Connections: The Trial of Socrates

Steve Smith
Office: Christian Center 19, 601-974-1334
Office hours posted @
Home: 1611 Edgewood St, 601-354 2290

FYCS 1110-06 Fall 2019
MWF 11:30

Why did one of the most famously reasonable people in history get tried, convicted, and executed for impiety and corrupting the youth in his community? How did Socrates’ follower Plato respond to this traumatic event by developing a profound metaphysics that was adopted by major thinkers over the course of many centuries, right up to our own time? What does the case of Socrates and Plato tell us about what happens when you use reason?

In this course we’ll study the formation of a philosophical tradition to see how this strong new initiative in reasoning interacts with social, moral, and religious values in classical contexts and in our own. We’ll look at the “trial of Socrates” in the double sense of one pivotal courtroom trial and the long-running trial of a strategy of thought in Western culture.


This course will be a fountain of fascinating ideas and information, I promise, but please note that it’s also designed as an exercise machine to strengthen your thinking, speaking, and writing powers so that you can enter more fully into the life and fellowship of the mind. You will be stimulated and supported in developing these broadly relevant, forever useful abilities:

Thinking and Reasoning. This is your ability to keep track of differences and similarities, of evidence and lack of evidence, and of your own acts of acceptance and rejection, so that you can draw conclusions about what is true or false, likely or unlikely, consistent or inconsistent. The use of philosophical methods in the course will challenge and lead you to reason in a sustained way.

This course is philosophical; its primary concern is not with what certain famous writers have thought is true or best but with what is true or best. We are faced with live philosophical questions, and our work consists of experiments in answering these. You will be asked to articulate your own understanding of these matters and to refine it critically in conversation with the historical sources and your fellow learners.

Communication. This course will ask you repeatedly to relate your thoughts to other people’s thoughts by speaking and writing. On at least one occasion you will make a formal oral presentation with multimedia support. We will pay attention to what it takes in various contexts to communicate successfully, considering clarity and aptness of language and responsibilities to subject matter and audience. We will practice the relevant skills, particularly

1. Discussion-starter oral thesis statements in class discussion
2. Clearly stated theses and appropriate primary source support in written papers, including essay exams
3. Avoiding plagiarism
4. Oral presentation of a project with multimedia support

Research. The Research Project in this course will develop your general awareness of what makes for (1) a significant primary source in humanities-based inquiry that is worth anyone’s while to try to interpret, and (2) an appropriate secondary source (the work of a fellow scholar) to help and/or challenge your interpretation of a primary source. You will receive suggestions from the instructor and fellow class members on your first description of your Project in your Prospectus and on the first full draft of your Project.

Historical consciousness. Besides learning how ideas came into existence and what some of their consequences were, we will strive to understand more substantially how our own lives belong to a historical-cultural continuum and how our own perceptions, desires, and choices relate to the weaving and unraveling of this larger fabric.


Grading will be based on oral class participation, sometimes with specific prompts (10%), shorter writing assignments (20%), a primary source study (10%), a Research Project (40%—25% for the paper, 15% for oral presentation), a midterm exam (10%), and a final exam (10%). Homework paragraphs will be graded “check” (possibly “check plus” or “check minus,” if they excel or fall short in significant ways). We’ll be talking all along about how to approach class discussion, assignments, and exams.


EasyWriter is your required reference for grammar and style. Course readings will be drawn from these required books (plus handouts, sometimes distributed by e-mail):

Plato, Five Dialogues (Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo)
Plato, Republic

subject to revision by announcement in class or email

The READ assignments are placed on the day on which they are due. Frequently during the semester I will ask you to turn in a PARAGRAPH responding to a question I will pose about a reading or viewing assignment. On occasion you will be called upon to present your ideas in these paragraphs in class. There are also seven WRITE assignments announced in the schedule below.

Week 1: Introduction to course issues

M 8-26 Introduction to course.
W 8-28 The Presocratics
READ: Selections from Presocratic thinkers (handout)
F 8-30 The Presocratics, cont.
WRITE: Your own speculation on phusis (250 words)

Week 2: The philosophical critique of religion in Greek thought

W 9-4 Traditional Greek religion: Homer.
READ: Homer selection (handout)
F 9-6 Xenophanes’ critique of religion.
READ: Xenophanes selection (handout)
WRITE: Your own commentary on Xenophanes (250 words)

Week 3: Larger context: Axial Age counter-cultures

M 9-9 The Hebrew writing prophets.
READ: Hebrew Bible selection (handout)
W 9-11 The Confucians.
READ: Kongzi selection (handout)
F 9-13 The Pythagoreans.
READ: On the Pythagoreans (handout)
WRITE: Reflection on “axial values” (250 words)

Week 4: Meet Socrates

M 9-16 Plato’s Euthyphro.
READ: Euthyphro (in Five Dialogues)
W 9-18 Euthyphro, cont.
READ: Euthyphro (again!)
F 9-20 Plato’s Apology.
READ: Apology (in Five Dialogues)
WRITE: The case against Socrates (250 words)

