Friday, April 03, 2009

A Tale of Two Professors

I've mentioned it several times before, so I won't beat a dead horse, but I've finished listening to Donald Kagan's Introduction to Greek History course, and it's superb. Highly recommended. Professor Kagan is a delight. Authoritative and impassioned, he is also modest, gracious (giving credit to Victor Davis Hanson for several key insights) and self-deprecating.

Two lectures into Prof. Steven Smith's course on Political Philosophy, I'm less impressed -- sorry, Rene! A good deal of it is probably me. Prof. Smith's style just annoys me. But substantively I was also not that impressed with his treatment of the Apology, which I know pretty well. The Athenians didn't put Socrates to death because he was advocating a "rational vision" over a "poetic vision" (or some such nonsense). They convicted him because he was a pain in the ass who for decades harassed people in the agora and made them look like idiots. Anyone who has read the Euthyphro (for example) knows perfectly well why most Athenians believed Socrates was a Sophist, and a particularly dangerous one at that. When they saw him coming, most probably crossed to the other side of the street, much like you do to avoid a potentially aggressive panhandler.

1 comment:

  1. No apology necessary. Kagan IS superb!!!



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