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Lecture 17

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University of Toronto St. George
Ben Akrigg

CLA260H1S Method and Theory in Classics Session 17: Philosophy 2 Plato’s Socrates in action: In Plato’s dialogue Protagoras¸ Socrates is the central character. Most of the work describes how Socrates met the famous Protagoras of Abdera, and the discussions that follow. At the very start there is a short scene where Socrates is met by an unnamed friend; the rest of the work is Socrates’ account of how he has spent the earlier part of the day. Socrates tells his friend that he was woken up before dawn by Hippocrates, who was very excited to tell him that Protagoras had arrived in town. Hippocrates was eager to meet Protagoras and become his pupil, and wanted Socrates’ help. Socrates then pointed out that it was far too early, and suggested that they wait a little while; Socrates and Hippocrates talked while they waited. See now the excerpt on the accompanying sheet (the translation is taken from Christopher Taylor’s edition, in the Clarendon Plato Series), which recounts that conversation between Socrates and Hippocrates. As you read it, think about these questions: 1. Near the beginning (311b), Socrates says ‘In order to test Hippocrates I began to examine him and ask him questions.’ ( καὶ ἐγὼ ἀποπειρώμενος τοῦ Ἱππόκρατες τῆς ῥώμης διεσκόπουν αὐτὸν καὶ ἠρώτων...). Why do you think Socrates does this, and what do you think he is trying to achieve by this questioning? 2. Why does Hippocrates want to meet Protagoras (and possibly become his student)? 3. What is Hippocrates’ attitude to sophists? 4. What is Socrates’ attitude to sophists? 5. What is the point of Socrates’ comparison of a sophist with a music teacher (at 312d5-312e)? Is it an effective comparison? Notes on the excerpt: 1. The word translated as ‘soul’ (e.g. at 312c1) is in Greek psuchē, which has a rather wider range of meaning than the English word implies, as it includes intellect, will and emotions – essentially all non-bodily aspects of the self. 2. The Protagoras was writte
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