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Reading Notes

Reading philosophical essays is more challenging in that you often have to scan once, read once, and review once before you can adequately explain the author's position. In order to be sure that you are receiving maximum benefit from your time spent studying, try to answer the guide questions posed below. If you cannot answer them, it is time to read or review to be sure you understand the main arguments presented. See more tips here.

Plato: Apology

Reading Plato's dialogues is one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences in Western philosophy. The Apology is one of Plato's most famous dialogues. It covers everything from Plato's theory of knowledge to the place of philosophy in contemporary life. Plato argues that the unexamined life is not worth living, and as a philosophy professor, I tend to agree.

Plato's Apology is really a defense of philosophy.  Socrates has a very real choice to make both in this dialogue and in the Crito. The choice is simply: give up the practice of doing philosophy or face certain execution by your many enemies.  Throughout his eloquent speech Socrates refutes the three charges brought against him and continually reaffirms his commitment to philosophy, not out of hubris, but rather born from a genuine concern to encourage reflection in two arenas.

 First, he challenges the wise men of repute who rule Athens. These encounters are dialogues about the origins of knowledge, wisdom, justice, beauty, love and piety. His "teachings" are informal discussions designed to examine one particular issue.  These challenges to public opinion have brought him many enemies. Second, he challenges the city as a whole to develop the character of its citizens by bringing them the capacity to think critically. Remember the Sophists are in high fashion at the time and Socrates challenges the idea that arguments that merely sound good are valid.  

  1. Resources
  2. Guide Questions
  3. Smartboard Notes

Here are some web sites that will enhance your understanding of this week's reading:

Plato's Apology:

Guide Questions:

The following questions are designed to fine tune your understanding of the reading. The subject matter and answers to these questions form the basis of what you will be required to know for exams.

Objectives for this week: To continue our adventure in learning about the roots of Western philosophy by grappling with the interesting claims made in Plato's Apology. After reading the Apology, reviewing the resources and attempting the guide questions below, you should be able to:

  1. list the three charges brought against Socrates and discuss the nature/spectrum of the accusers
  2. describe how Socrates defends himself against the charges
  3. provide a cogent summary of Plato's theory of knowledge
  4. discuss Socrates' reasons for not abandoning philosophy along with his vision of the soul/psyche
  5. explain why Socrates is not content to merely beg for his life

Apology

Guide Questions:

The following questions are designed to fine tune your understanding of the reading. I will check to see if you've completed them; the subject matter and answers to these questions form the basis of what you will be required to know for exams.

17-23:

24-27: the encounter with Meletus

28-32: the practice of philosophy and service to the city

33-35: Socrates' summary, the "last stand"

36-42: post-conviction blues

Some post-Apology considerations:

  1. The Apology presents us with a clear dilemma: one may become unpopular and reviled for challenging common conceptions of reality.  Socrates challenges public opinion about all manner of ideas and has angered many.  Is it OK to give in to social pressure to do something that is unjust?
  2.  What is the most important element in Socrates' choice of profession? Do you think it is important to pursue work that is meaningful? 
  3. Why does Athens put Socrates to death? Why not just exile him?
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Smartboard Notes from Weeks 3 & 4 Lectures:

plato-apology-notes

 

maslow

part 1

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