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Lesley Dean-Jones, Chair 2210 Speedway, Mail Code C3400, Austin, TX 78712-1738 • 512-471-5742

Spring 2008

GK 390 • Sophists

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
32932 W
3:00 PM-6:00 PM
WAG 10

Course Description

Long before Socrates, Greek philosophers had established a tradition of cosmological and metaphysical philosophy. The intellectual movement that emerged during the fifth century, known as the new learning, was partly a reaction against this tradition, and partly a response to the need for the equivalent of higher education. Athens especially provided a rising demand for instruction in mathematics, history, anthropology, legal reasoning, and public speaking. Most prominent among the teachers of the new learning were those who came to be called Sophists. They were teachers of many things, and they were public performers besides. Only a part of their teaching was philosophical; but they engaged philosophers in argument, and Plato, on behalf of philosophy, returned the compliment. In this seminar we will study Sophists' influence on late fifth-century writing and then their own surviving works, down to the end of the fifth century BCE. We will also investigate Plato's treatment of the Sophists. In the course of the seminar we will study Platos conception of the generic Sophist, specific figures (Protagoras, Gorgias, Hippias, Prodicus, Antiphon, Thrasymachus, Socrates), and selected texts from Thucydides, Sophocles, and Euripides. Thucydides will receive at least two weeks of attention. Requirements and Grading You will commit yourself to a topic for concentration by the second week. On the Friday before your topic is to be discussed, you will submit a short discussion paper to Gagarin or Woodruff. If the paper would fit well into the week's discussion, the professor will so inform the student, and a copy of it will be placed in the course reserve folder in WAG 312 and will be posted on line. All students will be expected to read the paper and be prepared to discuss it in seminar on the following Wednesday. If you are in 381, you must submit a term paper of about 20 pages before the last week of class. This paper should be a development of your discussion paper. If you are in 390, you must submit a term paper of about 12 pages, and pass written exams on the assigned Greek texts. There will be no extensions of these deadlines. Each week specific passages from the reading will be assigned to be read in Greek by students in GK 390, who will then have an additional meeting for one hour per week to read and discuss the Greek. The time and place for these meetings will be arranged after the first session of the seminar.


Plato: Protagoras, Theaetetus, Sophist (Hackett) Gagarin and Woodruff, Early Greek Political Thought Woodruff, Thucydides on Justice, Power, and Human Nature Kerferd, The Sophistic Movement Aristophanes: Clouds (Meineck) Handout: selected passages from Sophocles and Euripides Sophocles: Philoctetes (Meineck)


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