Notes from Irving Wasserman II: Intro 1981

We took the Intro class in 1981, after the big conversion in the Plato class, and after the class called “Political Philosophy,” and so the notes begin to become more clear. This section completes my notes from Euthyphro, Apology, Crito and Meno, and introduces Irv’s gemstone: his class on the Republic. Unlike my own “Intro to Philosophy” class, which would have 22 or so students at a Catholic college, Irv had 32 students at a state school, and we remember fondly sitting in the back row marveling at the disrespect and indifference of the Athenian multitude, not knowing what they had before them in the class of Irving Wasserman. I can still see him smirk, twitch, cluck and shuffle his feet in response to the class!

Prof Wasserman was then not yet using the West edition of the Four Texts on Socrates, and was still using the Cornford summary of the Republic. I was quite proud to show him the West edition, from our studies in Dallas, similar to when I was able to get Irving the Strauss essay called “Mutual Influence,” like Mustard Seed in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, able to bring fresh honey to the consort of the Fairy Queen.

Philosophy 101- Section D Professor I. Wasserman

Introduction to Philosophy Office 428 Mackinac Hall

Fall, 1981 MWF 12:00. 210 Mackinac Hall

Texts Plato Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Bobbs-Merril

Plato Republic Cornford ed.

Shakespeare The Tempest Signet

Descartes, Discourse on Method, Bobbs-Merril

Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, Penguin

Course Aim: To provide an understanding of some of the main problems of philosophy through a study of several important thinkers, both ancient and modern. The ancient, or classical view regarding happiness, the good life, reason and nature, freedom and equality, is represented by Plato and Shakespeare; the modern counterpart by Descartes and Karl Marx.

Notebook, p. 1

The Apology

Socrates speaks of himself Corrupting the minds of the youth

believing in other deities.

“Socrates is guilty of corrupting the minds of the young, and of believing in deities of his own invention instead of the gods of the city.

He spends his life in the effort to kindle into a flame the spark of good in every man

Socrates never condemned.

Socrates the hero

Dialogue rather than treatise, a good way to start philosophy


Not apologetic, eh? But rather bothers everyone

Manner of speaking Sophistry. Appearance.

Strongest case for the city If the city is the best for the youth and worships the true gods

Then Socrates does in fact corrupt the youth and has done wrong in worshiping other gods

Socrates first moves to dig up the context, old accusations.

The existent (present) opinion “When you were children

The foundations are old accusations.

Making the weaker argument appear the stronger

Inquiry into things below and above; Into the mysteries

Hades and Heaven, the beginning and the end

inquiry = Atheism

The oracle: Why he lived the way he did

Difference between public assembly +…begs them not to shout

[No, I’m not a sophist

Who is the expert in perfecting the human and social qualities

“It seems that I really am wise in a limited sense.”

Human wisdom

“an unimpeachable authority, witness, the Oracle of Delphi

Notebook, p. 2

Does the invisible preshadow the intelligible?

Callias, if your sons were calfs or bulls,, we’d get a trainer for their natures

Who is the expert in perfecting human social qualities?

A kind of wisdom, human wisdom

More than human, A lie? p. 21. The oracle

The paradox of human wisdom

“I felt that here if anywhere I should succeed in pointing out to the divine authority: “You said I was the wisest of men, but here is a man who is wiser than I… Notebook 2-5 is reading notes from the Apology]

Notebook, p. 6

Top margin: Timeaus- a likely story

  1. speculates about the heavens and what is under the earth
  2. 2) Makes the weaker argument appear the stronger
  3. 3)Teaches these things to others

2) indirectly replies by talking about manner of speech, and about trying to arouse sympathy (perjury).

Natural philosophers

The reason why is what Socrates mwanted, not prior conditions or particular causes.

Anaxagoras: Mind. But Socrates was disappointed. Why?

Action limited to starting motion in space

Shift from outer tom inner

Pre-Socratic- discoverry of nature

Socratic- discovery of the soul

Bringing philosophy down from the heavens to the earth.

