The Socrates Who Does (Not) Know: Gorgias, Charmides, Laches, and Lysis
Although Socrates has become iconic for “knowing that he doesn’t know”, only some of Plato’s dialogues actually cast Socrates in this light. Other dialogues portray a Socrates who seems to know a great deal about a great deal (including love, politics, virtue and the afterlife). This course examines important dialogues of both types. On the one hand we will read and discuss “aporetic” or “inconclusive” dialogues about the nature of temperance (Charmides), courage (Laches) and friendship (Lysis). On the other we will consider Plato’s great Gorgias in which Socrates practically preaches for one particular notion of the good life. Overall, we will seek to understand both the individual dialogues and the range of Plato’s “poetic license” in his portrayal of Socrates.