PHIL 340 A: History Of Ancient Ethics

PHIL 340 A: History Of Ancient Ethics





“Let this serve as an outline of the good; for we must presumably first sketch it roughly and then later fill in the details. But it would seem that any one is capable of carrying on and articulating what has once been well outlined, and that time is a good discoverer or partner in such a work; to which facts the advances of the arts are due; for any one can add what is lacking. And we must also remember what has been said before, and not look for precision in all things alike, but in each class of things such precision as accords with the subject-matter, and so much as is appropriate for inquiry.” (EN.1.7.1098a20-28) 


Welcome to PHIL 340, Ancient Ethics! Here is a copy of the syllabus document. 


Alsohere are departmental policies and information for students. You can find out more about me here and my office hours will be directly after class (T,Th 320-420). 


Course Description

This course is a survey of the development of virtue ethics in ancient western philosophy, focusing on Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics. Students will read and write about these figures’ views on the following questions. What is virtue (arête)? What is happiness (eudaimonia)? How are the two connected? Class sessions consist primarily of lectures and discussion activities. This is a writing intensive course. Students will complete short weekly writing assignments and a term paper to earn writing credit. While an upper-division philosophy student interested in ethics and/or ancient philosophy might feel most comfortable in this course, it is also suitable for non-majors, but at least one previous course in philosophy is highly recommended (especially ones in ethics and the history of philosophy).


Course Objectives

Students who sign up for this course should already have practice developing these philosophical skills. The expectation is to demonstrate them proficiently by the end of the course.

  1. Interpretation and Analysis: be able to analyze, interpret, and understand philosophical texts and discourse.
  2. Argumentation: be able to effectively identify, evaluate, and formulate arguments.
  3. Philosophical Knowledge and Methodology: be able to demonstrate a high degree of fluency with the major traditions, figures, concepts, and methods of [ancient western] philosophy.
  4. Communication: be able to develop, organize, and express ideas in a precise, clear, effective, and systematic manner in writing and discussion.[1]


Three Required Texts

Plato: Five Dialogues: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo (Hackett Classics) Second Edition, by Plato (Author), John M. Cooper (Editor), G. M. A. Grube (Translator)

Republic (Hackett Classics), by Plato (Author), C. D. C. Reeve (Editor), G. M. A. Grube (Translator)

Nicomachean Ethics (Hackett Classics), by Aristotle (Author), Terence Irwin (Translator, Introduction)

  • Additional texts will be posted as PDFs on Canvas.
  • I strongly encourage everyone in the class to use the same translations from Hackett Classics (any edition). Other translations are acceptable, however, so long as you take responsibility for understanding important differences in translations.
  • The Liddell & Scott Greek-English Lexicon and untranslated texts are available online via the Perseus Collection.

One Recommended Text

Hellenistic Philosophy (Hackett Classics), by Brad Inwood (Translator), Lloyd P. Gerson (Translator)




Why study philosophy?


[1] Learning objections excerpted from: John Rudisill, “The Transition from Studying Philosophy to Doing Philosophy,” Teaching Philosophy, Volume 34, Issue 3, September 2011: 241-271 (Appendix A).


Course Summary:

Date Details