Technae- is there a comparable art that woill produce wisdom?

Arete, purpose, end skill, flute player, etc.

Who is the teachert of human arete’?

Sophists- rhetoric

Of how to win friends and influence people

-political art- to rise in the city

Philosophy: the archetectonic art

2) check- Meletus’ exchange

If he were speaking to folk who would not confuse him with the Sophists, would he answer #2?

The oracle: There is no one wiser than Socrates. (Not that Socrates is wise or is the wisest man)

He went to search for a wiser man. He knew he was not wise, but not that others were n’t. Human wisdom.

Notebook, p. 7

That it is good to know that we do not know.


Questions for Crito

a) What arguments does Crito present to Persuade Socrates to live rather than die?

b) Why does Socrates choose death?

2a) What are the main points in Socrates’ dialogue with the laws?

Is his emphasis on obediesnce to law surprising? Does it seem to contradict what he says in the Apology?

Socrates seems to take for granted that the laws are good. Corrupting the young.

Socrates is not […F?] forcing a vote between philosophy and the city.

Courage in dialogue

Shows that we dio not really know what we thought we know.

Philosophy is always dangerous, unsettling.

Philosophy: What is? aims at the nature of something.

He had to do it in a responsible way, so as not to hurt the city.. The city thinks Socrates hurt them.

He declares his whole life was in service of the city.

Socrates went into the marketplace every day.

Socrates has haunted the West: Nietzsche loved and hated him.

Nietzsche and Heidegger attribute the evils of the West to Socrates.

“Socrates will appear again.”!

To not know and to think tyhat we do know is the worst possible condition, for then he will never know and never seek.

Create. Not a void.


To the poets

The stories of heroesd and gods. Poetry recited to music.

Comparable to the writers of the Bible.

Homer and Hesiod. Literature in the broadest sense. Muses.

Inspiration- The poets say many good and true things. Not as the result of knowledge or understanding.

Notebook, p. 8 Top margin:Lecture Apology/ Text Crito. Take the best course reason has to offer.

numinosity. “Everyone would stop eating.”

The possession of the muses. So theyt think they know. A lot of other things eveyone else thinks they know too.

What kind of music has the most profound moral and political reproduction

The many decide that way by intense emotional attachment.

Artisans- the craftsmen. They do teach and practice a practical art.

They thought they knew a lot of other thiongs, like how to live the good life.

Socrates has a divine mission; For the god.

Service to the god- pointing out to people that they do not know what they thought they knew.

[Margin: Why is this a service of the god? The audience is skeptical.]

Cracow, Poland teaching of Apology

-they just let him have it

Never dig a pit for a student that you cannot fill.

Not iconoclasm.

[Crito reading notes]

Notebook, p. 10

Top margin: Lecture Apology. Crime and invention. The freedom consists in knowledge of reality. Rationalistic freedom and intention

Meletus. What is so wrong with answering: “The laws?” (He could have used that answer to some good)

He is out to show Meletus’ folly

Who? Everyone. To show that Meletus never cared about the improvement of the young.

The horse trainer.


No one would intentionally make someone worse, because he himself then would be harmed.

All harm is done unintentionally. If not intentional, its not a crime.

Acts of agents are intentional. Degrees of murder. Sanity, if your sane, you are responsible. If not sane, determined.

No person in his right mind would voluntarily do something to harm him.

Joury: “What!? No one voluntarily does wrong!? crime!?

All law and crime depends upon volition. He’ therefore, here undermines thew basis of all law.

2 senses of intentional.

[margin: Forgiveness is the truth above the law. Philosophers as such won’t punish]

We cannot act intentionalloy unless we know reality.

Jury: “Boy, he sure makes weaker arguments appear stronger”

Given[ing] Meletus a chance to make the indictment more extreme- and he will- Meletus goes for it. “Atheist.” contradiction. Mixes up with Anaxagoras.

Notebook p. 11-13 Crito second reading notes

p.13: Lecture

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