The Apology: Socrates’ Defense, Or the Gospel According to Plato

LECTURES > PREVIOUS [→ ONLINE ARCHIVE MATERIAL]

Because the West has long thought of itself as the fusion of Greek “reason” and Hebrew (Judeo-Christian) “faith”, the secularization which followed the Enlightenment has typically been seen as the West’s disavowal of its Hebrew heritage in favor of its Greek one. Indeed, it is not uncommon today for modem secular humanists and classical Greeks to be considered much of a muchness. Unfortunately, such a view tends to blind us to important features of Greek life, even in figures as seemingly familiar to us as Socrates and Plato. A careful consideration of Plato’s Apology, however, can help resurrect these religious features of these two men who can be seen in many ways as not dissimilar to a range of Hebrew religious figures including, perhaps most strikingly, Jesus and Paul respectively. Continue reading

Self-Evident Truths? Origin Myths and the Founding of America

LECTURES > PREVIOUS

Every people has stories that it tells about itself-stories about where it comes from, about its place in the universe, about its essential characteristics. Indeed, one of the key functions of “culture” is to impress these stories on each succeeding generation. When successful, this process makes these stories so “obvious” to insiders as to be self-evidently true (despite the fact that these same stories remain self-evidently dubious to outsiders). In these respects, the American people and American culture are no different than any others. From the beginning, Americans have constructed stories —political, historical, literary — as a way of defining themselves and their place in the world and thus as a way of shaping their destiny. A look at works as diverse as The Declaration of Independence, The Federalist Papers, The Scarlet Letter, The Gettysburg Address, and “Paul Revere’s Ride,” can illustrate this phenomenon and help us temporarily stand outside ourselves as we seek a better understanding of who we truly are. Continue reading