Reading Plato: An Introduction to Philosophy

Read and discuss the famous dialogues where Socrates stands accused of corrupting the youth of Athens.

  • Six weekly small-group sessions suitable for beginners
  • No experience necessary, just a curious mind
  • Read a set passage before the evening talk and discussion
  • All readings from The Last Days of Socrates
    (Purchase: online, off the shelf e.g., at Readings, or order with enrolment)


BOOKINGS NOW OPEN for Twilight Term 2024
Starting Wednesday 23 October in Lonsdale St (+online)



Course Outline

All readings are from three of Plato’s dialogues: Apology, Euthyphro and Phaedo.

Session 1  | Philosophy, Scepticism and Wisdom | Apology page 20c to 23e

Convicted of corrupting the youth with impieties, Socrates’ trial defence is a classic of philosophical scepticism.
Why is scepticism preparatory to philosophical inquiry? What is meant by ‘divine wisdom’?

Session 2  | What is Justice? | Euthyphro (complete)

Back before his trial, Socrates falls into discussion with his friend, a theologian, about the nature of ‘piety’. This classic (and infuriating!) demonstration of Socratic inquiry shifts to the grander question of ‘justice’.
We all know what justice means…or do we?

Session 3  | Body & Soul | Phaedo page 60b to 69e 

It’s dawn in prison on Socrates’ last day and he is arguing that bodily emotions and senses distract from the absolute and insensible reality of justice, beauty, equality, etc. The ensuing arguments for the soul’s immortality informed Christianity on a topic found deficient in the Bible.
Why do true philosophers lose their fear of death?

Session 4  | The other side of Things | Phaedo page 70a to 79e

In building the case for immortality, Socrates argues that all generation proceeds from opposite to opposite. Platonic opposites (holy/unholy, just/unjust, equal/unequal, greater/smaller) are complete unto themselves in their very opposition.
Can you think of some other Platonic opposites? In what sense are they boundless?

Session 5  | The absolute reality of ‘Forms’ | Phaedo page 84c to 100a

As death approaches, the ‘proof’ of immortality is presented with powerful challenges, which raises the question of whether the discursive method can be trusted when seeking truth.
If an interest in the outcome of an inquiry obstructs the pursuit of truth, is Socrates disinterested on the subject of immortality?

Session 6  | What is Platonism? | Phaedo page 100c to 105e

In a renewed defence of immortality, Socrates explains how sensible realities come to be through ‘participation’ in absolute Forms.
The final winning argument for immortality may not win you, but what is this vision of reality that will come to be known as Platonic?