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Course Description

Was Socrates guilty of treason and impiety? Did he corrupt the young of Athens? In “Socrates and his Critics,” we will read Plato's early ethical dialogues, encountering Socrates as a model teacher,someone who fearlessly inquired into the civic values of his time, who formed our conceptions of what it is to think clearly and critically, who understood that thinking is a communal cooperative practice, who showed us how to remain steadfast in the face of ambiguity and uncertainty... and who was condemned to death by the Athenians for treason, corrupting the young and dishonoring the Gods of the city. Working together, we will attempt to follow Socrates' model, to engage in collaborative discussion of the topics of Plato's early dialogues:friendship,sex,piety,justice, art and unconscious knowledge. Along with those dialogues,we will read modern authors who wrote on (what purports to be) the same subject (Kant on friendship, Durkheim and Kierkegaard on faith and religion, Nagel on sex, Oscar Wilde on art, Freud on unconscious knowledge) and enact a Socratic discussion with each of them. We’ll look at some artworks and attempt to see a painting through Socrates’ critical gaze, contrasting it with Wilde’s aesthetic stance. Finally, we shall read the Apology and the Crito, and end with the class dramatically recreating the trial of Socrates on the charges of treason, impiety and corrupting the youth, limiting ourselves to the evidence presented by the early dialogues. The course has six aims: 1) to acquaint the class with Plato's "early Socratic" ethical dialogues, 2) to compare Socratic views with a range of later philosophic approaches, methods and positions on ethical topics, noting the relation between a work’s genre (dialogue, essay, treatise, aphorisms) and its aims and audience, 3) to engage in “debates” with some modern critics of Socratic views and methods, 4) to attempt to see a work of art through Socratic eyes, contrasting it with Wilde’s aesthetic stance, 5) to reflect on the conception of philosophy --and its role in moral education--that each philosopher advocates, 6) to form a collegial intellectual community among the participants, one which we hope will extend beyond the seminar.

Basic Enrollment Requirements: Unofficial Transcript – High School Degree, Bachelor’s Degree, or progress towards a Bachelor’s Degree – 3.0 GPA

Instructor Approval: Not required

Remission Eligible: Yes, first day of term; all university policies apply

Refund Policy: For-Credit 3+ Weeks

Affiliated With:

School of Arts & Sciences