Global Opportunities

CAC1015 : How Should I Live? An Introduction to Ancient Moral Philosophy

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


The question about how people should live their lives vexed the ancients as much as it does people in the modern world. Such fundamental questions as ‘are the gods listening?’ and ‘am I really responsible for all my actions?’ sparked philosophical debates which were felt in wider society and reflected in plays and other arts.
In this module we shall consider the range of issues Greeks and Romans thought people should consider in trying to answer the question ‘how should I live?’.

Recurrent themes across the module (depending on staff availability) may include:
• Ancient arguments about whether human beings have a specific function
• Whether there is such a thing as justice and what it might be
• What happiness is and how we can achieve it
• What role a ‘soul’ might play in the choices we make in our lives
• Are there eternal consequences for wrongdoing?
• Do the gods care about how we live?
• Conflicting positions on these subjects put forward by different philosophical schools
• Historical background to the debates and the impact on the wider intellectual culture of Greek and Roman antiquity
• To what extent the views these thinkers advocated were normative or subversive, pragmatic or idealistic, a reflection of their society's conception of the good life or a radical criticism of it

Outline Of Syllabus

This module aims to give students the opportunity to gain a solid introduction to the intellectual traditions of the Greeks and Romans in the field of ethics, with emphasis also on the connections between ancient discussions of moral philosophy and political theory, religion and psychology. Throughout the module students will address questions about life from both ancient and modern perspectives, and will be equipped with the historical background necessary to contextualise the debates and consider their relevance in both ancient and modern times. Students will be encouraged to read and engage with the arguments through the primary philosophical works and secondary literature on these works. The module will enable students to develop skills in critical reading, discussion and debate, and the construction and evaluation of arguments.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture111:0011:001 Lecture p/w
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials111:0011:00Part of student contact hours (e.g. short recordings, podcasts, resources)
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion621:0062:00Split as needed across the assessment components
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading113:0033:003hrs weekly reading from set texts/module reading list
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching111:0011:001 Seminar p/w
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities112:0022:002hrs preparation per week for seminars
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study501:0050:00General consolidation activities (e.g. reviewing notes, recordings, readings)
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The lectures introduce students to important issues concerning ancient ethics , as well as the methodologies used when interpreting relevant ancient texts and important scholarly discussions. In particular lectures are used:
•       to introduce ancient authors and key information about their approaches to the philosophical questions under discussion
•       to encourage critical reading of the texts by means of close reading of selected passages
•       to stimulate development of listening and note-taking skills
•       to recommend secondary readings relevant to the interpretive problems raised, and highlight essential arguments and controversies in these readings
•       to challenge students to reflect on the logical foundations of their own ethical ideas in the light of ancient arguments that may appear foreign to them

Small-group teaching hours are used:
•       to allow students to discuss a prescribed piece of primary and/or secondary literature in a small group, in a conversation structured by seminar questions distributed in advance
•       to give students the opportunity to articulate their own arguments about an aspect of ancient moral philosophy

Drop-ins are used:
•       to offer students the opportunity to consult teaching staff about preparing their coursework essay and revising for the exam, and to benefit from hearing the answers to others’ questions

Workshops are geared towards assessment preparation: workshop 1 will address the question "How to research and write an essay?"; workshop 2 will introduce students to the process of identifying, and critically engaging with, secondary literature.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Portfolio2M401500-word portfolio based on first half of module content (tasks & guidance provided)
Essay2A602000-word essay answering one of a pre-set list of questions
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Prob solv exercises2MDiscipline-specific technical skills quizzes (VLE) to prepare for assessments
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The 24hr take-home examination is designed to test breadth of knowledge and reading. The essay is designed to assess students’ skills in critical reading and use of evidence, and their ability to construct coherent, logical and interesting arguments about a single topic in ancient ethics.
It further assesses students' engagement with relevant secondary literature, as well as their written communication skills.

All assessed work tests intended knowledge and skills outcomes, develops key skills in research, reading and writing.

The formative assessment is conceived as preparatory work for the two workshops and is intended to reinforce the methodologies required in order to succeed in the assessments.

All Erasmus students at Newcastle University are expected to do the same assessment as students registered for a degree.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. This will take the form of an alternative assessment, as outlined in the formats below:

Modules assessed by Coursework and Exam:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be one essay in addition to the other coursework assessment (the length of the essay should be adjusted in order to comply with the assessment tariff); to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Exam only:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be two 2,000 word written exercises; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Coursework only:
All semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be expected to complete the standard assessment for the module; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending the whole academic year or semester 2 are required to complete the standard assessment as set out in the MOF under all circumstances.

Reading Lists