Tyr’s Day, January 28: “Greek” Philosophy

  • EQ: What is “philosophy” – and what is NOT?
  • Welcome! Gather pen/cil, paper, last week’s work,wits!
  • Activity: Make Me Mad!
  • Lecture/Presentation: “Greek” Philosophy
  • Sophists vs. Philosophers
  • Socrates
  • CLOZE: “Greek” Philosophy
  • Freewrite: Sophist or Philosopher?

ELACC12RL-RI1: Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis

ELACC12RL-RI2: Analyze two or more themes or central ideas of text

ELACC12RI3: Analyze and explain how individuals, ideas, or events interact and develop

ELACC12RL4-RI4: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in text

ELACC12RL5: Analyze an author’s choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text

ELACC12RL6: Distinguish what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant

ELACC12RI6: Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text

ELACC12RI8: Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal texts of World Literature

ELACC12RL-RI9: Analyze for theme, purpose rhetoric, and how texts treat similar themes or topics

ELACC12RL10: Read and comprehend complex literature independently and proficiently.

ELACC12W1: Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts

ELACC12W2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas

ELACC12W4: Produce clear and coherent writing appropriate to task, purpose, and audience

ELACC12W9: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis

ELACC12W10: Write routinely over extended and shorter time frames

ELACC12SL1: Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions

ELACC12SL3: Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, evidence and rhetoric

ELACC12SL6: Adapt speech to a variety of tasks, demonstrating a command of formal English

ELACC12L1: Demonstrate standard English grammar and usage in speaking and writing.

ELACC12L4: Determine/clarify meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases

ELACC12L6: Acquire and use general academic and domain-specific words and phrases

Try to make me mad by asking questions about something we have studied, or that I have ever said in class.

Questions must fall in these parameters, and must be worded “cleanly.”

Activity ends when I say “stop.”

Bet ya can’t do it.

Introduction to Greek Philosophy

Philosophy happened mostly at the Acropolis

(Greek: “edge of the city”)

The Acropolis was a set of buildings and open areas on a hill outside Athens where Greeks of all social classes came together to discuss and debate current issues.

Here the sophists met to discuss and debate.

A sophist(Greek: “wise one”)

claimed to have wisdom, know truth

(about science, politics, morals, the gods, etc.) and would teach it for money.

Wealthy families would decide which sophist they believed, and hire him to teach truth to their sons.

This was school (Greek: “relaxation”)

Aphilosopherhad an entirely different mindset from a sophist – and that difference is found in the words.

  • “Sophist” means, literally, “wise-ist” or “person who has wisdom.” A sophist believed he had the truth, and would teach it to others for money; wealthy parents would send their sons to speak with, and in some cases live with, a sophist. (BTW – sophists and their students werealways male in Ancient Greece.)
  • Today “Sophistry” means “deceptive argument.” That’s because a sophist had to fit new questions or information into his existing set of answers.
  • “Philosopher” means, literally, “lover of wisdom” or, more precisely, “one who yearns for wisdom.” In other words, s/he desirestruth – because s/he does not believe s/he has it yet. A philosopher does not claim to have found truth, but is instead looking for it. (BTW – there were some female philosophers.)
  • “Philosophy” does not settle on answers; it always asks questions. New questions and information push philosophy to ask more questions.

Philosophers – especially Socrates – made sophists really, really mad.

Here is Polykleitos' sculpture Doryphoros,

which represents the Greek Ideal of beauty and truth as inspired by Apollo.

Here is Socrates ( c. 469-399 BCE)

The greatest of the Greek philosophers described himself as a short, fat, ugly, smelly old man who knew nothing.

An old soldier, wrestler and construction worker, Socrates would walk around the Acropolis asking the sophists questions and getting them to contradict themselves –forcing them to admit that they did not knowthe truth after all.

This is called The Socratic Method:

  • Ask questions of someone until that person’s answers contradict a “Truth” which that person is proposing;
  • This exposes a contradiction in that person’s “Truth” – and probably embarrasses him/her!
  • BUT that process gets us closer to “Truth.” Which, of course, we never finally reach.

The sophists of Athens got tired of Socrates, and persuaded the Government to issue

three charges:

  • That Socrates was a sophistpracticing without permission/license – i.e., that he claimed to know the truth and was teaching it for cash without first obtaining permission from Athens;
  • That Socrates was an atheist who denied the existence of the Greek Gods and taught his students to ridicule the gods and those who believed in them; and
  • That Socrates was “corrupting the youth of Athens.” Probably this meant that his teaching was encouraging the rich boys of Athens to disbelieve, disrespect and disobey their parents. Some, however, think it meant …. well …. ew …

The Athenian Courtfound Socrates guilty, and gave himthree choices:

  • He could leave Athens;
  • He could stay in Athens but stop teaching;
  • He could die by drinking hemlock.

Freewrite 20 words: In these circumstances, which would you choose, and why?

Consider – you’re really answering this question: What is Truth worth to you?

Socrates chose to die.

Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Socrates. Oil on Canvas, 51" x 77 ¼”, 1787

Before ending his life by drinking hemlock, Socrates gave the Court of Athens his Apo logy – not “I’m sorry” but, literally, his “last words” to explain himself, his actions, and his choice of death rather than exile or silence.

Socrates’ life, words and death were enormously influential, inspiring especially to two Athenians:

  • Plato, who published The Apology of Socrates and other books recording and expanding Socrates’ philosophy, and founded The Academy, a school teaching free thought;
  • Aristotle, who studied under Plato and went on to write books applying Socratic thinking to Politics, Ethics, Poetry, Science, etc.

Tomorrow, we’ll start reading The Apology of Socrates, written by Plato but recounting Socrates’ words to the Court of Athens on his last day alive.

CLOZE: “Greek” Philosophy

  1. The ______was a set of buildings and open areas on a hill outside ______.
  2. Here Greeks of ______social classes would come together to ______.
  3. The word “school” comes from a Greek word meaning ______.
  4. The word “sophist” literally means ______.
  5. A sophist claimed to know ______, and would teach it to others for ______.
  6. Sophists and their students were always which sex?
  7. Today, the word “sophistry” refers to what kind of argument?
  8. The word “philosopher” means, literally, ______of ______.
  9. A philosopher desired ______but unlike a sophist believed s/he had not ______.
  10. Philosophy does not settle on ______; it is more interested in ______.
  11. How did Socrates describe himself?
  12. What are the three steps in theSocratic Method?
  13. What were the three charges against Socrates?




  1. What choices did the city offer to Socrates?




  1. Which of these did he choose?
  2. What does the word “Apology” mean in The Apology of Socrates?
  1. How was Plato connected to Socrates?
  1. How was Aristotle connected to Socrates?

Turn in today: CLOZE

Freewrite (100 words): Analyze your own relationship to “truth” by answering:

Are you a sophist, a philosopher, or neither?