Justice, Gods, and Standards

My 9:30 class (one I’m taking, not that I’m teaching) was mysteriously vacant today, so I’ll go ahead and write now about today’s Plato classes. (Those I teach.)

Now that I’m doing Tuesday-Thursday comp classes and have fewer days to teach, I compressed the entire trial of Socrates into today’s discussion. For whatever reason (can’t remember if a student initiated the diversion or if I did), we launched into a discussion of the gods and their relationship with Socrates’s perceived role in the world. The big question that kept us occupied was why atheism was not only distasteful to Socrates’s accusers but genuinely a crime. The discussion didn’t take too long to veer into questions of modern theocratic states, in what ways and to what extent liberal tolerance of religion is better or worse than a legal system in which atheism is a crime.

We also talked a fair bit about the Crito and its assertion that only the opinions of good people ought to matter when making decisions. We talked about how that claim, harmless enough when one’s mother exhorts one not to jump off cliffs that everyone is jumping off of, becomes quite dangerous politically when the prevailing system of government is democracy, in which the opinions of the good and the bad have equal weight so long as they’re all property-owning males.

I finished with a bit about Paul, namely that the texts that seem to have influenced him most are the Hebrew Bible and Plato. I think we got there by means of talking about Socrates’s disciples that he keeps mentioning throughout the Apology, and we finished by talking about what a profound influence that Socrates still has among humans.

I might post some more after I teach 11:00, but I might not. I’ll just have to see.


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