PHIL 210.001 – Wonder, Myth, and Reason: Introduction to Ancient Greek Science and Philosophy

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Instructor: Alfredo Watkins. This course meets MWF 1:25 – 2:15 p.m. in CW 105.

This course will provide an introduction to Ancient Greek philosophy, covering the Pre-Socratics, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Topics we will cover include, among other things: the path to happiness; the definition of justice; what knowledge and wisdom are; the nature of objective beauty and aesthetic experience; the philosophical foundations of science and mathematics; our understanding of the physical world; friendship and love; fate and chance; the soul and life after death; and the ultimate nature of reality.

The course will cover each thinker closely, but we will have a special focus on Plato, whose dialogues provide an idealized model of philosophical inquiry together with a strong literary character. Moreover, unlike some classes in ancient philosophy, in this class we will consider Aristotle from the perspective of Platonism: That is, we will consider Aristotle as a thinker in the Platonist tradition, showing the ways he modifies the ideas of his teacher while still retaining many essential aspects of it.

The goal of this class is not merely to get you to know brute historical facts about these past thinkers, but to show how their ideas raise pressing and exciting questions about our own lives. For that reason, the set of readings for this course will be somewhat unique. First off, we will read primary sources, including some of the greatest dialogues of Plato, such as the Republic, the Crito, the Phaedo, Euthyphro, and Meno, Symposium, and Apology. We will also read from Aristotle’s Ethics, Metaphysics, Physics and Politics. In addition to these readings, you will also be required to view and discuss films, TV shows, and important works of art, music and literature that illustrate and concretize the themes from our readings.

This class will be filled with a lot of important material, and will require you to give serious consideration to your own views on fundamental questions about life. However, this class is meant to be fully accessible to anyone who wants to know about these topics, even if you have had no previous philosophical experience, and if you are willing to put in the effort, I believe the class will be immensely enjoyable, exciting, and rewarding for you.