Syllabus – Fall Semester 2022

Philosophy 201 Ancient Greek Philosophy

Fall Semester 2022

Prof. David Ambuel

Farmer 234

Tel. x1344

Office hours: T Th 12:30 – 13:00, M W 10 – 11:30 by appointment

Class hours: T-Th 14:00 – 15:15, Farmer 106A

Course Description

No other period in the history of Western philosophy offers such breadth, depth, and richness of philosophical inquiry. The millennium and a half from Thales of Miletus (c.624 – c.546 BCE) to the Hellenistic schools (post Alexander the Great) sees the emergence of philosophical inquiry, its distinction from other forms of human inquiry, and the formulation and development of philosophical questions that continue to exercise the human intellect today. An appreciation of Ancient Greek philosophy forms the essential foundation for understanding all subsequent philosophical inquiry and, in general, all subsequent intellectual discussion in the West.  The course is a difficult and tasking option, but one that will reward you for the rest of your life.  We will read and discuss the major thinkers from the presocratics to the Hellenistic philosophers, with an emphasis on Plato and Aristotle.

Course Objectives

To provide students with a basic knowledge of the most important figures of the ancient period, the most important questions and methods, the connections among them, and their relevance to today’s inquiry into the same issues; to develop students’ abilities to identify philosophical questions, to think clearly about these difficult and perennial questions, and to express themselves both concisely and accurately.

Required Texts

Hadot, Pierre, What is Ancient Philosophy?

Patricia Curd, ed., and Richard McKirahan, tr. A Presocratics Reader

Plato, Apology

Plato, Crito

Plato, Phaedo

R.E. Allen, tr., The Dialogues of Plato, vol. I.

R.E. Allen, tr., The Dialogues of Plato, vol. II.

McKeon, Aristotle.  Selected Works

Brad Inwood and Lloyd Gerson, tr., Hellenistic Philosophy

Schedule of Readings

IMPORTANT: All readings are to be completed at least once before the date on which they are discussed in class

Week 1

Readings: Apology, Crito, “the Sophists” (in: Curd)

8/23 Review syllabus. Read Fish on Plagarism and Gladwell on Borrowing (see links). Glance through the Philosophical Writing Manual (see link).

Read Apology, Crito, and “the Sophists” (in: Curd).

8/25 Background to Greek Philosophy.  Begin Discussion of Apology. What is sophistry?

Week 2

Readings: Hadot, Ch. 1, “Philosophy Before Philosophy”; Ch. 2, “The Inception of the Idea of ‘Doing Philosophy’”; Ch. 3, “The Figure of Socrates”; Apology; Crito; the Milesans (in Curd) 

8/30 Discussion of Hadot.  Discussion of Apology; The Sophists (Curd). Does Socrates refute the charges against him? How can he make an argument that he did not “intend”something?

9/1 Discussion of Crito. Why does Socrates refuse to escape?  Why does it turn to a discussion with “the laws” rather than a discussion with Crito? When is one obligated to obey laws?

Begin discussion of the Milesans (Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Xenophanes), and Pythagoreanism. What counts as explanation? What is an arche (principle)? Is nature reducible to a single principle? What is the relation between nature and number?

Week 3

Readings: Hadot, Ch. 4, “The Definition of ‘Philosopher’ in Plato’s Symposium”; Curd, Milesians; Heraclitus; Eleatics (Parmenides, Zeno, Melissus)

9/6 Discussion of Heraclitus.  Is Heraclitus consistent? What are the consequences of the flux doctrine for ontology and epistemology?

9/8 Discussion of the Eleatics (Parmenides, Zeno, Melissus). Why is paradox significant to philosophy? Can Zeno’s paradoxes be resolved? What is not-being?

Week 4

Readings: Hadot, Ch. 5, “Plato and the Academy”; Curd, the Pluralists and Atomists (Anaxagoras, Empedocles, Leucippus, Democritus); Allen vol, I, Euthyphro

9/13 Discussion of the Pluralists and Atomists (Anaxagoras, Empedocles, Leucippus, Democritus). What alternative theories are offered here? How do these respond to Parmenides?

9/15 Discussion of Euthyphro What is the dilemma about piety? What does the dialogue imply about justice?