Week 5: The trial of Socrates and its aftermath

M 9-23 Apology, cont.
W 9-25 Plato’s Crito.
READ: Crito (in Five Dialogues)
F 9-27 Social contract theory.
WRITE: Problems with social contract theory (250 words)

Week 6: Assessments of the trial of Socrates. The philosophical aftermath

M 9-30 Reviewing the trial.
READ: Selections from I. F. Stone et al. (handout)
W 10-2 The aftermath: Socrates and Plato on the soul.
READ: Phaedo 94-107 (reference numbers 57-69) (in Five Dialogues)
F 10-4 The soul, cont.
READ: Phaedo 107-133 (70-94)
WRITE: Your conception of soul (250 words)

Week 7: Starting research. From Socrates to Plato’s philosophy.

M 10-7 Starting research: finding and sifting sources.
W 10-9 The question of forms: the structure of the real.
READ: Phaedo 133-154 (95-118)
F 10-11 The question of justice: Plato’s Republic.
READ: Republic, Book I, 1-31 (327-354)

Week 8: Research, cont. Plato’s philosophy, cont.

M 10-14 Humanities research strategies and expectations, including standards of documentation.
W 10-16 Justice, cont.
READ: Republic, Books III-IV, 88-121 (412-445)
F 10-18 How to compose a primary source analysis.

Week 9: Plato’s philosophy, cont.

M 10-21 Sex roles in society.
READ: Republic Book V, 122-141 (449-467)
F 10-25 Insight vs. illusion.
READ: Republic, Books VI-VII, 174-193 (500-521)

Week 10: Plato’s philosophy, cont. Platonism.

How to give a useful peer review.
W 10-30 The best soul and the best pleasure.
READ: Republic, Book IX, 251-263 (580-592)
PEER REVIEW OF PROSPECTUS DUE, following peer review guidelines.
F 11-1 Aristotle’s critique of Platonism.
READ: Aristotle, Metaphysics selection (handout)
WRITE: Response to Aristotle (250 words)

Week 11: Platonism, cont.

M 11-4 Platonism as a philosophy and religion.
READ: Plotinus, Enneads I.6 on Beauty (handout)
W 11-6 Platonism, cont.
READ: Plotinus, Enneads IV.3 on the Soul (handout)
F 11-8 Platonism in the Abrahamic religions.
READ: Philo of Alexandria (handout)

Week 12: Platonism, cont.

M 11-11 Platonism in the Abrahamic religions, cont.
READ: Augustine of Hippo, Confessions (handout)
W 11-13 The debate over philosophy and faith in Christianity.
READ: Aquinas, Summa Theologica selection (handout)
F 11-15 Platonism in the Abrahamic religions, cont.
READ: al-Farabi and Ibn Sina (handout)
WRITE: Do faith and reason fit together? (250 words)

Week 13: Platonism, cont. Research projects

M 11-18 The debate over philosophy and faith in Islam.
READ: al-Ghazali and Ibn Rushd selections (handout)
W 11-20 RESEARCH PROJECT DUE (2 copies)
How to give an effective oral/multimedia presentation.
F 11-22 Discussion of Research Projects.


Week 14: SYMPOSIUM: Class presentations of research.
(Presentation rehearsals will be scheduled individually.)

Week 15: SYMPOSIUM, cont. Conclusion


FINAL EXAM (750 words) DUE DEC. 11

2,000-2,500 words

In this project you will examine one or more significant Socratic or Platonic topics and work out your own philosophical evaluation of them in conversation with at least one other significant evaluator (among your secondary sources). You will submit a PROSPECTUS for this project by Oct. 28 and get advice on it from the instructor and another class member.

The first full written version of your project is due on Nov. 20. This too will be reviewed by a fellow student and by the instructor.

You will make a 10-minute oral presentation of your project with multimedia support in early December. This presentation will be rehearsed and evaluated according to guidelines for effective communication that will be discussed beforehand.

The final written version of the project is due Dec. 9. The grade on the final version will partly reflect how effectively the project has been revised.

Your main paper and your multimedia file for your project presentation will be uploaded to Chalk and Wire as evidence for Thinking and Reasoning and for Communication before the end of the semester. You will receive an Incomplete for the course if you do not do this.


All students are strongly encouraged to visit the Writing Center, which is staffed by student Writing Consultants trained to help you grow as writers. Writing Consultants work with all writers, in all disciplines, at all skill levels, and in all stages of the writing process. These consultations are most useful to students 48 hours or more in advance of a due date, and many students benefit from multiple visits during the writing process. Students may elect to send a session report summarizing their Writing Center visit to professors. If you would like to notify your professor of your visit, please inform the Consultant when you arrive at the Writing Center. Students may also request to share a session report after their visit by emailing Visit for more information about hours, locations, and upcoming events.


