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

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Stephanie Holton
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


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.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture221:0022:002 hours of lectures p/w
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
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 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.

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.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Portfolio2M401000-word portfolio (tasks & guidance provided)
Essay2A601500-word essay answering one of a pre-set list of questions
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The 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 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.

Reading Lists