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Courses in Ancient Greek Philosophy

Professor Gottlieb and Professor Fletcher share the teaching of ancient philosophy.

For Professor Emily Fletcher's courses click here

Professor Gottlieb's courses are listed below:

Philosophy 430: History of Ancient Philosophy, which is required for majors in philosophy and also fulfils the university's general requirement in the humanities, is taught at least once a year by myself or Professor Fletcher. Participants study the texts in English translations written for philosophers. I have also taught various upper-level courses in ancient Greek philosophy under the rubric Philosophy 454: Classical Philosophers. These include Aristotle's Ethics, Plato's Republic and Plato on Love. In alternate years I have taught a course on an ancient Greek philosophical text or texts in the Department of Classics. We read the texts in the original ancient Greek, but at the pace of the participants. Past courses include Friendship in Plato and Aristotle, Aristotle's Politics, Plato's Phaedrus and Plato's Symposium.

I have taught Graduate seminars on the following topics: Protagoras and his Critics, Aristotle's Ethics, Aristotle's Metaphysics, Aristotle's Philosophy of Mind and Aristotle's Philosophy of Biology.

I use the tutorial method in all upper-level and Graduate courses in the Department of Philosophy. I am pleased to supervise independent studies and/or work on theses for undergraduate and graduate students.

Course Descriptions for Fall 2022

Philosophy 430: History of Ancient Philosophy (Upper-level undergraduate class)

Metaphysics and Epistemology in Ancient Greek Philosophy

Unscrupulous politicians, democracy in peril,foreign interference, fake information, and the plague. Welcome to Athens of the fifth century BCE! The philosopher Socrates, who lived in such turbulent times, said that the unexamined life is not worth living, and his most famous follower, Plato, argued that the examined life requires consideration of what we can know (epistemology) and what exists (metaphysics). In this class, we'll be studying in depth, and with close attention to the texts, ancient Greek philosophers' attempts to answer the following questions: What sorts of things are there in the world? Is a world of change consistent with a world of substances? What would be a satisfactory account of unity and diversity? What sort of knowledge, if any, can we have of the world in which we live? Why are reason and logic important? Why become a philosopher, and what's the difference between the philosopher and the sophist?

There will be tutorials.

Philosophy 454: Classical Philosophers: Plato on Love (Upper-level undergraduate class)

The opening scene of Plato's Lysis shows Hippothales head over heels in love but he has a problem. How can he get his beloved to love him in return? To answer this question he enlists a lover of wisdom, Socrates, who turns the discussion in a different direction, to find out the true object of desire. In the Symposium Plato mixes comedy and tragedy to answer the same question, but from a different angle. We also meet the philosopher, Diotima, and the anti-philosopher, Alcibiades. Finally, in his Phaedrus Plato makes fun of the way in which politicians want everyone to love them, and present a new view of what love really is.

There will be tutorials.

Other Courses

Philosophy 549: Great Moral Philosophers

We will discuss the work of several great moral philosophers, for example, Aristotle, Hobbes, Hume, Mill and Kant, and some important contemporary moral philosophers who develop or criticize these different approaches to ethics. The aim of the course is to gain a critical appreciation of the insights of each of these philosophers. How much time we spend on each philosopher and on each topic will depend on the interests of the participants in the course.

There will be three tutorials.

This course fulfils the Category B requirement for the Philosophy major.

Course Descriptions for Spring 2020

Philosophy 241: Introductory Ethics (4-credit and 3-credit versions)

In everyday life, we make a variety of ethical judgments, for example, that it is kind to help others or that it is right to keep promises. What justifies us in making such judgments, can such judgments be objective, and why should we live up to them? To answer these questions we shall examine in detail various representative moral theories including Utilitarianism, Kantian Theory and Virtue Ethics, and we shall also consider the views of human nature that underlie them. The main readings for the course will be recognized classics from the history of ethics. However we shall also be considering these in the light of contemporary philosophical developments and concerns, including those of African American philosophers and feminist thinkers.

Philosophy 454: Classical Philosophers: Aristotle’s Ethics

Every human being wishes to lead a happy life, according to Aristotle, but what sort of life is a happy one? In this course we’'ll consider Aristotle’'s answers to the following questions (among others): What is happiness? Is happiness the same as pleasure? What qualities contribute to a happy life? Are courage, justice, generosity, truthfulness, friendliness and wit all needed to lead a happy life? If so, how are these acquired? Is a special mentality needed? Does it require a certain type of thinking and emotional life? Are friends needed? If so, what makes a good friend? What kind of society is necessary for human beings to be happy?

The main text for the course will be Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (translated by T. H. Irwin, 3rd edition), but we’ll also read other texts of Aristotle where these are pertinent. There will be ample opportunity for discussion. There will also be three tutorials.

N.B. Students may take more than one 454 class provided the classes are on different topics.

Recent Graduate Seminars:

Philosophy 830: Advanced History of Philosophy: Thought and Feeling in Aristotle's Ethics (Graduate seminar)

Aristotle's ethical works cover a broad range of topics including happiness, voluntary action, deliberate choice,, virtues of character (for example, generosity and truthfulness, virtues of thought (for example, thoughtfulness and sympathetic judgment), types of justice and decency, and friendship. We'll be discussing these topics in the light of the overarching theme of thought and its relationship to feeling. What are the feelings according to Aristotle? How are they integrated with the good person's thinking? What counts as good practical thinking according to Aristotle? How plausible is Aristotle's account of thought and feeling compared with more recent Humean and Kantian accounts? Is Aristotle's good person a real possibility or an unattainable ideal? Is there an aesthetic side to the good person's motivation, and is it correct to say that the good person aims at the common good?

The main texts for the course will be Aristotle's Nicomachean and Eudemian Ethics, but we'll also read passages from his other works where these are pertinent. Secondary reading will include some classic articles and very recent work in the field. The primary texts are most important. These are short, but require careful reading.

There will be three tutorials.

Philosophy 830: Advanced History of Philosophy: Aristotle's Metaphysics

We'll study Aristotle's metaphysics, from the Categories to the central books of the Metaphysics, paying special attention to the way in which Aristotle aims to combine ontologies of change and of substance. Topics will include substance and essence, stuff, structure and function, the principle of non-contradiction, and the biological assumptions that support Aristotle's views. How much time we spend on each topic will depend on the interestes of the participants.

At least half of each session will be devoted to discussion. There will be tutorials.

Philosophy 830: Advanced History of Philosophy: Aristotle's Philosophy of Mind

Aristotle's De Anima is generally considered to be his major treatise in the philosophy of mind. We'll read the text carefully with an eye to answering the following questions: How does Aristotle conceive of the relationship between soul and/or mind and body? Is he a materialist, a dualist, a functionalist or none of the above? Does Aristotle have a unified theory of sense-perception? Does he think that, for example, colors and sounds are objective? Could there be fool's golden on Aristotle's account? On Aristotle's view, what is the difference between perceptual representation and belief? What difference does it make that Aristotle addresses these issues in the context of his general views about biology?

Further questions will depend on the interests of the participants. At least half of each session will be devoted to discussion. There will be tutorials.