We had a great time on our first Philosophy Read-In bi-monthly gatherings. Facilitated by David Nowakowski, we started off this new community activity with two of the best-known Greek philosophers: Plato and Socrates.
At our first gathering, we dove into Plato’s Crito. In this dialogue, Socrates is in prison, having been convicted to crimes against the city of Athens and condemned to die. When his friends come to visit, they tell Socrates that they’ve hatched a plan to get him out of jail, and safely away to another city where he can live out his life. But is this really the right thing to do? Or does Socrates (and do we) have a duty to obey the laws even when they seem to harm us, even when the punishments seem harsh or unjust? In the Crito, Socrates and his friends examine exactly these questions.
At our second gathering for the month, we stepped into Plato’s Euthyphro, when Socrates has been called to court to answer charges of impiety. Outside the courtroom, he meets his friend Euthyphro, who is on his way to bring murder charges against his own father! As Socrates and Euthyphro try to work out the right thing for each of them to do, the discussion moves from the conflict between duties (to one’s parents, and to strangers, the law, and the city) into a wider examination of what exactly it is that makes an action just or holy. Is something holy because the Gods love it, or do the Gods love it because it is already holy? The dialogue teaches us both about the specific issues of goodness, holiness, and justice; and about Socrates’ general strategies for learning, understanding, and explanation.
Plato: The Last Days of Socrates, translated by Hugh Tredennick and Harold Tarrant. Penguin Books, 2003.
This book actually has four of Plato’s dialogues, all dealing with Socrates’ last month on earth, from his trial to his execution. In addition to the Euthyphro and the Crito (which we’ll be discussing this month), it also contains the Apology (Socrates’ defense speech at his trial) and the Phaedo (exploring why the philosopher does not fear death… and ending with Socrates’ own, fearless death!). If there’s interest among our group, we’ll return to the Apology and Phaedo in 2020.
Click on the images below to view and download the reading notes for each gathering.
Thank you to the Philosophy Learning & Teaching Organization (PLATO) for supporting philosophy in the community and helping us bring activities like these to the Helena community, to Cottonwood ALC Community Center for providing our group a beautiful space to gather, and to Montana Book Co. for helping us secure books for our group at a discounted rate!