PHL 321


Dr. Bob Zunjic
Athenian Tetra-drachm

Office Hours:
By Appointment

Phone: (401) 874-5499

Course Description:

This course is conceived both as an introduction to the main topics of Ancient philosophy and as a brief survey of its development from the Presocratics through to the Classical schools of Academy and Lyceum. Our concentration will be clearly on the line leading from Heraclitus and Parmenides to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, but many more thinkers and questions will be tackled as we proceed. By introducing ourselves into the major problems of Ancient philosophy we expect to get a glimpse into the very core of Western philosophy in general. Ancient Greek philosophy is admittedly much more than just the chronological beginning of Western philosophy. It has decisevely determined the character and the direction of its entire evolution up to our days. Greek thinkers have invented philosophizing as an eminently Western way of intellectual pursuit, they have created the conceptual language of Western civilization, they have formulated the leading ideas and categories of Western philosophy. In brief, we owe much more to our Greek beginnings than we are typically aware of and ready to admit. As different thinkers as Heidegger and Russell claim that "in some serious sense, all Western philosophy is Greek philosophy". Therefore, studying Ancient Greek philosophy is not just an antiquarian undertaking pertaining only to general learning, but an effort to uncover the very roots of our own intellectual heritage, to better understand the inherited cultural patterns or standards and possibly to take over productively our Greek legacy in dealing with the problems of our own time.


The main objective of this course is to get acquainted with the most important texts of Ancient Greek philosophy, to learn how to read and interpret them, and finaly, to understand the conceptual framework and particular categories conveying the fundamental ideas of Greek philosophers. Our secondary goal is to try to relate Greek philosophical legacy with the posterior development of Western philosophy as well as with our modern human condition and experience.

Course Texts:

S.M. Cohen, P. Curd and C.D.C. Reeve, eds.,
Readings in Ancient Greek Philosophy
(From Thales to Aristotle), Hackett Publishing Company, Indianapolis/Cambridge, (2rd edition or later)

All readings will be taken from this collection of essays. Two additional resources are highly recommended though not required:

(1) Donald J. Zeyl, Encyclopedia of Classical Philosophy, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT 1997 (features entries that in a condensed form survey many of our topics), and

(2) S. Marc Cohen's web site (this web site created by the editor of our book contains lecture outlines particularly useful for the first part of our course).


Reading and Preparing for Classes: Students are expected to do all readings as assigned weekly. As a rule, we shall read together critical passages in class, but only as a compliment to your individual reading, not as a substitute! Therefore prepare properly for classes and always bring your book!

Taking notes while reading proves very beneficial. We also strongly encourage looking up into relevant dictionaries or encyclopedias for additional terminological explanations.

Attendance and Exams: Attendance and active participation are vital for being successful in this course (they will be reflected in the participation grade accordingly). There will be two exams including one final. They will have the form of both short answer quizzes and multiple choice questions.

Students with Disabilities: Any student with a documented disability is welcome to contact me early in the semester so that we may work out reasonable accommodations to support your success in this course.


First Exam:
Second Exam:
Attendance and Participation:

Course Schedule:

Week I Introduction to the Course: The Greek Miracle
Week II Presocratics (Parmenides, Heraclitus)
Week III Plato: Euthyphro
Week IV Plato: Gorgias
Week V Plato: Meno
Week VI Plato: Republic

Mid Term Exam

Week VII Aristotle: Metaphysics I
Week VIII Aristotle: Physics I
Week IX Aristotle: Physics II
Week X Aristotle: Nichomachean Ethics II
Week XI Aristotle: Nichomachean Ethics VI
Week XII: Aristotle, Politics I, II

Final Exam



Top of the Page