PHIL 51.002 – FYS: Who Was Socrates?
Instructor: Rory Hanlon. This course meets TR 12:30 – 1:45 p.m. in MU 314.
No one would deny that Socrates, a 5th century BC Greek philosopher, was quite strange. He is perhaps the foundational philosopher of the West, yet he did not write a single word and claimed to know nothing; he was accused of corrupting the youth and undermining political institutions, yet is seen as one of history’s most important moral thinkers; he is infamous for his irony and playfulness, yet saw himself on a divine mission to convert people to the ‘examined life’; he cared little for his personal affairs or hygiene, yet believed that the only important thing in life is the improvement of one’s soul. In this course, we will seek to understand Socrates’ strangeness: what Socrates represented and continues to represent for so many, why he has had so much influence, and what we might learn from him, even 2,500 years later. We will read ancient authors who knew Socrates himself, (e.g., Plato, Aristophanes, Xenophon) as well as modern thinkers who are inspired by Socrates (e.g., Martin Luther King Jr., Hannah Arendt).