Friday, April 23, 2021

Socratic seminars continue

I have just concluded the third series of four on-line seminars which I have been leading, on Plato's 'Socratic' or 'early' dialogues, and I'm planning more. The discussions have been stimulating and enjoyable. Email me if you would like to take part - for more details and contact see here.

So what's this all about?

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 philosophical 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 of Series 1 and 2 tend to be pretty short; the later series' ones are a bit longer, but it's still like reading a chapter, rather than a book. So these hour-long seminars shouldn't require a huge amount of preparation.

Having gone through the eight dialogues of Series 1 and 2, which are the shortest and best-suited for beginners, I am now tackling the slightly longer and more complex ones in Series 3 and 4. For those coming to this fresh, I am reprising to the first two series, which serve as a good introduction to the genre.

So those interested can choose, this time around, between these two options. For beginners:

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

For those who've done either or both of Series 1 and 2:

Series 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 3th 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 the Apology and ask yourself if you'd like to talk about it with others.

More details, including prices, here.

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