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Why Tutorials? A Guide for Students

Classes in ancient Greek philosophy include three tutorials. (There are no exams.) For each one, you'll be asked to write 1500 words answering specific questions on the assigned texts and evaluating the ancient philosophers' views. You'll then come in pairs to see the instructor for an hour or so, during which time you'll read out and discuss your work.

The method is particularly suited to the study of ancient Greek philosophy, because the philosophers being studied, particularly Socrates and Plato, themselves use the method of question and answer as a way of getting clear about difficult philosophical issues. Plato also explains how such a method can lead to positive knowledge, and Aristotle argues for the merits of individualized education. The tutorial method puts the ideas of the ancients into practice, so that you can understand their philosophy on a practical as well as on a theoretical level.

The method has several benefits. You have the opportunity to discuss your work face to face with the instructor. You receive immediate feedback on your work, and if you don't understand something, you can ask for help. While the instructor will ask you questions about what you wrote, you'll also have the opportunity to question the instructor about his or her comments, and to discuss the issues in depth. Often, under questioning, you may surprise yourself by coming up with new ideas that you had not included in your paper and so go beyond your original thinking on the topic.

Grades are awarded to the written assignments. What happens at the tutorial is not graded. The point of the tutorial is purely educational and fun.