Ancient Philosophy

Phil 3610-101 Fall 2014


INSTRUCTOR: Prof. Richard C. Taylor

OFFICE: 238, Coughlin Hall

MAILBOX: Coughlin Hall Rm. 132

TELEPHONE: 288-5649; FAX: 288-3010


OFFICE HOURS: Tu 12:30-2 pm; Th 1:30-3 pm; and by appointment



CLASSROOM:  Olin Engineering 128 Tu, Th 11 am - 12:15 pm

TURNITIN.COM: Class ID: 7467287. Password: mistertea.

ARES Marquette Raynor Library Reserves password: mistertea

This course in Ancient Philosophy will be devoted to the exploration and analysis of what surely constitutes the most influential philosophical literature in the history of human thought. After a survey of some of the insights offered by the Pre-Socratic thinkers, we will proceed to give close critical study to selected dialogues of Plato and later to selections from the major surviving works of Plato's best student,  Aristotle.  The course will be brought to a close with classes on some of the major doctrines of the Stoics, Epicureans and Skeptics and the Neoplatonist Plotinus with a final class on the influence of Ancient philosophy on Medieval philosophy in Arabic and Latin. Classroom discussions will be enriched by frequent reference to the influence of Ancient Philosophy on later Greek thought and  Medieval Latin and Arabic philosophy. One of my chief goals in this course is to enable students to read Ancient philosophy thoughtfully and carefully so that they may proceed to read for themselves beyond the temporal limits of the course and continue to discover the the perennial of the insights of this foundational period of Western philosophy


The learning objectives for this course include the following:

•  to provide a general introduction to the philosophical thought of the Ancient Greek philosophical tradition as well as a survey, analysis and evaluation of many of the key teachings of that tradition;

•  to penetrate some key issues in Ancient Greek philosophy with critical philosophical depth;

•  to introduce students to the currently available tools for serious philosophical study of

Aristotle and Ancient Philosophy;

•  to reveal the philosophical richness of ancient thought which continues to play a central

role in philosophical and scientific studies today;

•  to display the teachings of Ancient Greek philosophy in their own historical and cultural context while at the same time making occasional reference to their importance in later Ancient philosophy, Medieval Islamic, Christian and Jewish philosophy, Renaissance philosophy and later periods of philosophical study up to today;

• with the course paper, to provide students with the opportunity to develop and to enhance their skills of analysis and writing in the preparation of a substantial and complex philosophical paper;

•  and perhaps most importantly, to provide students the opportunity to think deeply about

Ancient philosophy and its importance in the history of philosophy and of human thought.

The specific learning outcomes for this course include the following:

Students will:

• identify and explain the philosophical vocabulary of the Ancient Greek tradition;

• identify and explicate key philosophical teachings of the Ancient Greek tradition, particularly in metaphysics, natural philosophy, epistemology and psychology;

• critically analyze the cogency of philosophical argumentation on central issues;

• identify many of the philosophical doctrines and arguments from the ancient Greek corpus which were essential in the development of philosophy in later periods; and

• employ professional resources and bibliographical tools in the preparation of the course paper.


REQUIRED TEXT: Readings in Ancient Greek Philosophy from Thales to Aristotle, S. Marc Cohen, Patricia Curd, and C. D. C. Reeve, eds. 3rd or 4th ed. Indianapolis / Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2005.

SECONDARY SOURCES: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy at (free on-line resource) and Peter Adamson podcasts History of Philosophy without any gaps at (free on-line resource).

Study Expectations and Class Participation Expectations

Students are expected to prepare for class in advance of classroom discussions by reading and studying assigned materials before class. Students must be prepared for oral discussion of readings and philosophical issues at every class meeting.  Since engagement with the texts of the ancient philosophers is essential for successful learning in this course, each student is expected to  participate in D2L discussions online.

Policy for Students with Disabilities or Special Needs

Please see me privately if you have any documented disabilities or special needs. I will be glad to work with you has necessary to make this a valuable learning experience.

“STUDENTS WITH A DOCUMENTED DISABILITY are entitled to reasonable accommodations to ensure equality of opportunity to participate in Marquette’s

programs and activities if they are academically qualified to meet the university’s academic and technical standards for admission or participation in its educational programs and activities.”

For University policy see:

For the implementation accommodations, students must normally identify themselves to the instructor within the first week of classes as students with documented disability as certified by the Office of Disability Services (ODS).  I will work closely with the staff of the ODS in establishing reasonable accommodations as defined by University policy. Students seeking accommodations must register with ODS and receive appropriate certification.


