of Ideas, Second Navigation, and Knowledge as Remembering.
Faith and Reason
For our next
two classes, we will be focusing on a single philosopher,
the first from whom we possess a significant number of complete
works. The philosopher is Plato, and we call his works
"dialogues" because they imaginatively envision
philosophical conversations between two or more characters.
A favorite dialogue
used to introduce Plato's philosophy, and one especially suited
to our chosen themes, is the Phaedo. In it, Plato
pays homage to his teacher Socrates by depicting the final
hours of Socrates' life, conversing with friends before his
execution. The central, explicit philosophical question
is whether there is life after death, whether the soul is
immortal – but Plato uses the occasion to connect this question
to some of his central theoretical innovations (the theory
of recollection, the theory of the Forms) and practical concerns
(the relationship between reason and myth; the connection
between intellect and the emotions; the nature, causes, effects,
and significance of virtue; and the purpose of philosophy).
is the recommended reading for the next two courses.
It is not brief, but can be read in parts. A classic
discussion of the theory of the Forms, which will be a focus
of the class on October 25, takes place over just a few pages,
as part of Socrates' account of his own intellectual development
(in most editions, numbered in the margins 95e-102a).
Any edition of
the Phaedo can be used. The text is widely available
online, for instance here:
On the linked
page, you can find the section treating the theory of the
Forms about two-thirds of the way into the dialogue, by searching
down to the words "Socrates paused awhile"
and ending at the words "the wonderful clarity of