Second Semester 2005 - 2006
Unit Director: Phyllis McKay
Ancient Greek philosophy has a continuing influence on all areas of modern philosophy. This course will concentrate on the ethical views of Plato and Aristotle, highlighting both their influence on modern views, and their important differences from them.
We will study two Platonic dialogues on virtue - Meno and Gorgias - and Aristotle's hugely influential Nicomachean Ethics. We will concentrate on the common themes of virtue, and its relation to the good life and happiness, and the relation of knowledge and virtue. We will examine Plat'so and Aristotle's different views on the claim that 'virtue is knowledge', and such controversial doctrines as 'the good man cannot be harmed' and 'no-one does wrong willingly'.
I will introduce you to a little of the history and society of Ancient Athens, and the only three Greek words you need to know - the words for virtue, happiness, and practical wisdom. You will not need any other background knowledge, but you might find you get hooked. If you do, I recommend James Davidson: Courtesans and Fishcakes: the consuming passions of classical Athens (Harper Collins 1997). There is a copy in the library.
|Plato:||Meno translated by GMA Grube, published by Hackett 1981|
|Gorgias translated by Walter Hamilton, published by Penguin 2004|
|Aristotle:||Nicomachean Ethics translated by D Ross, JR Ackrill and JO Urmson, published by oxford World Classics 1998|
Please note: it is best to get the exact translation given here, since it avoids confusion if the whole class is working from the same text. None of these editions is expensive, and they all have useful introductions to get you started.
These are worth looking at if you want to get ahead on the reading for the course:
Irwin, T: Plato's Ethics, 1995, OUP, Oxford
Rorty, AO: Essays on Aristotle's Ethics, 1980 University of California Press, Los Angeles
Urmson, JO: Aristotle's Ethics, 1997, Blackwell, Oxford. Nice easy introduction to many of our topics on Aristotle.