Philosophy 205 — History of Philosophy I: Ancient 9:00-10:00 MWF,  MI 209

D. Vessey                   363-2146 (Office)                               Office Hours: 210 MI

                                    368-9612 (Home)                               MW  10:00-11:00, 2:00-3:00

                                                                                                Th  1:00-3:00

                                                                                                and by appointment


Required Texts:

            Curd, A Pre-Socratics Reader

            Plato, Republic (Grube, tr.)

            Aristotle, Introductory Readings (Irwin & Fine, trs.)

            Saunders, Greek and Roman Philosophy after Aristotle

            Additional Photocopied Readings


Course Content

            Philosophy—one of the defining intellectual practices of Western Civilization—had its origins in the 6th century BC on the outskirts of the Greek empire.  This course focuses on the introduction and development of the ideas of these first philosophers.  The course could be thought of in four sections: the Pre-Socratics and Sophists; the great philosophers of Athens: Plato and Aristotle; the Post-Aristotelian Hellenistic schools: Stoicism, Epicureanism, and Skepticism; and the beginnings of philosophical theology.  We will cover 950 years: from 625BC (the estimated birth of Thales) to 325 AD (the Council of Nicea and the construction of Nova Roma (Constantinople/Istanbul)). 



Course Method

            This course has one central focus: understanding the philosophical views of ancient Western philosophy.  Since reading and interpreting the texts will be the central focus of the course, the assignments will focus on facilitating an understanding of the reading.  There are only three assignments: Motivated Questions, an Outline, and a fairly short (4 page) paper.   Every night before class by 9:00PM everyone must post a motivated question based on the reading on the phil205 listserv (phil205-l).  Either the night before or the morning of the class everyone must read everyone else’s motivated questions.  The class will use these question as a starting point for the discussion. The motivated questions can range from questions of interpretation to criticism but either way they must be more than mere questions (e.g. “What does Plato mean by “form”?).  Instead they must show a knowledge of the context and importance of the question.  (e.g. At line 431b Plato uses the term “form” for both people and objects.  But what in what sense could these the same thing?  Shouldn’t he distinguish stronger between the kinds of things humans are (beings with “form” in the sense of “souls”) and the kinds of things objects are (beings with “form” in the sense of “shape”)?)  In addition to the daily questions, everyone must sign up for one day of either Plato’s Republic (except the first day) or of Aristotle and outline the reading for that day.  That person is responsible for making copies of his/her outline for everyone in the class.  At the end of the semester, then, everyone in class will have a full outline of Plato’s Republic and of the Aristotle readings.  Third, there will be a four page paper due at the time of the final exam covering some issues of Post-Aristotelian Greek and Roman philosophy.   The typo policy (lose one grade for every four typos) applies to the outline and the paper.  There will be no exams.


Motivated Questions

and Class Participation:          60%

Outline:                                   20%

Paper:                                      20%



1. Tue, Aug 26                        Introduction


2. Wed, Aug. 27                      Ionians—Milesians

                                                            Reading: Curd pp. 1-17


3. Fri, Aug. 29                         Ionians—Pythagorus, Xenophanes, Heraclitus       

                                                            Reading: Curd pp. 17-41




4. Mon, Sept. 1                       Italians— Parmenides

                                                            Reading: Curd pp. 43-53


5. Wed, Sept. 3                       Italians—Zeno & Melissus

                                                            Reading: Curd, pp. 73-92


6. Fri, Sept. 5                          Pluralists & Atomists—Anaxagorus & Empedocles;                                                                      Leucippus & Democritus

