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What Socrates Knew:
Thirty Socratic Theses, Part 1 of 2

socrateseng48:41 / 790 words

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In August of 1999, I started an eight-week lecture course called “What Socrates Knew: Plato on Art, Wisdom, and Happiness.” The main texts were Plato’s Gorgias and Alcibiades I, but I also used excerpts from the Euthydemus, Apology, Theages, and Symposium. I have recordings of all eight lectures, and the sound quality of the first one, at least, is quite adequate — much better than my “Trial of Socrates” lectures. I will serialize this course at Counter-Currents in 16 parts. 

The lectures were as follows:

  1. August 24: Introduction: Thirty Socratic Theses (Euthydemus, excerpt)
  2. August 31 : Socratic Ignorance, Eros, and the Daimonion (Apology, Theages, and Symposium, excerpts)
  3. September 7: Alcibiades I
  4. September 14: Gorgias, Introduction and Conversation with Gorgias (beginning-461b, pages 25-43)
  5. September 21: Gorgias, Conversation with Polus (461 b-481 b, pages 43-70)
  6. September 28: Gorgias, Callicles, I (481b-494b, pages 70-87)
  7. October 5: Gorgias, Callicles, II (494b-510a, pages 87-108)
  8. October 12: Gorgias, Callicles, III (510a-end, pages 108-129)

The readings for the class are:

The “Thirty Socratic Theses” covered in lecture #1 are:

  1. The primary philosophical question is: How should I live? What is the good life?
  2. All human action aims at happiness or well-being (eudaimonia).
  3. Well-being is not necessarily well-feeling, for well-being may require ill-feeling from time to time.
  4. Wisdom and luck are the two causes of well-being.
  5. Wisdom = the ability to make right use of all things.
  6. Wisdom is unconditionally and intrinsically good — all other things that contribute to the good life are merely conditionally and extrinsically good.
  7. Folly is the opposite of wisdom. It may not be unconditionally bad.
  8. Wisdom is not an art or technique. No technique is sufficient for the pursuit of happiness.
  9. Wisdom enlarges the realm of human power and efficacy, pushing back the frontiers of luck.
  10. All human beings intend the good; nobody intentionally does evil.
  11. Good action follows directly upon knowledge of the good.
  12. Evil action happens only out of ignorance of the good.
  13. Virtue is knowledge of the good; vice is ignorance of the good.
  14. The soul is susceptible of structural and dynamic analysis.
  15. The soul has parts (reason, spirit, desire) and these parts can function together in
    harmony (spiritual health) and in disharmony (spiritual disease).
  16. The soul also has a dynamic power: eros. Eros is the soul’s longing for growth toward the good: for completion, self-actualization, and immortality. Eros is the desire for the good of the soul aroused by the beauty of the body.
  17. Each part of the soul has its appropriate erotic object–knowledge, ideals, the necessities of life.
  18. Wisdom produces the inner harmony of the parts of the soul and guides them to their completion.
  19. Philosophy as the pursuit of wisdom = the care of the soul.
  20. Happiness = the harmonious unfolding and actualization of the soul’s powers over time, just as physical health is the harmonious unfolding and actualization of the body’s powers over time.
  21. Wisdom is itself a kind of inner harmony and completion of the soul.
  22. Wisdom both leads to happiness and is part of happiness itself.
  23. Happiness is unconditionally good as well.
  24. Once achieved, happiness as health of the soul, can never be corrupted by external actors; external forces can kill us, but only we can corrupt our souls.
  25. It is better to suffer injustice than to do it.
  26. True politics and true friendship aid the soul in its striving for happiness.
  27. False politics and false friendship (flattery) retard the soul’s striving for happiness.
  28. Freedom is doing what one really wants to do (pursuing happiness).
  29. Doing what one really wants to do is not necessarily the same as doing what one thinks one wants. (We can be ignorant of the good, mistaken about our interests.)
  30. One can be forced to be free.

If anyone is interested in producing a transcript of this lecture, we will gladly publish it. Ideally, we would like one person to do a draft transcription and then place it online to allow other listeners to offer corrections. Please contact Greg Johnson at mailto://editor@counter-currents.com before starting work, so we can prevent wasteful duplication of efforts.

Greg Johnson
Editor-in-Chief

 

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One Comment

  1. rhondda
    Posted May 15, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    I am so glad you are doing another series of podcasts on Socrates. Thanks.

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