Philosophy as a Way of Life

Term: SPRING 2013

Subject Code: GLIB

Course Number: 6320

In recent years, a handful of philosophers (including Foucault and Stanley Cavell) have resurrected the classic Socratic theme of living an examined life, proposing as well new ways of thinking about the self. This seminar offers a historical survey of the biographical sources for this sometimes neglected aspect of the philosophical tradition. We start with a quick survey of classical texts recounting the lives of two exemplary seekers after wisdom in ancient Greece, namely Socrates (in Plato's Apology) and Plato (in his seventh letter). We then examine two of Plutarch's brief biographies that shed light on Socrates and Plato respectively, before turning to three examples of biography (and hagiography) in late antiquity, studying three brief lives of Plotinus, St. Anthony and St. Augustine. The heart of the course will be a close study of The Lives of the Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius - the most important source for what little we know about Greek philosophy apart from the writings of Plato, Aristotle, and (to a lesser extent) Cicero.

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