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Ancient Philosophy (PH140-15)

Timing and CATS

The module will run in the Spring Term and is worth 15 CATS

Module Description

The module introduces thinkers, ideas and arguments from ancient philosophy that have been foundational for the western philosophical tradition. Thinkers studied include Parmenides, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Students are introduced both to the primary texts and to secondary literature. The module focuses specifically on metaphysics, epistemology and ethics, and emphasizes contrast and continuity between treatments of these topics in the ancient literature. The module provides a foundation both for further study of Greek philosophy, and for study of contemporary philosophical literature that engages with these traditional themes.

Learning Outcomes or Aims

By the end of the module students should have acquired: 1. a good basic knowledge and understanding of the work of some of the key figures in Ancient Greek philosophy; 2. an appreciation of the development of philosophical thought about metaphysics, epistemology and ethics in Ancient Greece, and an ability to compare the views of key thinkers on specific topics; 3. an appreciation of the importance of Ancient Greek philosophy in the history of Western philosophy as a whole; 4. skills in reading and interpreting philosophical texts; 5. an ability to critically assess relevant arguments; 6. an ability to construct and present a lucid and rigorous argument, both orally and in writing; 7. the ability to discuss a topic in a pair or a group with clarity, patience and sensitivity to the views of others.

Contact Time

In this module students must attend 2 hours of lectures and 1 hour of seminars per week, over the course of 10 weeks

Lectures for 2017-18
  • Monday 12pm to 1pm in L5
  • Wednesday 11am to 12pm in LIB2

There will be no lectures in reading week (week 6)

Seminars for 2017-18

Seminars start in week 2 and run for the rest of the term

There will be no seminars in reading week (week 6)

Please sign up for a seminar group using Tabula.

Assessment Methods

This module is formally assessed in the following ways:

  • 1 x 1,500 word essay (worth 15% of the module)
  • 1 x 2-hour exam (worth 85% of the module)

Sample Reading Material

Texts to be determined. A sample of texts used in the past include:

  • Christopher Shields, Ancient Philosophy: A Contemporary Introduction, (2nd ed.), (Routledge, 2012).
  • Jonathan Barnes (ed.), Early Greek Philosophy, (Penguin, 2002).
  • Jonathan Barnes, The Presocratic Philosophers (The Arguments of the Philosophers), (Routledge, 1982).
  • A. A. Long, (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Early Greek Philosophy, (Cambridge University Press, 1999).
  • J. Cooper (ed.), Plato: Complete Works, (Hackett, 1997).
  • Gregory Vlastos, Studies in Greek Philosophy Vol. II: Socrates, Plato and their Tradition, (Princeton University Press, 1996)
  • G. Fine (ed.), Plato 1: Metaphysics and Epistemology (Oxford Readings in Philosophy), (Oxford University Press, 1999)
  • G. Fine (ed.), Plato 2: Ethics, Politics, Religion and the Soul (Oxford Readings in Philosophy), (Oxford University Press, 2000)
  • J. L. Ackrill (ed.), A New Aristotle Reader, (Oxford University Press, 1987).
  • J. L. Ackrill (ed.), Aristotle the Philosopher, (Oxford University Press, 1981).
  • Terence Irwin, Aristotle's First Principles, (Oxford University Press, 1990).
  • Jonathan Lear, Aristotle: The Desire to Understand, (Cambridge University Press, 1988).


From October 2016 course materials will be available on Moodle. Simply sign in and select the module from your Moodle home page.


Module Tutor

Dr Laura Gow