PHIL 410: Classical Philosophy (Spring 2009)

The URL for this syllabus is Please check the online version for updates and announcements.

Objectives | Grading Basis | Schedule | Applicable Policies

Place/Time: Tuesday/Thursday 9:35-10:50 AM, Bolton 018
Textbook: Readings in Ancient Greek Philosophy, ed. S. Marc Cohen, Patricia Curd, and C. D. C. Reeve. 3rd edition. Hackett Pub. Co., 2005. (ISBN 0-87220-769-2)
Instructor: Robin Smith (
Office: Bolton 214A
Office hours: By appointment, or TWR 8:00-9:00
Telephone: 979-845-5679

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).


In this course, you should:

  1. Acquire a basic knowledge of Ancient Greek philosophers and an understanding of their importance to the later history of philosophy.
  2. Learn how to read and interpret historical philosophical texts.
  3. Become acquainted with the methods of research in the history of philosophy.
  4. Write an effective philosophical research paper.

This is a writing intensive course, and consequently your term paper will be evaluated as an example of philosophical writing: it should be logically structured, clearly argued, and in general well-written. Matters such as spelling, syntax, and clarity do count.

Required Work and Grading Basis

Your grade in this course will be based on four components (follow the links for more about each of them):

Exam 1 (covering early Greek philosophy): 20%
Exam 2 (covering Socrates and Plato): 20%
Exam 3 (covering Aristotle): 20%
Term paper (on an individual research topic): 40%

More information is below concerning my grading scale and criteria.

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. In the schedule below, AGP = Readings in Ancient Greek Philosophy (the course textbook).

Date Subject Reading Assignment Writing Assignment
Jan. 20 What Ancient Greek philosophy is
Jan. 22 Writing your term paper Term paper requirements
Jan. 27 The Milesian philosophers: Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes AGP 1-14
Jan. 29 The Pythagoreans and Pythagoras AGP 15-19
Feb. 3 Heraclitus AGP 24-34
Feb. 5 Parmenides and Zeno of Elea AGP 35-41, 59-63
Feb. 10 Anaxagoras and Empedocles AGP 42-58
Feb. 12 The Atomists: Leucippus and Democritus AGP 64-71 Paper topic due
Feb. 17 The Sophists AGP 80-88
Feb. 19 EXAM 1 (Sample exam questions)
Feb. 24 Socrates AGP 89-96; Plato, Apology (AGP 115-140)
Feb. 26 Socrates' Method; Socratic Refutation Plato, Euthyphro (AGP 97-114) Thesis statement due
Mar. 3 Socrates and Plato Plato, Meno (AGP 203-228)
Mar. 5 Plato's Theory of Forms Plato, Phaedo (AGP 229-281, esp. 238-247, 264-272)
Mar. 10 Plato's Theory of Forms Plato, Phaedo (AGP 229-281, esp. 238-247, 264-272)
Mar. 12 The Argument of the Republic: The Soul and the StateThe Structure of the State in the Republic Plato, Republic III, IV (AGP 331-385)
Mar. 24 The State in the Republic: Justice in the state and in the soul Plato, Republic III-IV (AGP 386-444) Outline due
Mar. 26 The Equality of Women; the Raising of Children Plato, Republic V (AGP 445-469)
Mar. 31 The Forms and the Education of the Philosopher-Rulers Plato, Republic VI-VII (AGP 469-528)
Apr. 2 Problems with the Theory of Forms Plato, Parmenides (AGP 604-613)
Apr. 7 EXAM 2 (Sample exam questions)
Apr. 9 Some Aristotelian Basics: Substance, Essence, Categories, Definitions Aristotle, Categories 1-5; Metaphysics I.1-6 (AGP 656-662, 758-768)
Apr. 14 Causes and Nature Aristotle, Physics I.1, I.5-9, II.1-3, II.8 (AGP 694-709, 716-718) Rough draft due
Apr. 16 Minds Aristotle, De Anima I.1, I.4, II.1-4, III.3-5 (AGP 809-821, 825-829)
Apr. 21 First Philosophy ("Metaphysics") Aristotle, Metaphysics I.1-2, IV.1-3, VII.1-4 (AGP 758-762, 771-782, )
Apr. 23 Aristotle's conception of the divine Aristotle, Metaphysics XII.6-9 (AGP 799-808) Full draft due
Apr. 28 The Purpose of Being Human Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics I.1-5, I.7-9 (AGP 832-843)
Apr. 30 Virtue and Virtuous Action Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics I.13, II.1-6 (AGP 843-852)
May 5 This is a "redefined day", so it's actually a Friday.
No class today, but note the paper due date.
Final paper due (4:00 PM)
May 6-7 Reading Days (no classes) Read something appropriate to the day.
May 8 EXAM 3, 12:30-2:30 PM (Sample exam questions.)

