PHIL 201
History of Ancient Greek Philosophy Spring 2022
Division II
Cross-listed CLAS 203 / PHIL 201

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 the earth is at the center of the cosmos. Why then should we spend our time studying people who in addition to having these surprising 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 briefly 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 conception. Finally, we will examine some of Aristotle’s works on metaphysics, epistemology and ethics, considering some of the ways Aristotle’s thought responds to that of predecessors.
The Class: Format: lecture; The format of this class is going to be different this year. We will not have in-person lectures. Instead, approximately three 1-hour recorded lectures will be made available each week for students to watch. There will also be meetings of 3-4 students with the instructor each week for which some students will write papers and others will prepare comments. These will be either in-person or via zoom. Finally, there will be a synchronous zoom session each week for larger group discsussion.
Limit: 20
Expected: 15-20
Class#: 3549
Grading: no pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: (i) Students will write papers (4-6 pages) for the small groups meetings and will comment on the papers of their peers (1-2 pages); (ii) There will be two take-home exams including a comprehensive final exam; (iii) Active and informed participation in small group discussions.
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: Philosophy and Classics Majors.
Unit Notes: Philosophy majors must take either PHIL 201 or PHIL 202 (and are encouraged to take both)
Distributions: Division II
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
CLAS 203 Division I PHIL 201 Division II

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