                                                            Reading: Curd, pp. 53-72




7. Mon, Sept. 8                       Sophists—Protagoras, Gorgias, Antiphon, & Critias

                                                            Reading: Curd, pp. 97-107


8. Wed, Sept. 10                     Socrates/Plato—Introduction to Plato’s writings

                                                            Reading: Republic , Preface and Introduction


9. Fri, Sept. 12                        Plato—The Questions of Justice

                                                            Reading: Republic  327-367e, pp. 1-42




10. Mon, Sept. 15                   Plato—The Ideal Polis

                                                            Reading: Republic 368a-412b, pp. 43-88


11. Wed, Sept. 17                   Plato—The Virtues of the Polis and the Psyche

                                                            Reading: Republic 412-445b, pp. 88-121


12. Fri, Sept. 19                      Plato—The Role of Women and the Possibility

of the Ideal Polis

                                                            Reading: Republic  V, pp. 122-156




13. Mon, Sept. 22                   Plato— Philosophy, the Good and the Line

                                                            Reading: Republic VI, pp. 157-185


14. Wed, Sept. 24                   Plato—The Cave and the Education of the Rulers

                                                            Reading: Republic VII, pp. 186-212


15. Fri, Sept. 26                      Plato—The Republic Video




16. Mon, Sept. 29                   Plato—Five Types of Cities and Souls

                                                            Reading: Republic VIII, pp. 213-240


17. Wed, Oct. 1                       Plato—The Questions of Justice Answered

                                                            Reading: Republic IX, pp. 241-263


18. Fri, Oct. 3                         Plato—Poetry and Myth in Light of the Forms

                                                            Reading: Republic X, pp. 264-292




19. Mon, Oct. 6                      Plato— Physics of Creation

                                                            Reading: Timeaus 17a-48(Handout)


20. Wed, Oct. 8                       Plato— Metaphysics of Creation

                                                            Reading: Timeaus 49-68(Handout)


21. Fri, Oct. 10                       Plato/Aristotle—Conclusion & Introduction






22. Mon, Oct. 20                    Aristotle — The Best Human Life 

                                                            Reading: Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. I

                                                                        Irwin, pp. 196-216


23. Wed, Oct.  22                    Aristotle — The Nature of Virtues and Justice

                                                            Reading: Nicomachean Ethics Bk. II, V

                                                                        Irwin, pp. 216-228; 241-247


24. Fri, Oct. 24                       Aristotle  —Pleasure, Happiness and the State

                                                            Reading: Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. X

                                                                        Irwin, pp. 275-291 & Handout




25. Mon, Oct. 27                    Aristotle — Souls

                                                            Reading: De Anima Bk.I, II

                                                                        Irwin, pp. 76-95 & Handout


26. Wed, Oct. 29                     Aristotle — Active and Passive Intellect

                                                            Reading: De Anima Bk. III

                                                                        Irwin, pp. 96-103 & Handout


27. Fri, Oct. 31                       Aristotle  — Ontology

                                                            Reading: Categories Chps. 1-9

                                                                        Irwin, pp. 1-8 & Handout




28. Mon, Nov. 3                     Aristotle — Cause, Change and Knowledge,

                                                            Reading: Metaphysics Bk. I, IV

                                                                        Irwin, pp. 115-146


29. Wed, Nov. 5                      Aristotle — Substance

                                                            Reading: Metaphysics Bk. VII, VIII

                                                                        Irwin, pp. 150-179


30. Fri, Nov. 7                        Aristotle — Potentiality/Actuality, Divine Intellect

                                                            Reading: Metaphysics Bk.  IX, XII, XIII

                                                                        Irwin, 180-196



31. Mon, Nov. 10                   Lucretius Epicurean Physics

                                                            Reading: Saunders, pp. 15-46


32. Wed, Nov. 12                    Epicurus—Ethics

                                                            Reading:  Saunders, pp. 47-58 & Handout


33. Fri, Nov. 14                      Stoics—Logic

                                                            Reading: Saunders, pp. 60-80




34. Mon, Nov. 17                   Stoics—Physics

                                                            Reading: Saunders, pp. 80-110


35. Wed, Nov. 19                    Stoics—Ethics

                                                            Reading: Saunders, pp. 111-150


36. Fri, Nov. 21                      Skeptics—Pyrrhonism         

                                                            Reading: Saunders, pp. 152-182




37. Mon, Nov. 24                   Early ApologeticsPhilo

                                                            Reading: Saunders, pp. 200-228


38. Wed, Nov. 26                    2nd Century Christianity

                                                            Reading: TBA






39. Mon, Dec. 1                      2nd Century Christianity

                                                            Reading: TBA


40. Wed, Dec. 3                      Plotinus

                                                            Reading: Saunders, pp. 230-248


41. Fri, Dec. 5                         Plotinus

                                                            Reading: Saunders, pp. 249-286




42. Mon, Dec. 8                      313-325: Constantine’s Conversion, the Origin of                                                                Monasticism, The Council at Nicea and the                                                                           limits of Christian Neo-Platonism


43. Wed, Dec. 10                    Conclusions and Evaluations



FINAL EXAM                       Paper on Hellenistic/Roman Philosophy Due