During 2016-2017 we are reading Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Famous Philosophers, Book VI, chapter 2 (on the Cynic Diogenes of Sinope), and Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy I. Both groups may be taken for credit or audited by anyone with elementary reading ability in the relevant language (i.e. one year of College Greek or Latin). Please contact me for more information.

Spring 2016


The works of the founders of the greatest schools of Hellenistic philosophy, including the Epicureans and the Stoics, have been lost, but their ideas survive in the works of later writers, among them the famous Roman politicians Cicero and Seneca. We will read some of their ethical and political writings in order to get an idea of both the range of ethical theories of the period, as well as the approach to some more concrete ethical problems, such as the value of pleasure and virtue, the importance of wealth and power, the control of emotion, and the possibility of tranquility and happiness.

Winter 2016


This course offers a broad survey of the philosophy of Aristotle (384-322 BC). Beginning with an overview of his logic, scientific method, and cognitive science, we will proceed to examine the principles of his natural philosophy, including, cosmology, biology, and psychology, as well as his explanations of sensing, thinking, dreaming, and self-motion. We will also examine major issues of his “philosophy of human nature”, including the principles of eudaimonian ethics, economics, and poltical science, the moral and intellectual virtues, the classification of political constitutions and causes of political revolution, and the moral psychology of the emotions, rhetoric and poetics.

PHILOSOPHY 210: SEMINAR IN GREEK PHILOSOPHY: ancient theories of wisdom

This seminar is intended as a survey of ancient views about wisdom as the end of philosophical inquiry, with special reference to the relation of theoretical and practical wisdom, and conceptions of theoretical wisdom as centered on the goal of becoming god-like or one with god. Our goal is to investigate how and why wisdom serves as a reference point across a broad range of different philosophies in antiquity and, more briefly, how this was challenged by later developments in philosophy. Readings include, Plato, Aristotle, Epicureans, Greek and Roman Stoics, Plotinus, and Augustine, in addition to contemporary articles from philosophical and scientific literature on the concept of wisdom. No prior background in ancient philosophy is supposed. (Co-taught with Professor Donald Rutherford)

Fall 2015


What is knowledge? How do we know that those who profess to have knowledge actually do have it? How can one inquire into anything one does not know? Is knowledge the same as the arts and sciences? How does knowledge relate to perception, belief, and truth? What kinds of account can we expect from someone who has knowledge? Is there any formal way to represent and criticize scientific reasoning and explanations? How do general principles of scientific knowledge relate to specific sciences, such as mathematics, physics, and psychology? We will examine these fundamental epistemological issues as they arise for the first time in the writings of Plato and Aristotle. We will begin by reading two aporetic dialogues of Plato concerned with knowledge: Meno and Theaetetus. We will then read fragments from a popular dialogue by Aristotle and selections from his Organon of Knowledge, followed by an in-depth examination of two of his most influential works: Physics II and On the Soul II-III.

Spring 2015


See updated syllabus for Spring 2016.

Winter 2015


See updated syllabus for Winter 2016

Fall 2014


See updated syllabus for Fall 2015

PHILOSOPHY 210: SEMINAR IN GREEK PHILOSOPHY: Pyrrhonian Scepticism (Syllabus in PDF)

Pyrrhonian scepticism, as presented in the works of Sextus Empiricus, presents both a culmination and critique of the whole achievement of Greek philosophy, and was a major influence on the renaissance and the scientific revolutions of the seventeenth century. In this seminar, we will get a general overview of Pyrrhonian scepticism by reading the doxographies in Book IX of Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Famous Philosophers (including Heraclitus, Xenophanes, Parmenides, Zeno of Elea, Leucippus, Democritus, Protagoras, Diogenes of Apollonia, Anaxarchus, Pyrrho, and Timon). The core part of the course will consist of a close reading and discussion of the three books of the Outlines of Pyrhhonian Scepticism by Sextus Empiricus, along with a more detailed examination of the treatment of logic, physics, and ethics in his Against the Professors VII-XI. The last three weeks of the seminar will be devoted to student presentations relating Pyrrhonian scepticism to their own interests in philosophy (whether topical or historical).


Spring 2014


See updated syllabus for Spring 2016.

PHILOSOPHY 210: SEMINAR IN GREEK PHILOSOPHY: Aristotle's Posterior Analytics (Syllabus in PDF)

Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics is the first systematic work on scientific method in the history of philosophy, and is probably the most influential work on scientific method of all time, having been apparently influential on, among other works, Euclid’s Elements, the most important work of Greek mathematics and science. And yet the interpretation of the work remains controversial, as does even its overall purpose, unity, relationship to other works of Aristotle’s so-called Organon, and relationship to other works in the Aristotle Corpus, especially the works of theoretical science.The purpose of this seminar is to get a solid overview of Aristotle’s philosophy of science, and to develop a research project focused on a special science in relation to it. Seminarians are encouraged to relate their own area of interest (e.g. logic, philosophy of physics, ethics, social-political philosophy, early modern philosophy, etc.) to Aristotle’s views, and try to see how Aristotle’s theory and practice of science relates to contemporary concerns in philosophy and science.

Winter 2014


See updated syllabus for Winter 2016.

Fall 2013


See updated syllabus for Fall 2015.

Spring 2012


See updated syllabus for Spring 2016.

Winter 2012


What can we know about the origin and existence of the world, nature, human beings, and god? Could divine revelation possibly be the source of any human knowledge? What are the major arguments for and against the idea that a supernatural being created or intelligently designed our world and ourselves? To what extent must science accept or reject the existence of god as a basis for theorizing and explaining nature and natural things such as plants, animals, and humans? This course introduces philosophy through a careful consideration of such questions in reading several masterpieces of the history of philosophy (in translation) dealing with the relationship between scientific knowledge and religion or theology, including: dialogues written in Greek by Plato (Euthyphro, Timaeus) and in English by Hume (Dialogues on Natural Religion), a letter written in Greek by Epicurus (to Menoeceus), a didactic poem written in Latin by Lucretius (On the Nature of Things), and a prose work written in French by Descartes (Discourse on the Method).


This course introduces the philosophy of Aristotle through a close reading and critical examination of two major works of Aristotle’s practical philosophy in their entirety. Our discussions will focus on the interpretation of the works as a whole and their place in Aristotle’s division of the sciences. In the first half of the course will read a new translation of Aristotle’s Eudemian Ethics in order to investigate such issues as: the method and purpose of ethical inquiry; the relationship between ethics and related disciplines like economics, politics, psychology, and education; teleological, eudaimonistic, and naturalistic approaches to ethics; intrinsic versus instrumental value; moral and intellectual virtue; justice; deliberation, choice, and voluntary action; weakness of will, vice, injustice, and evil; and the importance of leisure and pleasure. In the second part of the course, we will read a translation of Aristotle’s Politics as a basis for a discussion of: the prehistory and ontology of political society; the justification of slavery and subjugation of other living things including women and children; the history and classification of political constitutions and utopian speculations; the theory of political instability and revolution; the relation of economic class to political change; and the role of education in the maintenance of political stability.

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