For information on winter intensives that are being delivered partially or fully on campus, please refer to the COVID-19 page.
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The world seems to be in constant flux—but does it really change, or are we merely deluded by appearances? Can humans overcome their basest instincts, or are we condemned to have our rational mind always defeated by the power of our irrational impulses? What does justice demand of us? Or is talk of justice itself just a ruse developed by the powerful to keep us in line?
In this course, we will examine how these topics were tackled as, in fact, interconnected problems within the philosophical systems of ancient Greece; we will chiefly focus on Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics. We will proceed chronologically, starting with the tour de force that is Parmenides’ argument for monism, and then continuing with four of Plato’s dialogues (Laches, Protagoras, Symposium, and Republic). The second half of the course will focus on Aristotle’s innovative and influential logic, natural philosophy, and ethics. We will conclude with an examination of the radical ethical theory of the Stoics, which held that virtue alone was sufficient for happiness: a shocking thesis that implies that the truly wise man would be equally happy whether he was a debased and tortured slave or an admired Roman emperor.
Intended learning outcomes
Students who successfully complete this subject will:
- Acquire ability to give an account of the scope, achievements, and principal concerns of some central Greek philosophical investigations into the nature of reality, knowledge and value;
- Improve skills in reading philosophical texts and in writing philosophical papers.
Students who successfully complete this subject should:
- have developed their powers of critical and analytical thinking.
- be able to apply these powers to problems and issues in other areas of philosophy, and in other disciplines.
- have a deeper understanding of what it means to be a human being.
Last updated: 5 June 2020