prices, here.

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