PHIL 410: Classical Philosophy (Fall 2003)

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This course surveys the history of philosophy in ancient Greece during the classical period, from about 600 BCE through about 300 BCE. The first third of the course will concern the earliest Greek philosophers, usually called "Presocratics" (since many of them, though not all, lived before Socrates) and the thinkers of fifth-century Athens, including Socrates (469-399 BCE) and the Sophists. The next third will concentrate on Plato (428/7-348/7 BCE), and the last third on Plato's student Aristotle (384/3 BCE-322/21 BCE).


  1. To give you a basic knowledge of Ancient Greek philosophers, especially Plato and Aristotle, and an understanding of their importance to the later history of philosophy.
  2. To give you experience in reading and interpreting historical philosophical texts.
  3. To introduce you to the methods of research in the history of philosophy.
  4. To give you experience in writing a philosophical research paper.


Formal Work

Assignment Weight Date Due
Exam 1 25% Sept. 30
Exam 2 25% Nov. 6 (CHANGED)
Exam 3 25% Dec. 15, 1:00 PM
Term paper (8-10 pages) 25% Due Dec. 15

Class Schedule and Readings

The schedule of readings and exams below is subject to revision, as necessary, to accommodate the pace of the class better or to accomplish any other really fine and appropriate end. However, I won't move the dates of exams up, and any change in the dates of exams will be announced (both in class and on this web site) at least a week in advance.

Date Subject Reading
Sept. 2 What's important about ancient Greek philosophy
Sept. 4 The origins of Greek philosophy McKirahan chs. 1-3
Sept. 9 Parmenides McKirahan Ch. 11
Sept. 11 Heraclitus McKirahan Ch. 10
Sept. 16 The Fifth Century; the Sophists McKirahan Chs. 18-19
Sept. 18 Socrates Plato, Apology
Sept. 23 Socrates' Method Plato, Crito, Euthyphro
Sept. 25
Sept. 30 EXAM 1 Here are sample questions. Check this link periodically: new questions may appear from time to time.
Oct. 2 Plato's Theory of Forms Plato, Meno
Oct. 7 Plato's Theory of Forms Plato, Phaedo
Oct. 9 The Soul and the State Plato, Republic I, II
Oct. 14 Justice Defined, in the state and in the soul Plato, Republic IV
Oct. 16 The Equality of Women Plato, Republic V
Oct. 21 Philosophers as Rulers Plato, Republic V
Oct. 23 The Forms and the Education of the Philosopher-Rulers Plato, Republic VI-VII
Oct. 28 Plato's "Late Dialogues" Plato, Sophist
Oct. 30 Plato, continued
Nov. 4 EXAM 2 HAS BEEN CHANGED TO NOV. 6 Here are sample questions. Check this link periodically: new questions may appear from time to time.
Nov. 6 EXAM 2 (the link leads to sample questions for the exam)
Nov. 11 Some Aristotelian Basics: Substance, Essence, Categories, Definitions Aristotle, Categories 1-5; Metaphysics I.1-2
Nov. 13 Causes and Nature Aristotle, Posterior Analytics II.11; Physics I.1-2, II
Nov. 18 Minds Aristotle, On the Soul I.1, I.4, II.1-4, III.3-8
Nov. 20 First Philosophy ("Metaphysics") Aristotle, Metaphysics I.1-2, IV.1-4, VI, VII.1
Nov. 25 Aristotle's conception of the divine Aristotle, Metaphysics VI.1, XII.1-7
Dec. 2 The Purpose of Being Human Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics I.1-7
Dec. 4 Virtue and Virtuous Action Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics I.13, II
Dec. 9 The Best Life Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics X.6-8
Dec. 10-11 Dead days
Dec. 15 EXAM 3, 1-3 PM Sample questions for Exam 3

Policies on Academic Dishonesty

Please see the Texas A&M University Student Rules, Section 20 for definitions of types of academic dishonesty and the penalties that can be imposed. Note in particular the definition of plagiarism:

"Failing to credit sources used in a work product in an attempt to pass off the work as one's own. Attempting to receive credit for work performed by another, including papers obtained in whole or in part from individuals or other sources."

Just to make this point clear: submitting a term paper taken from an Internet paper service, in whole or in part, is academic dishonesty. Submitting such a paper and including an acknowledgment that it was taken from a paper service is academic dishonesty plus a confession.

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