PHIL 221
Greek Philosophy Fall 2009
Division II
Cross-listed PHIL 221 / CLAS 221
This is not the current course catalog

Class Details

Very few people believe that everything is water, that we knew everything before birth, that philosophers ought to rule the state, or that some people are natural slaves. Why then should we spend our time studying people who in addition to having these crazy beliefs have been dead for 2500 years? First of all, Greek thinkers, especially Plato and Aristotle, radically shaped the trajectory of western thought in every area of philosophy. No one can have an adequate understanding of western intellectual history without some familiarity with the Greeks, and we might think that an understanding of our intellectual history can deepen our understanding of our own situation. More importantly, many of the thinkers that we will read in this class are simply excellent philosophers, and it is worthwhile for anyone interested in philosophical problems to read treatments of these problems by excellent philosophers. We will begin the course by looking at some of the Presocratic philosophers active in the Mediterranean world of the seventh through fifth centuries BCE, and some of the sophists active in the fifth century. We will then turn to several of Plato’s dialogues, examining Plato’s portrayal of Socrates and his development of a new and profoundly powerful philosophical system. We will then read some of Aristotle’s works on metaphysics, epistemology and ethics, and see how Aristotle’s thought responds to that of predecessors. We will end the course with a brief examination of some of the major movements in Hellenistic philosophy: Skepticism, Stoicism and Epicureanism. Roughly equal amount of time will be spent on metaphysics and epistemology, and ethics and political philosophy.
The Class: Format: lecture/discussion
Limit: 25
Expected: 20
Class#: 1027
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: several short papers, term paper, attendance and active participation in class
Prerequisites: at least one class in philosophy is strongly recommended
Enrollment Preferences: current and prospective Philosophy and Classics majors
Distributions: Division II
Notes: meets Division 2 requirement if registration is under PHIL; meets Division 1 requirement if registration is under CLAS
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
PHIL 221 Division II CLAS 221 Division I

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