Socrates: The Foundation of Western Society

Socrates is considered to be the founding figure of Western Philosophy. The course examines the historical figure and his ideas; how the ‘Socratic Method’ works; and the profound impact of the ‘idea’ of Socrates in history. Socrates has stood for ideas such as: ‘Wonder is the beginning of wisdom’ and ‘The unexamined life is not worth living’, they make up a body of philosophical attitudes with a distinctive approach, and method which have become ‘Socratic’. His place in the history of philosophy is important enough to have named the Western tradition before him as Pre-Socratic.


  • Online


  • Ahbel-Rappe, Sara, and Rachana Kamtekar (eds.), 2005, A Companion to Socrates, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.
  • Bussanich, John, and Nicholas D. Smith (eds.), 2013, The Bloomsbury Companion to Socrates, London: Bloomsbury Publishing.
  • Nails, Debra, 2002, The People of Plato: A Prosopography of Plato and Other Socratics, Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.
  • Morrison, Donald R., 2010, The Cambridge Companion to Socrates, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Rudebusch, George, 2009, Socrates, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Thesleff, Holger, 2009, Platonic Patterns: A Collection of Studies, Las Vegas: Parmenides Publishing.
  • Plato, Early Socratic Dialogues, Penguin Classics 2015.


  • Introduction: What does Socrates stand for?
  • The historical Socrates: We will approach this issue by looking at sources such as Aristophanes’ play about Socrates: The Clouds, and the writings of Xenophon.
  • Plato’ Socrates: Generally, the works which are most often assigned to Plato's early years are all considered to be Socratic dialogues (written from 399 to 387). Many of his Middle dialogues (written from 387 to 361, after the establishment of his Academy), and later dialogues (written in the period between 361 and his death in 347) incorporate Socrates as a character but are considered to be Platonic. We will begin with some of the early Socratic dialogues: Euthyphro, Crito, The Apology.
  • The Socratic Method: The Socratic Method requires a dialogical approach in which both parties to the discussion are brought closer to understanding. Two terms in this method are: Elenchus and Aporia.
  • Eros: We will look at the role of Eros in a number of the Socratic Dialogues, particularly the Symposium.
  • The Unexamined life: The Unexamined life is not worth living is a proposition which in the dialogues is both epistemological and moral. It concerns the questions of how to live a life of ‘areta’
  • Socrates on happiness: “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”
  • ‘Socratic’ approach to knowledge: I will argue that the ‘Socratic’ approach to knowledge is important still in our contemporary world and can contribute to working through some of our contemporary problems. Socrates, in his own time, challenged the beliefs of the establishment around him; he was renowned for taking on high priests, politicians and generals on issues such as: the meaning of justice, law and courage. The art of Socratic questioning is intimately connected with critical thinking.


By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Discuss the main events of Socrates life and times.
  2. Understand the important concepts in his philosophy.
  3. Use the Socratic Method as a tool in discussion.
  4. Relate the theory to contemporary arguments in ethics and politics.
  5. Discuss the Socratic attitude on matters of ordinary life and what constituted a life of areta.
$278 Limited / $250

<p>Socrates is considered to be the founding figure of Western Philosophy. The course examines the historical figure and his ideas; how the ‘Socratic Method’ works; and the profound impact of the ‘

19 Jul

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