First Paper Due

Week 5

Readings: Hadot, Ch. 9, “Philosophy and Philosophical Discourse”; Phaedo

9/20 Discussion of Phaedo. How many themes are interwoven in this dialogue? What is it really about? What is a form?

9/22 Discussion of Phaedo. What is the structure of the argument for the form of the equal? What are the arguments for the immortality of the soul? Are any good / bad / better / worse? What follows for the nature of the soul?

Week 6

Readings: Phaedo; Allen vol. I, Gorgias

9/27 Discussion of Phaedo. What elements of presocratic thought are reflected in the Phaedo? Does the Phaedo respond to the same philosophical questions? Does it advance philosophical inquiry?

9/29 Discussion of Gorgias. What is the distinction between physis (nature) and nomos (convention)? How is it relevant to morality? To ontology? What is the refutation of hedonism?

Week 7

Readings: Allen vol I, Gorgias; Republic selections (see link on course website) 

10/4   Discussion of Gorgias. How does Plato distinguish philosophy from rhetoric?

10/6 Discussion of Republic VI and VII. Sun, line and cave. Get busy and unpack those metaphors.

Week 8

Readings: Allen vol. II, Symposium

10/11  Fall Break — no class

10/13 Discussion of Symposium. Eros and love?  How is it relevant to morality?  To ontology? 

Week 9

Readings: Hadot, Ch. 6, “Aristotle and His School”; Allen vol. II, Symposium; Aristotle, Categories 1-2

10/18 Discussion of Symposium. How is the distinction between beautiful and not-beautiful and between good and bad introduced? How are they related?

10/20 Discussion of Categories . What are the arguments for substance? How does Aristotle’s theory of substance depart from the Platonic theory of forms?

Week 10

Readings: Aristotle, Categories; Physics I – III

10/25 Discussion of Categories, Physics Bk I. Does the theory of substance answer the same problems as the theory of forms?

10/27 Discussion of Physics II-III. How is Physics distinguished from Metaphysics?  What is a cause? Can there be an actual infinite? What are the four causes? In what sense are they causes?

Midterm due: 10/29 5 pm!

Week 11

Readings: Aristotle, De Anima I – II

11/1 Election Day / Day on Democracy — no class

11/3 Discussion of De Anima I – II. What is a soul? Is Aristotle’s account compatible with Plato’s? Must soul be a unity?

Week 12

Readings: Aristotle, De Anima III; Aristotle, Metaphysics I, IV

11/8 Discussion of De Anima III.  What is the nature of perception and imagination?

11/10 Discussion of Metaphysics I. What does Aristotle mean by “being qua being”?  Discussion of Metaphysics IV. Is it possible to hold contradictory beliefs?

Week 13

Readings: Hadot, Ch. 7, “The Hellenistic Schools”; Aristotle, Metaphysics VII and XII

11/15 Discussion of Metaphysics VII. What is an essence? How does Aristotle’s conception of essence and accident differ from Plato’s?

11/17  Discussion of Metaphysics XII. What is the order of the cosmos? How does Aristotle understand god any why?

Week 14

Readings: Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics I – III

11/22 Discussion of Nicomachean Ethics I – III. How does Aristotle define “happiness”?

Second Paper Due

11/24  Thanksgiving Break. No class

Week 15

Readings: Hellenistic Philosophy selections

11/29 Discussion of Epicureans

12/1 Discussion of Stoics and Skeptics


Final Examination

Final exams will be online through Canvas, and are due by midnight on the day of our assigned final exam period: Thursday, December 8.

Evaluation and Policies

Grades will be calculated as follows:

Paper 1: 20%

Paper 2: 25%

Quizzes, Discussion, Participation: 15%

Midterm: 15%

Final Examination: 25%

All written work must be pledged. Unless explicitly told otherwise, you are strongly encouraged to study, discuss, and dispute with others all course material.

COVID-19 statement 

All students are expected to adhere to the policies and expectations of the University to mitigate risk and support the health and safety of the UMW community. A comprehensive set of the current policies and expectations can be found at the COVID-19 information page.  

All are strongly encouraged to wear masks in class and group settings.

No food is permitted in classrooms and other instructional areas; drinks permitted in closed containers only and not in areas where expressly prohibited.  

Failure to comply with UMW policies and expectations will result in disciplinary action consistent with the Student Code of Conduct.  

