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Camden Philosophical Society Online Meeting

Tuesday, February 16, 2021 @ 4:00 pm 6:00 pm

The Camden Philosophical Society will be launching a new exploration into the meaning and significance of “freedom,” particularly in a political context, at its next session at 4 pm on Tuesday, Feb. 16. For this discussion, being held mainly online via Zoom, we will be discussing two of the early works of Plato: The Apology, sometimes known as Socrates’ Defense, which takes place at Socrates’ trial for treason; and Crito, in which Socrates considers the possibility of escaping into exile and the nature of man’s relationship to his city or state.

The session will be led by Gregory Chilenski, a former Camden resident and Camden Philosophical Society member who is now living in Massachusetts–and again able to participate in our group thanks to the current online nature of our gatherings.  All are welcome to participate in the online discussion via Zoom. Let us know by emailing: sarahmiller@usa.net and gchilenski@gmail.com if you wish to attend via Zoom. You will receive an invitation on the morning of the meeting.  Click on the “Join Zoom Meeting” link in that invitation at the time of the event.

Numerous translations of these works are available online, and Gregory suggests that any translation will do as long as your edition has the Stephanus Numbers in the margin.  These numbers are there to help all discussants quickly find the lines being referred to no matter the translation. The numbering should begin at 17a in The Apology and 43a in Crito.

For those who have no established favorite translation, here are two possibilities: First, the basic texts of each of the plays, as translated by renowned 20th Century classics scholar Hugh Tredennick, http://www2.hawaii.edu/~freeman/courses/phil100/04.%20Apology.pdf and http://www2.hawaii.edu/~freeman/courses/phil100/05.%20Crito.pdf ; and this more recent translation by Cathal Woods and Ryan Pack of all of Plato’s works dealing with the trail and death of Socrates and a short discussion of those works http://www.mochamoment.com/discipuli/socrates.pdf

Gregory provides the following introduction to the session:

I’ll start by saying I’m no Plato scholar.  That should set to rest any concerns about signing up here for a lecture.  But I do admire the so-called Great Books seminar method—very much so.  In the past I have asked discussants in Camden Phil to approach with curiosity the text before us and try not to refer to either other texts of the author in question or to what secondary sources on the author thought about our text.

Today, maybe ten years since I led one of our discussions, I would add this:  Approach our text and our discussion with what Shunryu Suzuki calls “beginner’s mind.”  This assumes that the text’s author, in this case Plato, should be taken in as a teacher who knows what s/he wants to say and is a master at saying it.

I’m sure that there could easily be one or more true beginner’s minds present regarding these two dialogues:  First-time readers or perhaps it’s 50 years since last reading these dialogues.  Before now, I last read them in 1969!

I do believe that these two dialogues are rich with human drama, that the events depicted in them truly address many of our vital concerns as citizens of a polity, and that fundamental philosophical questions about what is good, what is right, what is just are raised in them and are still relevant today. 

In philosophy there appear to be no final answers to these questions but it is incumbent on all thinking people to refresh these questions for themselves in every political era.  So Socrates, for Plato and for us, is a model for this kind of dedication. 

Does the face-to-face discussion need significant revision?  Does it collapse under the dominance of viral ideologies?  Is the face-to-face discussion a robust practice still, even in our cyber-authorized and cyber-controlled connection to other thinking people?

I answer these questions for myself in this way:  I quote Emmanuel Levinas who wrote, “The face-to-face remains the ultimate situation.”

So see you all on February 16 for the pen-ultimate situation on Zoom. 


55 Main Street
Camden, ME 04843 United States