English 84

Sophomore Seminar: Socrates as a Cultural Icon

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Fall 2008 Coolidge, John S.
Coolidge, John
W 3-5 305 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Four Texts on Socrates


"Socrates has often been compared to Jesus, an enigmatic yet somehow unmistakable figure who left nothing in writing yet decisively influenced the mind of his own and later ages. We will read Aristophanes' comic send-up of Socrates in Clouds and the Platonic dialogues purporting to tell the story of Socrates' trial and death (Euthyphro, Apology of Socrates, Crito, and selections from Phaedo) attempting to trace the construction of the Socratic icon and assess its relevance to issues in our contemporary ""culture wars,"" e.g. identity, freedom of speech, elitism, science and religion, ""know thyself,"" the aims of education, authority, male chauvinism, virtue, anti-intellectualism, academic freedom, family, civil disobedience, ""spin,"" body and soul, self-esteem, anomie, patriarchy, individualism, relativism, reductionism, self-ownership, conscience, reason, etc. Links to Wikipedia articles and other on-line resources on these topics are provided in the syllabus. Weekly meetings consist of two 50-minute sessions, each devoted to class discussion of one or another such issue, led by a team of two or more students who are to prepare for it in office-hour consultation with the instructor. The object is to provoke a lively debate. The course is intended to appeal especially to students who are desirous of getting in on the intellectual conversation of our time and curious about its cultural antecedents."

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