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A Summer With Socrates

  • Robert M Reynolds

According to Cicero, Socrates was “the first who brought philosophy down from the heavens.” Yet despite his influence on every major school of philosophy, much is still debated about the historical Socrates and his ideas.

Over the summer, 16 college and university teachers converged on Lewis & Clark for a seminar on Socrates. The seminar was funded by a $108,252 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), which was submitted by Nicholas D. Smith, James F. Miller Professor of Humanities at Lewis & Clark.

The seminar offered participants the opportunity to deepen their knowledge and understanding of Socrates, build an engaged community of scholars, develop professionally, and work together to be better scholars and teachers of the humanities. Participants lived on campus, participated in group meetings and activities, presented their own research, and conducted additional research at Lewis & Clark and nearby libraries.

Smith, who has been publishing scholarly and educational works on Socrates since 1979, directed the project and mentored participating faculty. “From a career standpoint, it brought me full circle,” says Smith. “I attended the NEH seminar on Socrates in 1983, which was led by Gregory Vlastos, an influential scholar in the field. I’ve reached the point in my career where it’s nice to be able to do for others what I had done for me.”

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