Final Examination 190:312 Historical Socrates May 9, 2003


This examination is in two parts: (1) identifications and (2) essay.

Answers to identifications must be written on the sheet provided.  Please write your name and social security number on this sheet.  The essay must be written in bluebooks provided by the Department  of Classics. Please write your name and social security number on each bluebook that  you use.  Loose bluebook pages will not be accepted.  The use of notes and texts is not permitted. Students may not wear headsets or earphones of any kind. Students may not consult palm pilots or other such electronic devices during the exam. Students may not hold cellphone conversations during the exam.

Do not repeat the essay question.  You will not get credit for writing out this question in your bluebook.

Do not psychologize.  E.g., "Socrates was sexually repressed and that is why he frowned on sexual relations with young men and was able to resist Alcibiades."  Go on the assumption that everything you need to know about Socrates' motives is explicit.

Do not go for the magic bullet, the simple proposition that explains everything.  Your essay is dealing with complexities and contradictions.

Do not use similes.  E.g., "Socrates is like a baseball player who ... " or "Socrates is like Jesus ... ."

The essay question does not constitute an opinion poll.  You are not being asked for your opinions.  You are being asked to take a position and to argue for it.  You must cite the texts that have been read in the course and explain how the passages and various details to which you refer support your position.  You will not get credit for discussion of texts not read for this course.

2. Essay (80%; two and a half hours)

The three sources for Socrates who are contemporary with Socrates are Aristophanes, Plato, and Xenophon.  The first of these is different from the other two in that he is a comic poet, and his Clouds, as a comedy, is not trying to give an accurate portrait of Socrates.  This play would not be funny, however, if the character Socrates had nothing at all to do with the real-life Socrates whom those in the audience had seen around Athens and in some cases had undoubtedly heard in conversation or even conversed with.

In answering the following questions, make full use of these three sources and refer to specific passages.  Wherever necessary refer also to later sources.  Your essay will be evaluated on the basis of both over-all argument and breadth and depth of reference to the readings for the course.

What kinds (n.b. plural) of people did Socrates associate with?  What kinds (n.b. plural) of relationships did he have?  In the conversations that were his way of life, what did he discuss? Did he have any positive goal in these conversations?  If so, what was it?  If not, what goal did he have?  What were the results of these conversations?  In this part of your essay be sure to discuss the passage from Aristotle's Metaphysics.

For Socrates, philosophy (to use Plato's word) [1] was not only, as in the modern sense of the word, the general propositions that he maintained and his intellectual methods.  It was a total way of life, of which the conversations were only a part.  Describe the rest of Socrates' life.  Distinguish between "irrational" and reasonable aspects.  Distinguish between erotic and competitive aspects.  Discuss eccentricities.

At age seventy, Socrates was tried, convicted, and put to death.  What were the charges against him?  Why was he convicted?

Finally, sum up your discussion and say why Socrates had the effect on Plato, and thus on the subsequent history of philosophy, that he clearly had.

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You may bring this sheet to the exam with you if you have not annotated it.  If you have annotated it, please do not bring it to the exam.

[1] Philosoph- occurs only 10 times in Xenophon's Socratic works, 6 times in Mem., 3 times in Symp., and once in Oeconomicus (not read for this course).