Grades will be based on (1) a short exam of 30 min. on the Presocratics (10% of course grade), (2) a midterm exam of 75 min. on Plato’s philosophy (20%), (3) a final exam of 120 min. on Aristotle with a special question on Ancient Greek Philosophy in general (30%), (4) participation by way of class discussion and questions on D2L (10%) and the course paper of ca. 10-15 pp. (30%).

(1) a short exam of 30 min. on the Presocratics                                                  10%

(2) a midterm exam of 75 min. on Plato’s philosophy                                        20%

(3) a final exam of 120 min. on Aristotle with a special question on

                                                 Ancient Greek Philosophy in general                 30%

  1. (4) participation: class discussion and D2L online discussions                          10%          

  2. (5) course paper of ca. 10-14 pp.                                                                         30%

Additional remarks:

(a) All students are responsible to see to it that they sign the daily attendance sheet.

(b) Participation: Discussion, Student Questions, Attendance: 10% of the final course grade. The participation grade is based on active involvement in the course by way of discussion, questions and other forms of engagement in class.  Since engagement with the texts of the ancient philosophers is essential for successful learning in this course, each student is expected to bring 1-2 written questions to each class. (These may be collected by the instructor.) Questions should be indicative of the student’s having completed and reflected on the assigned readings.

Attendance at class is essential for learning and will enter into the grade for participation. Hence, at the discretion of the instructor three unexcused absences will lower the Participation, Discussion, Attendance portion of the grade by one letter, five by two letters, seven by three letters. It is the student’s responsibility to be sure to sign the attendance sheet at each class.

(c ) Final Examination: 30% of final course grade.  This exam is primarily focussed on Aristotle but it will contain one additional question (30% of the final exam) for which an substantial response is expected.

That question is: In light of your study of Ancient Greek Philosophy this semester, what philosophical teaching do you find most important and insightful? Explain at length what that teaching is and argue with reasons and reasoning for the importance you find in it.

(d) Details Regarding the Course Paper

     A term paper of 10-14 pages is required for this course. This paper should be both

expository and philosophically critical in nature and should reflect a very substantial amount of careful study and thought on the topic selected. Some use of secondary sources is expected though that use need not be extensive.

    For this paper all students must submit (i) a one-page description of the topic selected; (ii) a one- to two-page outline of the argument of the paper.

NOTE THESE DEADLINES: (no exceptions)

    1 April 2014: Required written submission of the proposed paper topic described in one page.

                          Of course, you are most welcome to submit and discuss this with me earlier.

    11 or 15 April 2014: Required written submission of DETAILED outline of course paper in

                          1-2 pages. Of course, you are most welcome to submit and discuss this with me

                          earlier. Outlines submitted 11 April will be returned 15 April; those submitted 15

                          April will be returned 22 April.

    3 May 2014: Deadline for submission by email to me and to www.

(Class ID: 7467287. Password: mistertea.)

                  Remember: With the final version of this paper all students must submit

                  (i) a one-page descriptive abstract of the topic selected;

                  (ii) a one- to two-page outline of the argument of the paper.

NOTE THIS SPECIAL OPPORTUNITY REGARDING COURSE PAPERS: I am interested in experimenting with a new procedure that allows students to submit the course paper early and to revise and resubmit after receiving my comments. Here is the procedure if you wish to take advantage of this opportunity: (i) the course paper must be submitted to me directly via email in WORD and also to no later than 15 April; (ii) I will provide my comments and advice to you by 21 April; (iii) the final version of the paper is due 1 May 2014. NOTE: Papers submitted to me early to take advantage of this opportunity must be fully finished papers that have been proofread and spell checked. If there is an excessive number of minor errors, I will simply return the paper to you without comment on its content. The same is the case if it is excessively sloppy and does not display the quality expected of a final course paper. Since this is a voluntary experiment, if you take it seriously, I will it take you seriously and provide you with valuable comments on how to enhance the paper; if you do not take it seriously, I will not it take it seriously.

Miscellaneous Details:

Failure to prepare the paper in accord with these details will result in a significantly lower grade.

Paper Length: Approximately 10-14 pages (ca. 2500-3500 words) typed double-spaced with footnotes and BIBLIOGRAPHY OF ITEMS CONSULTED on additional pages at the end of the paper.

Style: The paper together with its notes and bibliography must be written in accordance with a major stylistic authority.

