Welcome to Know Thyself on the value and limits of self-knowledge. My name is Mitch Green, I teach at the University of Connecticut, and in today's class, we'll be discussing Socrates and his views about the examined life. First, I want to talk a little bit about the Oracle at Delphi. The phrase, 'Know Thyself', is an English translation of the Greek dictum, gnōthi seauton. That's my very loose transliteration of the original Greek. These words where according to legend carved into stone at the entrance to the temple of Apollo at Delphi, Greece. This temple dates at least as far back as the 8th century BC, and was at the height of its influence between the 6th and the 4th centuries B.C. The above dictum is only one of over 100 that were carved into the walls of the temple. Among the others were shun murder, crown your ancestors, and control the eye. However, the injunction to know oneself is probably the most famous of all of them. According to Greek legend, Zeus released two eagles at opposite ends of the world, and they met and what is now Delphi, which as a result came to be called the omphalos or navel of the world. According to some scholars, intoxicating vapour flowed out of a subterranean cavern, and a priestess known as the Pythian would inhale this vapour, and enter an altered state of consciousness. Representatives of city-states from all over greater Greece would come to Delphi seeking the Pythian's advice. It was thought that the priestess could not be in error in answering questions put to her. However, perhaps due to intoxication, the Pythian's utterances required interpretation. As a result, usually male priests would sometimes act as intermediaries between the priestess and the public. But, even with the aid of their interpretation, the priests' words had to be construed carefully. According to one famous story, King Croesus of Lydia consulted the oracle to determine whether he should attack Cyrus the Great and his Persian army. The oracle replied that if you attack the Persians he would destroy a great empire. Croesus took this reply as advice to attack, but when he did so, his army and consequently his own empire were destroyed. Socrates was a philosopher whose dates were 469 to 399 BC. He was the son of a midwife and a sculptor. He never published a word. He spent most of his time hanging out in the Agora, which is the Greek version of a marketplace, where people buy and sell things. They share gossip. Sometimes aspiring politicians will try to make speeches before they get shouted down. Socrates tended to question others rather than espouse his own views, and he, as a result, became the namesake of what we now refer to as the Socratic method in teaching, in which a teacher tries not to tell her students anything but instead gets them to come to realizations primarily by asking questions. Rather than work in a job such as sculpting or sandal making, Socrates can usually be found on this Agora engaging in conversation with a respected Athenian citizen, or one of the city's many visitors. In these conversations, Socrates would typically raise a question about the nature of justice or virtue, piety or knowledge. More often than not, Socrates would show his interlocutor that their answer was unacceptable in some way, for instance, as a result of being inconsistent or as a result of not cohering with something else that the person accepts. This method of proceeding had two consequences. First of all, it gained Socrates a small band of followers who found these conversations fascinating. These followers were aristocratic young men who had the leisure time to spend their days in discussion rather than at work. Among the young men in his entourage are Crito, Xenophon, Cratylus, and Plato who came to write down many of the dialogues that he witnessed between Socrates and others. Second, Socrates way of conducting himself and the entourage, every aristocratic followers that he generated, overtime provoked the ire of some of Athens' most prominent citizens. Some of them might have been parents of the aforementioned young men. Others might had been among those whose conversations with Socrates showed that they knew less about virtue, wisdom, and the like than they thought they did. This ire grew over the years until a formal accusation was lodged against Socrates. What was the charge? Well, it included such things as, he corrupts the youth of our city, and he makes the worse argument the stronger, and he busies himself studying things in the sky and the earth; in addition to, these, that he teaches these same things to others. Socrates will defend himself against 501 of his fellow Athenians. Their juries were much bigger in those days than there are as familiar to us now, and he finds himself surrounded by that many jurors, as he comes to take the stage to defend himself against his accuser.