1. Class attendance. Being in class, being engaged with the work of the class, and behaving courteously are all expected. One discourtesy to avoid is coming into class late. Better late than never, definitely; but lateness counts as half an absence—that is, your work with the class that day will be counted as only half done. One percent of the course grade will be lost for each absence from class for any reason, beginning with the fourth absence. (For example, someone who missed class 8 times would lose 5% of the course grade, or half a letter grade.) The reason for this: our in-class work is a crucial and irreplaceable part of the substance of the course.
A general college policy for first-year courses is: If a student misses three or more classes, the Dean of Academic Advising and Student Support will be notified.

2. Electronic communication devices (phones, laptops, etc.). Electronic devices have become harmful Interrupters and Distracters in the current state of our social evolution. Their use is banned in our class. If you have special needs, discuss with me.

3. Late papers. Written assignments turned in late will lose a letter grade or equivalent. Homework may not be turned in more than one week after its due date. No work of any kind will be accepted after the last day of final examinations. Exceptions to this policy will be granted only to the victims of unforeseeable and uncontrollable circumstances.

4. As a general rule, no e-mail submissions. Unless the instructor allows it under specified circumstances, e-mail submissions of assigned writing are not accepted.

5. Plagiarism. Using the words or ideas of others without acknowledgment—that is, passing them off as your own—is a fraudulent practice called plagiarism. It also misses one of the main points of being in college, which is to develop your powers of thought and expression. Plagiarism is an offense under the Academic Honor Code (see next page).

6. Incompletes. An “Incomplete” grade for the course will only be given to students who, due to unforeseen and uncontrollable circumstances, find themselves unable to complete course requirements during the term and can reasonably be expected to complete them within a few weeks after the term’s end. The “Incomplete” must be requested and appropriately justified before the end of final examinations.

7. Disabilities. Students with documented disabilities should discuss their needs with the instructor at the beginning of the semester.
Statement from the Office of Accessibility Services: Under the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504, accommodations can be made for students with disabilities or learning differences. If you require accommodations, please contact Katie Sorey to register with the Office of Accessibility Services. You may reach her via e-mail at or by calling 601-974-1235. Accommodations will not be granted until you have a meeting with Katie, your letters/documentation are processed, and you meet with your instructor.


Millsaps College is an academic community dedicated to the pursuit of scholarly inquiry and intellectual growth. The foundation of this community is a spirit of personal honesty and mutual trust. Through their Honor Code, the students of Millsaps College affirm their adherence to these basic ethical principles.
An Honor Code is not simply a set of rules and procedures governing students’ academic conduct. It is an opportunity to put personal responsibility and integrity into action. When students agree to abide by an Honor Code, they liberate themselves to pursue their academic goals in an atmosphere of mutual confidence and respect.
The success of the Code depends on the support of each member of the community. Students and faculty alike commit themselves in their work to the principles of academic honesty. When they become aware of infractions, both students and faculty are obligated to report them to the Honor Council, which is responsible for enforcement. A representative, but not exhaustive, list of academic offenses and violations covered by the Millsaps Academic Honor Code is provided at

The pledge signed by all students upon entering the College is as follows:

As a Millsaps College student, I hereby affirm that I understand the Honor Code and am aware of its implications and of my responsibility to the Code. In the interests of expanding the atmosphere of respect and trust in the College, I promise to uphold the Honor Code and I will not tolerate dishonest behavior in myself or in others.

Each examination, quiz, or other assignment that is to be graded will carry the written pledge: “I hereby certify that I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this assignment. (Signature)” The abbreviation “Pledged” followed by the student’s signature has the same meaning and may be acceptable on assignments other than final examinations.

The following is a representative, but not exhaustive list of academic offenses and violations covered by this Millsaps Academic Honor Code:
A. Plagiarism
B. Dishonesty on examinations and tests
1. Using any outside material deemed not usable by the professor of the course
2. Giving or receiving answers while taking a test
3. Revealing the content of an exam before others have taken it
C. Dishonesty on assignments
1. Receiving unauthorized help on an assignment
2. Submitting the same paper for two classes unless approved by the professors of both classes
3. Interfering with another student’s course materials
D. Lying about academic matters, including missed assignments or absences
E. Unauthorized use of a computer file, program, user name, or password
F. Unauthorized use of, tampering with, or removing community materials from laboratories or the library

It is the responsibility of students and faculty to report offenses to the Honor Code Council in the form of a written report. This account must be signed, the accusation explained in as much detail as possible and submitted to the Dean’s Office using the mailbox.

The Honor Council, 2019–2020
Student Members
Emma Carter, Chair
Alvin Joseph, Vice Chair
Kaylee Snodgrass, Sergeant-At-Arms
Teja Gollapudi
Brenna Michael

Faculty Members
Dr. Anne MacMaster
Dr. Nathan Shrader, Advisor

One more undergraduate position will be filled at the beginning of the spring term.