Student Support

Students have opportunities to receive support for a variety of class assignments and experiences. The following statements can make students aware of what is available and how to access services.

Digital Knowledge Center

The Digital Knowledge Center (DKC), located in HCC 408, provides UMW students with peer tutoring on digital projects and assignments. Any student at the University can take advantage of the Center’s services by scheduling an appointment to work one-on-one or in a group with a student tutor. You can schedule a tutorial through EAB and at; while appointments are not required, they are recommended. Tutorials cover a wide range of topics related to common digital systems, technologies, new media, and tools used in courses at UMW. DKC tutors adhere to the UMW Honor Code during all appointments. They are available to provide guidance and advice, but they cannot create, produce, or edit work on a student’s behalf. 

If you are having difficulties with Canvas or connecting to online University resources, seek assistance from the Help Desk:

Simpson Library

The Simpson Library provides access to important physical and online resources and spaces.  Computers, printers, scanners, and study rooms are available for students, faculty, and staff.  Research librarians are available to assist you via phone, email, chat, or face-to-face.

Online databases, research guides, and e-books are accessible off-campus by using your network ID and password.  An online interlibrary loan service is also available so that students can request books and articles not available at the Simpson Library. 

Speaking Center

The UMW Speaking Center provides students support for speaking and communication assignments: presentations, debates, group presentations, interviews, leading class discussions, and more. You can schedule an online appointment on our website. Please ensure you are choosing the appropriate appointment type and date.  

Writing Center

The UMW Writing Center offers assistance on all types of writing projects: reports, papers, cover letters and resumes, research projects, and citations. The Writing Center can also help you prepare for in-class essay exams and for standardized tests that include essays such as the Praxis I writing exam.

If you are an online, commuter or Stafford Campus student, you can schedule online or face-to-face appointments. Please ensure you are choosing the appropriate appointment type and date.


Accessibility Statement

The Office of Disability Resources has been designated by the college as the primary office to guide, counsel, and assist students with disabilities.  If you receive services through the Office of Disability Resources and require accommodations for this class, make an appointment with me as soon as possible to discuss your approved accommodation needs.  Bring your accommodation letter, along with a copy of our class syllabus with you to the appointment.  I will hold any information you share with me in strictest confidence unless you give me permission to do otherwise.

If you have not made contact with the Office of Disability Resources and have reasonable accommodation needs,  (note taking assistance, extended time for tests, etc.), I will be happy to refer you.  The office will require appropriate documentation of disability.”

Recording Policy

To ensure the free and open discussion of ideas, students may not record classroom lectures, discussion and/or activities without the advance written permission of the instructor, and any such recording properly approved in advance can be used solely for the student’s own privat use. Students who wish to record lectures or class activities for study purposes must inform the faculty member first. Students with approved accommodations from the Office of Disability Resources permitting the recording of class meetings must present the accommodation letter to the instructor in advance of any recording being done. On any days when classes will be recorded, the instructor will notify all students in advance. Distribution or sale of class recordings is prohibited without the written permission of the instructor and other students who are recorded. Distribution without permission is a violation of educational privacy law. This policy is consistent with UMW’s Policy on Recording Class and Distribution of Course


Title IX Statement

University of Mary Washington faculty are committed to supporting students and upholding the University’s Policy on Sexual and Gender Based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence.  Under Title IX and this Policy, discrimination based upon sex or gender is prohibited.  If you experience an incident of sex or gender-based discrimination, we encourage you to report it.  While you may talk to me, understand that as a “Responsible Employee” of the University, I MUST report to UMW’s Title IX Coordinator what you share.  If you wish to speak to someone confidentially, please contact the below confidential resources.  They can connect you with support services and help you explore your options.  You may also seek assistance from UMW’s Title IX Coordinator.  Please visit to view UMW’s Policy on Sexual and Gender Based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence and to find further information on support and resources.

Resources                                                           Confidential Resources


Tiffany W. Oldfield, J.D.                                       Talley Center for Counselling Services –

Title IX Coordinator                                               Lee Hall 106

Office of Title IX

Fairfax House                                                         Student Health Center

540-654-5656                                                          Lee Hall 112

Myranda Thomson                                                      Off-Campus

Title IX Deputy for Students                                 Empowerhouse

Area Coordinator                                                540-373-9373

540-654-1184                                             RCASA