New School Courses in Greek Philosophy

Seth Benardete’s Courses at the New School — 1964 to 2001

Benardete’s lectures at the New School Graduate Faculty included the pre-Socratic thinkers and Aristotle, while covering almost the entire corpus of Platonic dialogues. For more information on these courses, see The Seth Benardete Papers Collection Guide (.pdf).

Fall 1964Plato’s Republic
Fall 1965Aristotle’s Physics
Spr. 1966Plato’s Laws, Part II
[Substituted mid-term for Howard White]
Fall 1966Plato’s Sophist 
An examination of the non-Socratic dialogue Sophist, where the question of being and non-being arises in the course of tracking down the elusive sophist.
Spr. 1967Plato’s Statesman
A continuation of the prior course, where the Sophist’s companion dialogue Politicus, or Statesman, is considered. It is thus to be hoped that the two dialogues will illuminate each other, and unravel the ontological ground of politics and political foreground of ontology.
Fall 1967Plato’s Philebus
An attempt will be made to understand something of the Philebus, perhaps the most difficult of Plato’s dialogues. Pleasure is there the center of a discussion of “matter” and the infinite.
Spr. 1968Aristotle’s Metaphysics 
The hope is entertained that most of the questions that Aristotle lists in B as belonging to “first philosophy” will be discussed, along with their Aristotelian and Platonic solutions, during the term.
Fall 1968Plato’s Phaedrus 
A study of philosophical eros as sober madness and of Socratic rhetoric as an indispensable complement of Socratic dialectic.
Spr. 1969Plato’s Charmides
A study of moderation (sophrosyne) and the possible unity underlying the variety of its manifestations.
Fall 1969Aristotle’s De Anima
An examination of Aristotle’s psychology. The treatises that comprise his Parva Naturalia will also be considered.
Spr. 1970Plato’s Timaeus
An examination of Plato’s cosmology and its relation to his psychology and politics.
Fall 1970Parmenides I
The first semester of a year’s course devoted entirely to a study of Plato’s Parmenides and the fragments of Parmenides.
Spr. 1971Parmenides II
Continuation of course from previous semester.
Spr. 1973Plato’s Cratylus
The Cratylus forms a pair with the Parmenides, for it is concerned with Heraclitus, who was furthest removed in thought from Parmenides; but in another sense it stands with inspired dialogues like the Phaedrus and Symposium, for the problems of eros and Socratic rhetoric are deeply rooted in the distinction between nature and convention, a distinction that in turn involves the problem of language.
Fall 1973Aristotle’s Metaphysics
First philosophy: the principles of being and the principles of knowledge according to Aristotle.
Spr. 1974Plato’s Philebus
Socrates’ discussion of pleasure in light of the human good.
Fall 1974Plato’s Gorgias
Intensive study of the dialogue.
Spr. 1975Plato’s Greater Hippias and Lesser Hippias
Of these twin dialogues, the former asks what is the beautiful, the latter discusses lying. Together they form an introduction to the problem of the noble lie.
Fall 1979Aristotle’s Politics
A study of Aristotle’s Politics along with its problematic relations with his Ethics and the Poetics.
Spr. 1980Plato’s Phaedo
[This course was taught by Professor Benardete but not listed in the Bulletin of the Graduate Faculty.]
Fall 1980Plato’s Phaedrus
A study of philosophical eros as sober madness and of Socratic rhetoric as an indispensable complement of Socratic dialectic.
Fall 1981Plato’s Timaeus
An examination of the Platonic understanding of the possibility of any physics in light of the parallel difficulties of translating the best city in speech into the best city in deed.
Spr. 1982Plato’s Laws
The problematic relations between the rational and the lawful, divine codes and human life, and religion and the city will be discussed.
Fall 1982Plato’s Republic, Part I
This is planned as a year’s course devoted to a close reading of Plato’s Republic in which the relation between political philosophy and first philosophy or metaphysics will be examined. 
Fall 1982Logos and Physis in Aristotle
This course is an examination of what Aristotle understands by science (episteme). Aristotle may be said to be the discoverer of the metaphysics of science, i.e., its foundations and its problems. The course will examine primarily the Posterior Analytics and the Physics.
Spr. 1983Plato’s Republic, Part II
Continuation of course begun in Fall, 1982.
Fall 1983Plato’s Republic, Part III
The last part of a three-semester course devoted to a close reading of Plato’s Republic, in which the relation between political philosophy and first philosophy or metaphysics will be examined.
Spr. 1984Aristotle’s Metaphysics I
In the Metaphysics, Aristotle tries to show the inner unity of the science of being with the science of the highest being.
Fall 1984Plato’s Charmides
A close reading of the text.
Fall 1985Plato’s Symposium
A careful reading of the text (the translation of the instructor will be used).
Fall 1986Plato’s Gorgias
A careful reading of the text.
Fall 1987Plato’s Protagoras
A close reading of the text.
Fall 1988Plato’s Philebus
An examination of pleasure and its highest representations in comedy and philosophy.
Fall 1989Plato’s Parmenides
Plato gives us Socrates’ youthful version of the theory of ideas and Parmenides’ devastating critique of it, followed by a “gymnastic” of ten categories in relation to the “One.” The connection between these two parts of the dialogue will be our main concern.
Fall 1990Plato and Thucydides: Plato’s Menexenus and Laches
Plato’s Menexenus presents Socrates reciting a funeral speech composed, he claims, by Pericles’ mistress Aspasia; it is supposed to match in some way Pericles’ own funeral speech in Thucydides. In the Laches, Socrates discusses courage with Laches and Nicias; and Nicias looms almost as large in the second half of Thucydides’ work as Pericles does in the first. It is proposed to look at Plato’s possible interpretation of Thucydides in light of these two dialogues on war and death in battle.
Fall 1991Plato’s Sophist
