PHIL301 -- Ancient Philosophy -- Fall 2017

Click here for the syllabus.

Scroll to bottom for newest entry.  Please check this page frequently for announcements, assignments, web links of interest, and so on.

9/7/17: To begin with, here are some sites you ought to get to know.  Our department web site includes this list of student research tools. 

I'll be mentioning this: the famous painting "The Death of Socrates" by Jacques-Louis David (1787).  (Bonus: now updated with meme goodness)

This is really interesting:  Prof. Stephen Hicks on the pre-Socratics and the birth of philosophy.
Prof. Hicks on Socrates' argument that he shouldn't escape from prison

My recent column on the common misreading of Plato as a utopian totalitarian.

The great Orson Welles narrates this video version of the Cave allegory.

Totally Optional Plato-Related Movie:
I used to assign intro classes to watch the 1998 film noir A Simple Plan, and then write the following paper: "Plato argues that by being unjust, one harms oneself, and that to look after oneself properly requires justice.  According to the theory Plato develops, being just and virtuous is one’s self-interest, and being unjust and vicious is destructive of the self, not likely to promote one's happiness.  Do you think the movie A Simple Plan is a dramatization of this theme?  Why or why not?"  You don't have to do this assignment, of course, but you may enjoy the movie, and you may find that it does indeed show this.  In 2006, instead of assigning students to write on this theme, I decided to write on it myself, and, should you be interested, the essay appears in the book The Philosophy of Neo-Noir, edited by Mark T. Conard (Univ. Press of Kentucky, 2007). Here is a pdf of the essay here, but see the movie first - you can get it from Netflix, e.g.  (Note-you may have to rotate the PDF, it scanned sideways.  Go to "view"; "rotate"; counterclockwise).  Repeat, this is NOT your assignment.  Watching the movie at all is the optional thing. Do not write on this-- Your paper is on another aspect of Plato, which I'll assign shortly.
Assignment for First Paper:
Even though this will be submitted electronically, the paper should be formatted as if for printing: 6-8 pages, double-spaced, in Times New Roman, 12-point, with 1-inch margins on all sides.  Do not submit incorrectly formatted papers.   Put your name, date, and "PHIL301" on the top right of page 1, and number the pages.  Use MS WORD, meaning a .doc or a .docx file, and submit electronically, as an attachment sent from your email account. This is due in my inbox NLT 9:00 am Thursday November 2. 
Topic: Central to understanding anything else in Plato is his theory of Forms.  What are the Forms?  Consider at least two of Plato's arguments discussing the forms: one from the central books of Republic, and one other, perhaps (but not necessarily) the one in the Symposium.  Compare, critically analyze, and evaluate these arguments, and say first of all what you take Plato to be saying, and second of all whether you find this persuasive.

Readings for Thursday: Lysis, Phaedrus; Gorgias and Protagoras selections: (Gorg) 453a-456a, 459a-461, 467c-468c, 473a-e, 503a-504; (Prot)332-334c, 356c-end.

Optional readings on Aristotle you may find illuminating, amusing, or both:
Here's a way to think about Aristotle's ethics via Seinfeld.
Here's a way to think about Aristotle's ethics via The Lord of the Rings.

Assignment for Second Paper:
Paper should be 6-8 pages, double-spaced, formatted in Times New Roman, 12-point, with 1-inch margins on all sides.  Your name, date, and "PHIL301" top right.  Do not submit incorrectly formatted papers.   Be sure that your thesis statement addresses the prompt clearly and specifically.  Use WORD (so, a file ending in .doc or .docx), and submit electronically as an attachment sent from your email account. This is due in my inbox NLT 10:00am, Tuesday, Dec 19
1) Explain Aristotle's criticism of Plato's understanding of the relationship between universals and particulars. What does Aristotle suggest instead?  All things considered, which is more plausible and why?
2) Explain the role of practical reason in Aristotle's account of human virtue, friendship, and flourishing.