News & Publications
Letter Home, Summer 2009
Why Johnnies Can't Get Enough Plato
In seminar, students read about a dozen works by Plato, many of them in their freshman year. But each spring, a group of students go out of their way to work in yet more Plato. The Student Committee on Instruction (SCI) holds a series of seminars on Platonic dialogues, known as "Plato in the Springtime." These seminars are held each week on Tuesday nights.
One of the main duties of the SCI is to hold optional seminars, which are open to all students throughout the year. "Shakespeare in the Fall" and "Women in the Winter" (the latter featuring works by female authors) each had a popular following. The Plato seminars seminar attracted 20 to 30 students. Just like regular St. John's seminars, tutors led the sessions and asked an opening question.
SCI member Jacob Greenstine (A10) organized the seminars, choosing to focus on the shorter dialogues of Plato, including Lovers, Ion, Minos, Cleitophon, and Laches. "They're real gems," says Mr. Greenstine. "They have strange insights into things that get passed by quickly in the larger dialogues." Lovers, led by tutor Jeff Black, had the biggest turnout. It was Mr. Greenstine's personal favorite, because it "delves into the relationship between politics and philosophy."
While Plato is considered by many to be the cornerstone of the freshman seminar, many students want to revisit his writings. "Many upperclassman like to go back and read Plato, some because they haven't had a chance to since freshman year, others because they spend all their time reading Plato anyway," says Mr. Greenstine.
"Plato in the Springtime" offers students the chance to discuss such topics as law, philosophic inquiry, poetry, courage, and, of course, the character of Socrates. "His thoughts are constantly relevant," says Mr. Greenstine.