PHIL 211.001 – Perspectives on Gender, Race, and Marginality in Ancient Greek Philosophy, Science, and Medicine

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Instructor: Mariska Leunissen. This course meets T 3:00 – 5:30 p.m. via remote only instruction.

Why is it that almost all ancient philosophical texts focus solely on the views of the elite male members of Greek society? What happened to the voices of the women, the foreigners (or ‘barbarians’ as the Greeks referred to them), and the less-than-privileged? In this course, we will study – through the examination of several infamous, ignored, or otherwise uncharted Greek texts of the classical period – the views about gender and race as presented in ancient Greek philosophy, medicine, and science. Our aims are to generate a new understanding of how the male elite used such views to further promote or justify (or perhaps challenge) the existing marginalization and silencing of women, foreigners, and less privileged men and to maintain their own social, political, and intellectual privilege. We will also consider how ancient perspectives about these issues remain current and influential today.

Some of the questions we will address are: What explanations did the ancient Greeks in the classical period provide for the differences between humans and animals, men and women, slaves and free men, barbarians and Greeks? What role did notions such as racial formation/racial origin play in the development of Classical Greek theories of ethnic superiority (e.g. the myth of Athenian autochthony)? How did they see the relationship between biological descent versus cultural or national identity? How did the Greeks of the Classical Period understand sex and gender? In what ways did ‘scientific’ ideas about women and barbarians influence the ethical and political philosophies of the classical period? How were philosophical theories used to promote, challenge, or maintain the existing marginalization of women and barbarians?

This course provides a Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience in Ancient Philosophy.

Permission of the instructor is required to enroll.

This course is part of the Office of Undergraduate Research’s Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CURE) program.