Policies Governing This Course

Grading Criteria

Questions on examinations will be a mixture of short-answer questions and essay questions. Short-answer questions are intended to test your familiarity with the basic facts presented in the material covered. Essay questions require you to write reasoned responses to interpretative questions about the views of the philosophers we study. The term paper has more extensive requirements and criteria.

In evaluating term papers and the answers to essay questions, I will use the following criteria:

The following table explains how I apply these criteria in evaluating a particular item (an essay answer on an exam or a term paper). Please note that this is not intended as a set of rubrics that can be applied mechanically to determine a grade; it does, however, explain what I look for.

Grade Accuracy Argument Completeness/Relevance Writing
A (4.0) No errors or omissions. Well-constructed argument that gives a good defense of the point. Deals with all the relevant material and issues and wastes no time on irrelevant points. No grammatical errors; clearly written and a pleasure to read.
B (3.0) Only minor errors or omissions. A good argumentative structure overall, but with some problems or weaknesses. Omits only minor relevant material or includes only minor digressions from the topic. Reasonably clearly written, with at most a few minor grammatical or spelling errors.
C (2.0) Significant errors, but mostly accurate. The overall structure of the argument can be discerned, but it has significant problems or weaknesses. Covers most of the relevant issues, but with some significant omissions; sometimes wanders off topic. Basically readable, with some problems in spelling or grammar.
D (1.0) More erroneous than correct; major omissions. Very poorly constructed argument; argument is inconsistently structured or incoherent. Fails to cover major relevant issues; has only a little to do with the topic. Difficult to read; many grammatical and spelling errors.
F (0) Nothing accurate. No discernible argument. Unrelated to question. Incomprehensible.

Grading Scale

Grades on exams are computed as the weighted average of grades on each question. The grade for the term paper is a single grade, based on the criteria above. Grades for the entire course are calculated from a weighted average of the exam and term paper grades, using the following weights:

Exam 120%
Exam 220%
Exam 320%
Term paper40%

Letter grades for the course are assigned from this weighted average, according to the following scale:

GradeScore Range
FLess than 0.5

Academic Integrity Statement

The Aggie Honor Code:

"An Aggie does not lie, cheat, or steal or tolerate those who do."

Upon accepting admission to Texas A&M University, a student immediately assumes a commitment to uphold the Honor Code, to accept responsibility for learning, and to follow the philosophy and rules of the Honor System. Students will be required to state their commitment on examinations, research papers, and other academic work. Ignorance of the rules does not exclude any member of the TAMU community from the requirements or the processes of the Honor System. For information on the Aggie Honor System, see

It will be my policy in this course to include the following statement on all examinations and request students to sign it.

	"On my honor, as an Aggie, I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this academic work."

Attendance Policy and Late Work

My class is governed by the University Student Rule on Attendance. In accordance with this policy, if you miss an exam because of a University-excused absence (about which you inform me), I will arrange a makeup exam. If circumstances beyond your control or an authorized excuse prevent you from completing the third exam or the term paper on time, I will (if appropriate) give you a grade of I (Incomplete) for the course, in accordance with the University Student Rules policy on Grading (see section 10.5). I expect you to attend class regularly; however, class attendance by itself is not a part of the grading basis of this course, that is, I do not give you formal grade credit for attending. If you haven't done well on the required work in the course, please don't ask whether you can improve your grade by doing something for "extra credit".

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Policy Statement

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal antidiscrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accomodation of their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accomodation, please contact the Department of Student Life, Services for Students with Disabilities in Room 118 of Cain Hall, on the Internet at, or by telephone at 979-845-1637.

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