PHIL 51.001 – FYS: Who Was Socrates?
Instructor: Mariska Leunissen. This course meets MTWRF 9:45 – 11:15 a.m. in CW 103.
Socrates is by far the most famous Greek philosopher and, perhaps, the first real philosopher known in the Western tradition. In this course, we explore the intellectual and historical context within which Socrates is thought to have revolutionized philosophy so as to better understand his significance for his contemporaries and for us. Our focus, however, will be on the large and perennial human questions that Socrates made his own: How should we live? What is virtue? What sort of society should we strive to provide for our families and for ourselves? And: what is philosophy and what role should philosophy play in our lives? Each week we will read a part of one of the primary texts and discuss it carefully in class. These discussions will serve both as a testing-ground for ideas and as preparation for the writing assignments and for the final symposium presentations. By learning to talk and write in an engaging but disciplined way about books and ideas that are both exciting and significant, we will not only be finding out about Socrates but also be taking up the Socratic challenge to live the examined life. We will read selections from Plato’s Dialogues, but also from Sophocles’ Antigone, Euripides’ Hippolytus, Aristophanes’ Clouds, Xenophon’s Apology, and Gorgias’ Defense of Helen.