Ancient Greek Philosophy

Apollo's Temple at Delphi
Delphi, photo by C. Freeland

Philosophy 3383 Fall 2006, Section #12956
10-11:30 a.m., Tu Th, Room 301 Agnes Arnold Hall
Dr. Cynthia Freeland, Agnes Arnold Hall Room 511
Office Hours Tu Th 11:30-12:30 and by appt., 743-3206


This course is an advanced survey of ancient Greek philosophy from the presocratic period through to the Hellenistic period, focusing on the development of Greek views of the cosmos, the soul, and the virtuous life.

Learning Outcomes

1. You will:
(A) Acquire a general idea of the historical origins of western philosophy in ancient Greece, learning how key fields of philosophy (ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology) developed over a period of almost 1000 years, from roughly 550 B.C.E. to 150 C.E.
(B) Grasp the importance of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle and understand how their ideas differed on topics such as the definition of reality, the nature and immortality of the soul, the extent and basis of human knowledge, the origins of the cosmos, the nature of God or the gods, and the definition of the good life for humans.

2. You will improve your analytic and writing skills in the following ways:
(A) Be better able to grasp and articulate abstract ideas about the nature of reality or Being, the grounds of knowledge, and more.
(B) Develop (or improve) your ability to write about and interpret texts from another culture and to appreciate the difficulty of understanding what was meant by texts written in another alien time period and language.
(C) Have the opportunity to criticize or defend, in both discussion assignments and unit papers, some fundamental positions on matters of ethics and social philosophy.

Textbooks (Required)

Ancient Greek Philosophy, from Thales to Aristotle, Edited by S. Marc Cohen, Patricia Curd, and C.D.C. Reeve (3rd edition, Hackett 2005) ISBN# 0-97220-769-2

Hellenistic Philosophy: Introductory Readings, Translated by Brad Inwood and L.P. Gerson (2nd edition, Hackett 1887) ISBN# 0-97220-378-6

Course Plan

The course will be divided into four units as follows:
Unit I The Presocratics
Unit II Plato
Unit III Aristotle
Unit IV Hellenistic Philosophy
Units I, II and III are long units; Unit IV is short.

Requirements and Grading

a. Short Discussion Pieces 35%
Short assignments will be made throughout the semester. There will be a few in-class discussion assignments and also a few discussion assignments that involve the Web CT version of this course. More information can be found on the individual unit schedules. Some of the discussion assignments will be graded by the TA for the class, Wade Allen. (The TA will not grade graduate student papers.)

b. Papers 60%
There will be a paper each on Units I, II, and III, with some choice of topics. Each paper should be roughly 3-4 pages long. Due dates are on the individual unit outline pages (FYI, they are September 14, October 12, and November 14). (There is no paper on Unit IV.)

c. Participation 5%

You will be able to keep track of your grades on the WebCT pages for this course.

Attendance, Absences, Late Papers

While attendance is not required, it is expected. Each class will cover a considerable amount of material, and so missing a class will detract from a student's ability to write the unit papers. Also, if the in-class discussion assignment is missed the grade will reflect it. Absences or late papers may be excused only in cases of illness or other extreme circumstances. Late discussion assignments will not be accepted. If you miss an in-class assignment you receive a "0". Late exam papers will be accepted only for up to one week, and they will be marked down one half grade per class day late.


Please notify the professor if you need special accommodations per the ADA.


Plagiarism is a violation of academic ethics and of university policy, and will not be tolerated. All source materials must be cited properly. Plagiarized work is unacceptable and will result in severe penalties ranging from an individual grade of "0" on an assignment to an "F" in the course to suspension or expulsion from the University.

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Last Updated August 16, 2006