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In September and October of 1998, I gave a course of eight, two-hour lectures on “The Trial of Socrates.” We covered the following topics and texts:
- Myth, pre-philosphical concepts of order, and the presocratic philosophical background of Aristophanes’ Clouds
- Aristophanes’ comedy Clouds, which gives a very unflattering portrayal of Socrates
- Plato’s dialogue Theages, which can be read as a rebuttal to the Clouds
- Plato’s dialogue Euthyphro, which is set just before the trial of Socrates and deals with one of the accusations against him, namely impiety
- Plato’s Apology of Socrates, his speech to the jury at his trial
- Plato’s dialogue Crito, which is set in his prison cell as Socrates awaits execution
- Plato’s dialogue Phaedo, which describes the last conversations and death of Socrates
The whole class was taped, but the tapes of the first lecture, which was an introduction to the whole course, and the last lecture, on the Phaedo, have disappeared. Nevertheless, the six remaining lectures, which I will release in 12 separate parts, contain a lot of useful material.
The books for the class are:
- A Presocratics Reader, ed. Patricia Curd (we used the first edition; the pagination may be different for the second edition)
- Plato and Aristophanes, Four Texts on Socrates: Plato’s “Euthyphro,” “Apology of Socrates,” “Crito,” and Aristophanes’ “Clouds”, ed. and trans. Thomas West and Grace Starry West
- Plato, Theages, in The Roots of Political Philosophy: Ten Forgotten Socratic Dialogues, ed. Thomas L. Pangle
The very last words of this recording are cut off as the tape ran out, but the gist of the sentence is this: “If you say that there are gods everywhere, and that natural substances and forces are gods, and these gods care nothing about human affairs, that is not, strictly speaking, atheism. But from the point of view of the defenders of the various local religions, it is the practical equivalent of atheism, for it undermines piety and belief in the gods of the city.”
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://email@example.com before starting work, so we can prevent wasteful duplication of efforts.