Poetry and Politics in Ancient Greece
Socrates asks of his challenger in The Republic: "Do do you suppose you are trying to determine a small matter and not a course of life on the basis of which each of us would have the most profitable existence?” For Socrates, defining the good life is the central philosophical endeavor.
The goal of this course is to watch Socrates as he picks his way through the various answers to the question: which comes first in creating virtuous citizens, the just individual or a stable state? The difficulty is a conflict in foundations. The education of a just person requires a stable and lawful state. The foundation of a stable and lawful state requires just citizens to begin with. Then too the stable state often depends, or often seems to depend, upon doing acts of injustice. We will read Herodotus' Persian Wars, Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian Wars, Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound, Aristophanes' The Clouds, and six dialogues of Plato: Apology, Crito, Meno, Protagoras, Republic, and the Phaedrus. Requirement: regular class preparation and participation, one short paper, one long paper. Papers may be rewritten.
Recommended reading: Homer's Iliad. If a student has not read Homer's Iliad and wants a guide to it, send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Texts: Herodotus, The Landmark Herodotus (The Free Press); Aeschylus II, trans. Grene, Lattimore, etc. (Chicago); Thucydides, The Landmark Thucydides: History of the Peloponnesian Wars (The Free Press); Four Texts on Socrates, ed. West and West (Cornell); Plato, Republic, trans. Grube (Hackett); Plato, Protagoras, trans. Lombardo; Plato, Phaedrus, trans. Nehemas and Woodruff (Hackett).