Global Opportunities

PHI1012 : Ancient Philosophy I: From the Pre-Socratics to Plato

Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


To introduce Ancient Greek Philosophy from the Pre-Socratics (Thales, Parmenides, Heraclitus, Zeno, Empedocles, for instance) to Socrates and Plato. Depending on staff interests, this module — envisaged at least in the first instance as a team-taught module, the first of two 10 credit optional Stage 1 modules to address Ancient Philosophy— could also include Non-Western Philosophy from an analogous period. But in the first place, this module is intended to introduce the very foundations of Western Philosophy as it emerged in the ancient world, around the Mediterranean sea, and in particular to lead the student through the pre-history of philosophy’s formation as a discipline, up to the moment at which it is first properly established in a corpus that has survived, with Plato’s writings, largely concerning his teacher Socrates. A foundation in Ancient Greek thought is essential for almost all of the philosophy that will come later, and hence must take place at the earliest possible moment in the course.
The module could involve a focus on questions of metaphysics, ethics, politics, or aesthetics, provided this did not cause conflicts with other Level 1 modules, and in such a way as to prepare for the rest of the curriculum in later years, as it develops. Hence flexibility must always be maintained, as must coordination with other level 1 and later courses.

Outline Of Syllabus

Flexible with respect to the faculty who teach the course, but as an indicative suggestion one could propose: an introduction to the thought of the Pre-Socratic Greek philosophers, from Thales to Parmenides, paving the way for the accounts of the life and work of Socrates in the work of Plato (for instance, Symposium, Phaedo) and Xenophon (Memorabilia, Apology, Symposium). It will consider various later accounts of the origins of philosophy itself in the work of Nietzsche on the Tragic Age of the Greeks, and Hegel’s Lectures on the History of Philosophy, as well, perhaps as Heidegger’s entirely novel readings of the Pre-Socratics.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials101:0010:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion120:0020:00Essay preparation and completion
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities101:0010:00Specific research or reading activities developed and directed by academic staff.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching101:0010:00Tutorials
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study150:0050:00Review lecture material, prepare for small group teaching and assessment
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Traditional lectures and seminars, together with independent reading are the only serious way to become acquainted with ancient (as well as modern) texts, and to develop the writing and reading skills necessary to become acquainted with classical texts and to discuss them in an appropriate manner.
The content of the course will be supported by a wide variety of extracts from original texts, and perhaps relevant historical and geographical material, concerning the nature of the ancient world.
Seminars will involve structured discussions that will allow the student the opportunity to interrogate the lectures, reading, and ideas present therein, and to develop a dialectical ability, in discussion with others, and thus bolster the understanding they will already have gained from lecture and reading, while also allowing them to challenge the interpretation given in the lecture, and to offer their own, while also partaking personally in the dialogue and philosophical conversation that became so important in antiquity, particularly in Plato.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1A1002000 word essay
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The students will choose their own question, on a topic that most interested or challenged them, allowing them to investigate in more depth a foundational moment of philosophy, in their own time, and with the support of their tutors, so as to gain a greater awareness of an aspect of the discipline crucial to their later education. Essays allow the student to practise formal expression, a longer form of dissertation on a certain central philosophical topic, while demonstrating their ability to analyse abstract concepts and problems, organise material, to write well.

An essay will encourage independent research, using the lecture content as a foundation and makes it possible to assess knowledge acquisition, interpretive skill and theoretical understanding as well as the analytical, creative and critical potential of students. The essay tests the ability to think creatively, self-critically and independently, as well as the capacity to manage one’s own work and time.

Reading Lists