In this dialogue a student of Parmenides attempts to determine the being of Socrates in relation, on the one hand, to the contemporary sophists and, on the other, to all philosophers prior to Socrates. Socrates’ life in the marketplace looks like a marketing of philosophy and not at all like the speculative practice of the past. The possibility, or rather the necessity, of mistaking Socrates puts the question of likeness at the center of the problem of being and truth. The being and nonbeing of the image involves as well the issue of Plato’s representation of Socrates.
Fall 1993Plato’s Lysis
The theme of this dialogue is friendship, but its frame is determined by eros. The double way in which philosophy can be understood, through either eros or literally through the philia in its name, determines this presentation by Socrates. Its connection with the Symposium and Phaedrus, as well as with Aristotle’s double treatment of friendship in the Nichomachean Ethics will be explored.
Spr. 1993Aristotle’s De Anima
The course examines how Aristotle’s treatise On the Soul binds together his other two most important theoretical writings, the Physics and Metaphysics. It also attempts to treat how Aristotle keeps together the two primary functions of soul, motion and cognition.
Spr. 1995Plato’s Theaetetus
Just before his condemnation, Socrates raises the question, What is knowledge?, before two mathematicians. No satisfactory answer is reached. Since on the next day the Eleatic Stranger seems to be more successful, one wonders whether we are given the philosophic grounds for Socrates’ condemnation in the Theatetus.
Spr. 1996Plato’s Laws, Part I
Plato’s Laws was once thought to be the book on revelation. This course treats Plato’s Laws in three sections, each to be given in the Spring of successive years. The first section deals with Books I-IV. It covers the determination of the structure of law in light of the four psychic and corporeal virtues the law is meant to inculcate and regulate. Its deeper theme is the impossibility of its fulfilling its purpose and the consequences to be drawn from that impossibility. The changing relations between the Athenian stranger and the Spartan Megillus and the Cretan Clinias form a large part of the argument of the Laws.
Spr. 1997Plato’s Laws, Part II
This is the second part of a three-part course on Plato’s Laws. We plan to cover Books IV-VIII, the heart of the legislative program. The primary question for us is: What does a philosopher, even a political philosopher, have to do with such things? The third part of this course will be offered in Spring 1998 [but see the following].
Fall 1997Plato’s Laws, Part III
[This third part of course on Plato’s Laws was not officially scheduled by the New School but was taught informally.]
Spr. 1998Heraclitus
The fragments of Heraclitus are read separately and together as closely as possible in order to be able to come to some understanding of the relation between logos and fire, which in modern terms looks like the relation between equations and the natural elements of matter. Heraclitus thus looks to us as the founder of mathematical physics. Our first question, then, is how to understand a founder who precedes any available mathematics and any available physics that would make such a founding possible or plausible. The second question is how Heraclitus might understand the relation of logos and fire in light of his teaching about the one. All other questions follow from these two.
Spr. 1999Plato’s Timaeus
An attempt is made to interpret the enigmatic speech of Timaeus in light of its setting: Socrates’ abbreviated account of the best city in speech (presumably of the Republic) and Critias’ summary of the best city at war — to have been filled out in the incomplete Critias. Why is so elaborate a cosmology set among political considerations? What bearing does this have on Socrates’ noncosmological account of the whole in the Republic and his playful version of a cosmology in the Philebus? Why does Timaeus split his account in such a way that its two parts connot be put together? This difficulty leads directly into the problem of time that in itself represents the Platonic perplexity — the relation of soul and mind.
Spr. 2000Parmenides
This course looks at the fragments of Parmenides’ poem as well as at Plato’s Parmenides. It tries to come to grips with this first formulation of the problem of being and Plato’s representation of Socrates’ youthful way out of the problem. The latter project entails an examination of Plato’s Sophist,where the old Socrates listens to an ex-Parmenidean.
Spr. 2001Plato’s Parmenides
Plato gives us Socrates’ youthful version of the theory of ideas and Parmenides’ devastating critique of it, followed by a “gymnastic” of 10 categories in relation to the “One.” The connection between these two parts of the dialogue will be our main concern.
Spr. 2002Plato’s Euthydemus
[This course was scheduled but not taught because of Professor Benardete’s untimely death.] The Euthydemus is concerned with boundaries, primarily between the political and the philosophical. Through Socrates’ conversation with two sophists who are brothers, it alternates very rapidly between the philosophic and the political without resting in one or the other for very long. It thus mixes the totally absurd and the rational in a wholly irrational manner. The attempt will be to sort out the two aspects and try to understand why they must always be together.

Note: Most of the preceding list has been excerpted from the New School’s course bulletins. Some students have reported that the actual content of a few of the courses may have differed from these descriptions. Chronological problems have also been noted. Benardete was hired by The New School in 1964. It is believed that he taught the Republic in 1964 and the Physics in the fall of 1965, and that in the spring of 1966 he substituted for Howard White in the middle of the second semester of a course on Plato’s Laws.

Also at issue are the spring 1970 course on the Timaeus (said to have focused on the Theaetetus instead), and the fall 1990 course, which is said to have treated the Menexenus only briefly. Please write us at contact [at] if you can confirm or correct any of these items.