Spelling and Grammar: It is presumed that the paper will be composed in accordance with the detailed guidance found on the course website on the page “Writing Argumentative Philosophy Papers” at  (Students are also consider the advice found at Consequently, it is also presumed that spelling and grammatical errors (such as pseudo-sentences without verbs, etc.) will be discovered and rectified either in the composition of the second draft or in the proofreading of the final version. AFTER THE FIRST THREE MISTAKES OF THIS SORT, 1% WILL BE DEDUCTED FROM THE PAPER GRADE FOR EACH MISSPELLING AND GRAMMATICAL MISTAKE.  5% will be interpreted as 1/2 letter grade and 10% as a full letter grade.

Students are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the resources of the Norman H. Ott Memorial Writing Center in Raynor Library. See

Paper Topics

     What follows here is a list of approved paper topics. Part of  this assignment is the task of properly delimiting the paper topic. Most of the topics must be carefully delimited if they are to be handled well.  In other words, you must give further definition to the topic before you begin your paper.

     I strongly encourage you to consult me during office hours on your paper topic so that I may provide you assistance in making this paper a fine piece of work of which each of us can be proud.  Note that you are welcome to submit to me drafts of outlines anytime. If you are interested in a topic other than those listed below, see me about it as soon as possible for discussion of the possibility of writing on that topic.  Note however that you must secure my

consent before 11/19 (deadline for written submission of the paper topic) so you will have to discuss the matter with me well before that date.

Some possible paper topics:

1  Opinion / Belief and Knowledge in the Meno and Republic: Can the teachings in these dialogues be reconciled?

2  The nature of love and beauty in Plato’s Symposium

3 A critical analysis of proofs for the immortality of the soul in Plato’s Phaedo

4 Does Plato succeed with the main argument of the Republic?

5 Anamnesis (recollection): a critical analysis (Meno, Phaedo, Phaedrus)

6 Plato’s critique of Plato’s theory of forms in his Parmenides.

7 Form and cognition in Aristotle’s epistemology. De Anima.

8 Living on the edge (metaxu): how can the natural science of psychology adequately treat of the human soul if human soul  

             has intellectual activities distinct from the natural world? De Anima.

9 Are Aristotle’s teachings on substance in the Categories and in the Metaphysics (7) reconcilable?

10 Aristotle’s argument for the existence and nature of the divine in Metaphysics 12.

11  How is it possible to knowingly do wrong? OR: Is it better to do or to suffer injustice? Plato’s Protagoras 352A-357E and

          Gorgias; and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics 3 & 7.

12  Aristotle’s criticism of Plato’s Theory of Forms. Plato’s Phaedo, Symposium, Republic, Parmenides; and Aristotles’

          Nicomachean Ethics 1.6 and Metaphysics 1, 7, 13.10.



Academic Dishonesty Policy

Dishonesty in academic matters undermines student intellectual development and the goal of Marquette University to develop the whole person. Further, dishonesty undermines the foundations of the search for the true and the right.  Cheating in such forms as copying, sharing answers or questions, plagiarism and the like certainly cannot be tolerated in any university course and all the more so in this course on Ancient philosophy.  Consequently, in this course I adhere fully with the Marquette University Academic Honest Policy as spelled out at

           Students who have any questions about just what constitutes academic dishonesty should bring any questions to me to forestall any problems.


Class Attendance and Absence Policy


Class Attendance and Absence Policy

For this course students are expected to attend each and every class meeting.  It is the student’s responsibility to be sure to sign the attendance sheet at each class. For this course attendance is included as a measure of academic performance, in accord with the policies of the Helen Way Klinger College of Arts and Sciences. Regarding attendance and grading, see


Unofficial grades will be recorded on D2L for student access. My personal copy of grading sheets will contain official grades for the course.


Course syllabus, part 1 of 2

Prof. Richard C. Taylor

OFFICE: Coughlin Hall 238

MAILBOX: Coughlin Hall 132

TELEPHONE: 288-5649  (with voicemail)


FAX: 288-3010

CLASSROOM: Olin Engineering 128

CLASS TIME: TuTh 11 am - 12:15 pm

OFFICE HRS: Tu 12:30-2; Th 1:30-3; and by appointment.

TURNITIN.COM: Please submit your paper to 7467287 Phil 3610 Ancient Philosophy on The password is mistertea.

ARES Raynor Library Reserve System:

Course password: mistertea

Blackwell Companion to Ancient Philosophy, available online via Marqcat.

Monty Python: Philosophers’ World Cup: