Module Catalogue 2023/24

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

  • Offered for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Stephanie Holton
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



This module aims to introduce students to the key ideas, themes, and thinkers of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy. Throughout the module students will address questions about life from both ancient and modern perspectives and will be equipped with the socio-cultural background necessary to contextualise the debates. Students will be encouraged to read and engage with the arguments through a selection of primary philosophical works in translation as well as key secondary literature. The module also aims to develop skills in critical reading, discussion and debate, and in the construction and evaluation of arguments.

Outline Of Syllabus

What is happiness? How do I live a 'good' life? What is a soul? Will wrongdoers be eternally punished in the depths of Hades? What is the universe made from? ....And what exactly is a philosopher, anyway?

This course introduces students to the exciting and influential world of ancient philosophy. Across the semester we will read selections from key works of Greek and Roman thinkers, exploring and debating a variety questions across ethics, cosmology, epistemology and more.

Topics covered will include:

+ Ethics of the Homeric Hero
+ Presocratic Philosophy
+ Hippocratic Medicine
+ Socrates and Plato
+ Epicurus and Epicureanism
+ The Stoics

All works will be studied in translation: there is no expectation or requirement to know any ancient languages.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

1. Familiarity with main ancient philosophical ideas and arguments across a range of different texts and periods;
2. Ability to identify main philosophical schools and their chronologies;
3. Understanding of the ways in which ancient debates can still be relevant today;
4. Awareness of any historical and socio-cultural issues relevant to ancient philosophical texts.

Intended Skill Outcomes

1. Skills in close reading and critically evaluating ancient texts (in translation);
2. Skills in selecting and reviewing relevant modern secondary literature;
3. An ability to apply learned knowledge and skills in the completion of assessment components;
4. An ability to engage in dialogue with peers about questions arising from the studied material.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion621:0062:00Split as needed across the assessment components
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture221:0022:002 hours of lectures p/w
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading113:0033:003hrs weekly reading from set texts/module reading list
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities112:0022:002hrs preparation per week for seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching111:0011:001 Seminar p/w
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study501:0050:00General consolidation activities (e.g. reviewing notes, recordings, readings)
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures and lecture materials are used to introduce students to a wide range of authors, texts, and core philosophical ideas. The content will be supported by relevant contextual and historical information where necessary. They also introduce methods of interpretation and analysis. Elements of group-work and student-teacher interaction will reinforce the delivered material. The blended format ensures key topics and ideas are accessible for all students and can be revisited at any point, particularly during the completion of assessments.

Seminars are student-led: these small-group sessions involve discussion and debate on a specific topic, with pre-circulated questions to prepare in advance. Seminars provide the opportunity for students to explore the material for themselves, drawing on weekly lectures, and to enter into a dialogue with each other on the multifaceted nature of meaning and interpretation.

Reading Lists

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 1500-word Portfolio tests the ability to read and analyse relevant features of the module's set text(s) and any other assigned reading (e.g. modern scholarship). It also encourages students to reflect creatively on core ancient philosophical questions. It provides an opportunity for feedback and reflection ahead of the larger assessed component at the end of the semester.

The 2000-word Essay encourages independent research, using lecture and seminar content as a foundation on which to build one’s own critical analysis. It provides an opportunity to test intended skills and learning outcomes at a deeper level of detail and understanding, and allows engagement with the material over a sustained period of time.

The formative exercises - short quizzes on the VLE - will focus on core skills necessary for the completion of summative assessments, particularly the essay. It will practice foundational skills such as correct referencing to ensure students understand what is expected.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. Where an exam is present, an alternative form of assessment will be set and where coursework is present, an alternative deadline will be set. Details of the alternative assessment will be provided by the module leader.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2023/24 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2024/25 entry will be published here in early-April 2024. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.