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Unit information: Ancient Philosophy in 2018/19

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Unit name Ancient Philosophy
Unit code PHIL20040
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Pearson
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Philosophy
Faculty Faculty of Arts


In this unit we will be looking at some texts by two of the most important ancient philosophers, Plato and Aristotle.

With Plato, we shall look at certain key parts of the Republic, one of the most famous and influential philosophical texts of all time. In particular, we shall examine Thrasymachus’ challenge to justice in book I, the tripartite analysis of the soul in book IV, the discussion of knowledge and opinion in book V, the divided line and cave analogies in books VI-VII, and the rational/non-rational division in book X.

With Aristotle, we shall consider some parts of his theoretical philosophy. In particular, we shall look at his famous account of four types of ‘cause’ (or ‘because’), his ‘hylomorphic’ (form in matter) account of the soul, his attempt to escape fatalism, his notion of animals as self-movers, and the question of whether Aristotle can sensibly be characterised as an early functionalist in the philosophy of mind.

Intended learning outcomes


Upon successful completion of this unit students will be able to demonstrate:

  1. thorough knowledge of selected dialogues of Plato
  2. familiarity with some key secondary literature on these texts, and the ability to engage critically with the positions and arguments in these texts
  3. an ability to relate some of the ideas in these texts to modern philosophical debates

Teaching details

11 x 2-hour lectures plus 11 x 1 hour seminar.

Assessment Details

Formative: two 2000 word essays designed to test the intended learning outcomes (ILOs 1-3).

Summative: one 3-hour unseen exam designed to test the intended learning outcomes (ILOs 1-3).

Reading and References

Course Texts:

The editions/translations that will be used are [please only get these translations!]:

Grube, G. M. A. [revised by C. D. C. Reeve], Plato: Republic, Hackett, 1992

M. Burnyeat, The Theaetetus of Plato, Hackett, 1990

A couple of books on these texts:

Annas, J. An Introduction to Plato’s Republic, 1981

Sedley, D. The Midwife of Platonism, 2004 [on the Theaetetus]