Philosophy | Ancient Greek Philosophy
P201 | 3495 | Morgan


This course is about the origins of Western philosophy in ancient Greece.  The two and a
half centuries from Anaximander, the first Greek thinker whose work we know much
about, to the death of Aristotle, roughly from 586 B.C.E. to 323 B.C.E., constitute an
exciting and foundational period in Western culture.  It is the time of the growth of the
Greek city states, of the ascendancy of Athens and Athenian culture, of the emergence of
tragic drama, of developments in natural philosophy and mathematics, of the flourishing
of rhetoric, and much else.  In this course we will study the great thinkers of the period,
from the Ionian physical thinkers, to Parmenides and Heraclitus, the Sophists, Socrates,
Plato, and Aristotle.  We will examine in detail the fragmentary remains of the earliest
thinkers and selections from many of Plato's dialogues; if time permits, we shall discuss
the development of Aristotle's thought.

The major focus of the class will be on using the texts we have to understand each
thinker, his place in the tradition of Greek thinking, and the ways in which his thought
tries to deal with a variety of issues  about inquiry and knowledge, morality, reality and
the everyday world, religion, language, and art.  At the same time, we shall try to trace
some central themes about knowledge and reality as they develop throughout the
tradition, from the early physical thinkers to Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

Requirements: Students will receive a detailed syllabus with reading assignments.  Of
primary importance will be the study of the texts, and in class we shall spend a good deal
of time reading and examining them.  In addition to studying the texts and preparing for
class, members of the class will be evaluated on the basis of a short written assignment, a
mid-term, a final examination, a term essay, and a reading project on a chunk from a
Platonic dialogue.  There will be several optional discussions during the semester, and
students will be encouraged to communicate by e-mail as they work on the material and
have questions or comments.