Have you ever had that moment when something you’ve been trying to teach for years finally comes together because of one brief moment of pedagogic brilliance? I find these moments rare. But I just had one. I teach ancient Greek philosophy. One reason I like to teach this course is that it asks that students take seriously the question, why should we do philosophy rather than not? Ancient Greek thinkers remind us that the question of whether philosophy is worth studying is as old as philosophy itself and not something invented by the neoliberal university.
The difficulty in introducing this question is figuring out where to start. If you start with Plato, for whom this question is explicit in the Apology and the Republic and pretty much all over the corpus, you get the question pretty clearly, but you ignore the two hundred (at least) years of thinking in the Greek world that precede Plato, thinking which Plato himself explicitly references. So students walk away thinking Platonic, or at least, Socratic, thinking is the beginning of philosophy. So I push back and teach the pre-Socratics. But if you start with the pre-Socratics they seem like the primitive thinkers to Plato or Socrates’ developed thinking. So for years now, I’ve been trying to start with Hesiod’s Theogony. Read more