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COURSE NAME: "Ancient Philosophy"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Summer Session II 2019

EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MTWTH 11:10-1:00 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.

In this course, we will investigate the development of ancient western philosophical traditions, from the Pre-Socratic Greek philosophers through the Roman Stoics, looking closely at the questions that drove philosophy in Greece and Rome during these eras, including: What causes change? What is the soul? What is happiness? What does it mean to live a good life?  How can humans find happiness in a tumultuous world?


We will focus on an overarching theme that emerges when ancient Greek and Roman thinkers answer these questions: namely, that philosophy should be seen as a way of life—a set of practices and exercises—meant to help individuals and communities flourish.


We begin with the Pre-Socratics who apply rational inquiry to perennial questions about the ever-changing natural world and humans’ place in it, departing from the religious and mythological answers prevalent at the time. Moving on to Socrates and Plato, we focus on the nature of the soul and how one should cultivate a philosophical soul while living in a world of change and instability. Though Aristotle, Plato’s pupil, views the soul very differently from Socrates or Plato, he shares previous Greek philosophers’ interest in reflecting on how to live a good life given the nature of the human soul and the nature of the world we inhabit.


During the second half of the course, we turn to Epicureanism and Stoicism as represented in the writings of Cicero, Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius.  These traditions believe human flourishing depends upon training oneself to remain tranquil in the face of life’s upheaval and challenges. Though these traditions depart in significant ways from the views of the Classical Greek philosophers, regarding the nature of the soul and the nature of reality, they share the view that our knowledge of the natural world, the self and of philosophical discourse, should be understood as an integrated whole directed towards helping the practitioner live a meaningful life.


As we investigate what it meant for ancient thinkers to see philosophy as a way of life, we will also consider what it means for 21st century individuals to consider similar questions, asking: ‘how can the tools and questions of ancient philosophy help us build meaningful lives today?’


Course requirements include attendance and participation, three two-page reading response papers, two four-page analysis papers and a final exam. Several sessions will be held off-site at locations of philosophical interest in Rome. 


This course is designed to help you:

1)    Read primary source texts from ancient Greek and Roman philosophy (in translation) carefully and thoroughly

2)    Understand key views in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy from the Pre-Socratics to the Roman Stoics, including connections and dissimilarities between various views

3)    Think carefully and critically through your own positions on important issues raised by these philosophers (i.e. what is a soul, what is happiness, what does it mean to live a good life, what constitutes human flourishing etc.)

4)    Write response papers that clearly describe the arguments and views of historical thinkers, as well as your responses to their views

5)    Write analytical papers that assert, develop and support an original thesis, using clear philosophical argumentation and textual evidence

6)    Express your own arguments and views clearly in class discussion and engage productively with the views of your classmates.


Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Five DialoguesPlatoHackett0872206335  
RepublicPlato Hackett0872201368  
Nicomachean EthicsAristotleHackett9780872204645  
Meditations: A New TranslationMarcus Aurelius Modern Library9780812968255  

Response Paper 1Each response paper should be between 400-600 words (about two pages). These papers give you an opportunity to show that you are reading the texts closely and thinking about your responses to the philosophers’ views. These do not need to be thesis-driven, but should include evidence from the texts to support the points you make. Rubric and specific prompts for response papers will be handed out on the first day of class.10
Rsponse Paper 2Each response paper should be between 400-600 words (about two pages). 10
Response paper 3Each response paper should be between 400-600 words (about two pages). 10
Analysis Paper 1You will write two argument papers during the course. Each paper should be between 1200-1400 words each (about four pages). These should be thesis driven and advance an original argument with which a reasonable person could disagree. Analysis papers must include textual evidence. Rubric and specific assignment prompts will be handed out on the first day of class. 15
Analysis Paper 2The analysis paper should be between 1200-1400 words each (about four pages). These should be thesis driven and advance an original argument with which a reasonable person could disagree. Analysis papers must include textual evidence. Rubric and specific assignment prompts will be handed out on the first day of class. 15
Final Exam 20
Participation 20

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.

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 ____________
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.





Reading (have reading completed by listed class date)

Assignment Due

Week 1

Monday, July 8

Introduction to the course; Introduction to Philosophy as a Way of Life in Ancient Greece and Rome


Tuesday, July 9


‘Pre-Socratic Excerpts’ (Moodle)

Pierre Hadot, excerpt from What is Ancient Philosophy (Moodle)

Wednesday, July 10

Socrates, Life and method

Euthyphro (Plato’s Five Dialogues)

Thursday, July 11

Socrates’ Defense of his life

Apology (Plato’s Five Dialogues)

Week 2

Monday, July 15

Socrates’ Death

Phaedo (Plato’s Five Dialogues)

Response Paper 1 Due

Tuesday, July 16

Plato’s Republic: Justice in the Individual/City; the Tripartite Soul

Republic, Bk 1, Bk. 2, Bk 3: 412b-417b; Bk 4: 434-445

Wednesday, July 17

Plato’s Republic: Women and Children in the Republic

Republic Bk. 5: 449-474b

Thursday, July 18

Plato’s Republic: The Sun, The Line and the Cave; the argument for the just life

Republic Bk. 6: 502c-511e; Bk. 7: 514-521c; Bk 9

Week 3

Monday, July 22

Aristotle on the Soul and the Four Causes

Physics Book II, chap 1-9;

Excerpts from De Anima (Moodle)

Analysis Paper 1 Due

Tuesday, July 23

Aristotle on the Good

Nichomachean Ethics, Book I, II  (NE)

Wednesday, July 24

Aristotle on Moral and Intellectual Virtue

NE book 3 (sections 1-5)

NE book 5 (1, 2)

Book 6 (1, 2, 5, 7)

Thursday, July 25

Aristotle on Pleasure and Happiness

NE book 7 (1-3)

Book 10 (6-10)

Response Paper 2 Due

Week 4

Monday, July 29

Cicero—tentative field trip to Roman Forum

Tuesday, July 30

Cicero on Epicureanism

De Finibus, books 1-2 (Moodle)

Wednesday, July 31

Cicero on Stoicism

De Finibus, books 3-4 (Moodle)

Thursday, August 1

Seneca’s letters

Seneca, selected epistles (Moodle)

Response Paper 3 Due

Week 5

Monday, August 5

Marcus Aurelius- tentative field trip

Meditations, book I-IV

Tuesday, August 6

Marcus Aurelius

Meditations, browse books V-XII

Wednesday, August 7

Epictetus, a handbook for Stoic Living

Enchiridion, selections (Moodle)

Thursday, August 8th

Catch up and review

Analysis Paper 2 Due

Friday, August 9th

Final Exam

Final Exam