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COURSE NAME: "Ancient Philosophy"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Summer Session II 2018

INSTRUCTOR: Bruce Louden
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MTWTH 1:40-3:30 PM

The philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome debated fundamental questions with an imagination, subtlety, and daring that have captured the attention of thoughtful people in every epoch. For example, they considered the nature and origin of the universe, what changes and does not change, as well as what causes change, how perception and reasoning produce knowledge, the relation between the soul and the body, the meaning of justice and beauty, and the nature of the good life. Through a careful reading of selected texts – in the form of dialogues, poems, aphorisms, or treatises – the course will introduce you to the great questions and controversies of ancient philosophy.

This course introduces you to the origins and foundations of philosophy, arranged in five units: the pre-Socratics, Socrates/Plato, Aristotle, Epicureanism, and Stoicism.  We start by exploring the pre-Socratic philosophers, the first thinkers to try to explain the universe by reason, not creation myth.  They theorized infinity, atomic theory, alternate universes, non-deistic explanations for weather, all in the sixth and fifth centuries BC!  Next is Socrates, who single-handedly shaped philosophy more than any other thinker, and his greatest student Plato, whose Republic is the most frequently taught text in elite American universities.  Third is Aristotle, Plato’s greatest student, whose writings and method held sway over much of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and fourth, Lucretius, whose On the Nature of Things, when rediscovered, helped jumpstart the Renaissance in fourteenth-century Italy.  Our fifth and final unit, stoicism, is perhaps the ancient philosophy most easily applied to contemporary living. 

For the two Roman philosophers, Lucretius and Cicero, we will meet on site, on July 26, 30, and 31, at locations to be announced later.


1.  To acquire an appreciation of the earliest forms of philosophy and gain competence in several of the seminal texts.


2.  To learn the differences between the earliest philosophers, and their schools, and what they offer to students’ own lives.


3.  To understand the ways philosophy and religion differ in their means and in their attempts to explain the big picture.


4.  To understand the foundational contributions early philosophers and their texts have made to larger Western culture.

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Lucretius: The Nature of ThingsA. E. Stallings, translatorPenguin Classics 10: 0140447962 13: 978-0140447965  
Epictetus: Discourses and Selected WritingsRobert Dobbin, editor and translatorPenguin Classics10: 0140449469 13: 978-0140449464  
Aristotle, The Pocket AristotleKaplan (editor)Pocket10 0671463772 13 978-0671463779  
Plato, RepublicG. M. A. Grube (translatorHackett10: 0872201368, ISBN-13: 978-087220136  
The First Philosophers: The Presocratics and the SophistsWaterfield, RobinOxford University Press10: 9780199539093, ISBN-13: 978-0199539093  

see GuidelineWe will have two out-of-class essays (each counting for 20% of the course grade), one midterm (15%) and a final exam (30%), with the remaining 15% determined by attendance and participation in class discussion. Daily attendance is mandatory: the course will move briskly, with considerable material covered and transmitted each meeting. Students will need to take careful notes to prepare for the exams and essays. again, see below

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

Daily attendance is mandatory: the course will move briskly, with considerable material covered and transmitted each meeting.    
You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. The final exam period runs until ___Friday, August 3_________
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.



M 7/2

What is philosophy?  How does it overlap with (its ends or goals),

but differ from (its means), religion?  Why did it start in Greece?

Background for the pre-Socratics; Ion/Javan.



                        I.  The Pre-Socratics (all readings in Waterfield):

 T 7/3

The Milesians and Xenophanes; 3-30.

Heraclitus: 32-46,


W/7/4              holiday  


Th 7/5:

Parmenides, and Zeno; 49-66, 69-80.

Pythagoras: 87-114. 



F 7/6

Anaxagoras and Empedocles; Waterfield 116-30, 133-62

The Atomists; Diogenes; Waterfield 164-92, 194-202



M 7/9:

Sophists: Protagoras and Gorgias: 205-40.



                        II. Plato

T 7/10:              

Apology, Symposium;




W 7/11:

Republic, books 1-2


Th 7/12:

Republic, books 3-4


M 7/16:

Republic, books 5-6


T 7/17:

Republic, books 7-8


W 7/18:

Republic, books 9-10

            First essay due: 4-6 pages


Th 7/19: midterm       




                                    III. Aristotle

M 7/23:

Nicomachean Ethics: 158-209


T 7/24:

Nicomachean Ethics: 210-74


W 7/25

The Politics: 276-339

The Poetics.


                        IV. Epicureanism: Lucretius

Th 7/26:

On the Nature of Things, books 1-2.


M 7/30

On the Nature of Things, books 3-4


T 7/31:

On the Nature of Things, book 5



                        V. Stoicism

Cicero, Scipio’s Dream




W 8/1:

Epictetus, The Discourses: 5-75,

                                    Second essay due: 5-7 pages


Th  8/2:           

Epictetus, The Discourses: 146-73

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations , bks 2, 3, 4, 12



F 8/3:  Final Exam