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Group B: Greek and Roman Philosophy

Paper B1: Plato

Course Director: Prof. G Betegh

Aims and objectives

(This course is intended to be accessible to all students who have taken either Classical Tripos Part I, Paper 8, or the Plato element of Philosophy Tripos Part IB Paper 4, whether or not they know Greek.)

  1. To give an understanding of the way Plato’s thought develops from his middle-period to his later dialogues, particularly in metaphysics and epistemology and in his conceptions of philosophical method.
  2. To give a detailed understanding, through close study of a prescribed dialogue, of (i) some particular area or areas of Plato’s philosophy; (ii) Plato’s conception or conceptions of philosophical method as evidenced by the prescribed work; (iii) his use or uses of the dialogue form.
  3. To encourage students both to deepen their knowledge of Plato’s writings and to engage in sustained critical dialogue with them.
  4. To encourage students to be alert, not only to interconnections between Plato’s ideas, but also to their intellectual context.
  5. To encourage students to develop their own powers of philosophical analysis and argument.

 

Scope and structure of the examination paper 2016–17

There will be two sections to the paper. One is on the set text, and will contain questions on the Phaedo, the other will contain questions relating to all the following dialogues and topics: Cratylus, Sophist, Theaetetus, Parmenides (from beginning to 135), dialectic, sophistry. Candidates will be required to answer three questions, at least one from each section.

The questions will be so formulated as to be answerable without knowledge of Greek, but those with Greek will be rewarded for demonstrating appropriate knowledge of the original text.

(Supervisions for this course are not centrally organized. Your director of studies will arrange for a supervisor. A typical supervision pattern is: two on the set text, two on topics from section b, and one revision session probably focused on the set text.)

 

Course descriptions

PLATO

DR R B B WARDY
(12 L: Lent)

These lectures will address issues in Plato’s logic, epistemology and metaphysics by exploring various dialogues including the Parmenides, the Euthydemus, the Cratylus, and the Sophist. Central themes will include the nature of language and dialectic, the possibility of falsehood, and the existence of Forms. Use the OCT for the Greek text; good translations of all the dialogues are available in the one volume edition of J. Cooper, Plato, Complete Works (Hackett 1997).

 

PLATO, PHAEDO

PROF. G BETEGH
(12 L: Lent)

The Phaedo is a literary and philosophical classic, portraying Socrates’ final conversation, directly before his execution, as a defence of the soul’s immortality. It contains a series of celebrated but controversial arguments, as well as a myth of the afterlife, and is also a major source for Plato’s Theory of Forms.

Read the text in advance, and bring a copy to the lectures. Recommended:

Greek text, edited by C. Strachan, in vol. 1 of the Oxford Classical Text of Plato (Oxford 1995), or in the edition by C.J. Rowe (Cambridge 1993), which also has a very helpful commentary.

English translation in D. Sedley and A. Long, Plato, Meno and Phaedo (Cambridge 2011), or in D. Gallop, Plato, Phaedo (Oxford 1975). The latter includes an excellent philosophical commentary.

Further reading, and analytic handouts, will be provided at the lectures.

 

Paper B2: Aristotle’s World from Turtles to Tragedies

Course Director: Dr M Hatzimichali

Aims and objectives

  1. To introduce Aristotle’s programmatic views on scientific knowledge and examine their philosophical underpinnings, as well as the ways in which they are applied in Aristotle’s own investigations in the seemingly unconnected fields of biology and literature/art.
  2. To encourage students to engage critically with a series of different Aristotelian works, and draw connections and parallels between his handling of diverse subjects.
  3. To encourage students to evaluate and criticise Aristotle’s positions, placing them within the relevant historical, philosophical and cultural context.

 

Scope and structure of the examination paper 2016–17

The three-hour paper will contain twelve to fifteen essay questions on the topics covered in lectures, classes and supervisions. Candidates will be required to answer any three questions.

The questions will be so formulated as to be answerable without knowledge of Greek, but those with Greek will be rewarded for demonstrating appropriate knowledge of the original text.

(Supervisions for this course will be centrally organised for students taking the classical tripos whose directors of studies consent to the arrangement.)

 

Course description

ARISTOTLE’S WORLD FROM TURTLES TO TRAGEDIES

DR M HATZIMICHALI
(16 L, 4 C: Michaelmas)

Among the most impressive features of Aristotle’s thought is the sheer range of his interests, from hands-on biological research all the way to aesthetics and literary criticism. It has been observed that Aristotle examines tragedy through the same ‘biological’ lens as animals and plants, perhaps to the detriment of his aesthetic thought, while he also speaks of aesthetic appreciation and pleasure to be had from the study of animals. So is there some unity to this monumental intellectual structure, and if so how are we to understand it? We shall approach such questions through selected readings from the Posterior Analytics, and then go on to ask whether Aristotle actually put any of these methodological ideas into practice in his investigations of both animals (where we look at some of his fascinating discoveries in the History of Animals and his more theoretical Parts of Animals and Generation of Animals) and poetry, primarily tragedy (in the Poetics). There will be 16 lectures at the rate of two a week devoted to these themes, plus weekly classes beginning in fifth week, aimed at exploring particular issues or passages in more detail, based on voluntary student participation.

 

Paper B3: ‘Reason and Reasoning’

Course Director: Mr N C Denyer

Aims and objectives

(This course is intended to be accessible to all Part II students, whether in the Classics or in the Philosophy Faculty, regardless of their knowledge of Greek and Latin, and regardless of what other papers they have taken in Part IB or are taking in Part II.)

  1. To provide an understanding of competing ancient philosophical theories and arguments about the nature and powers of reason.
  2. To enable students to form a close critical acquaintance with a series of classic philosophical texts.
  3. To encourage students to evaluate sympathetically, and to understand historically, philosophical positions and arguments with which they may well not agree.
  4. To encourage students to develop their own powers of philosophical analysis and argument.

 

Scope and structure of the examination paper 2016–17

The examination paper will consist of about twelve essay questions, on topics covered in the course. Candidates will be required to answer three questions.

The questions will be so formulated as to be answerable without knowledge of Greek or Latin, but those with Greek or Latin will be rewarded for demonstrating appropriate knowledge of the original text.

Since this is the first year of this course, there are no past examination papers for it. There is however a specimen paper, copies of which will be distributed at the first lecture.

(Supervisions for this course will be centrally organised for candidates for the classical tripos whose directors of studies consent to the arrangement.)

 

Course description

REASON AND REASONING

MR N C DENYER
(8 L: Michaelmas; 8 L: Lent; 4 C: Easter)

Greeks loved reasoning, for advancing practical ends (like doing down a rival in a lawcourt), for achieving theoretical enlightenment (like demonstrating a geometrical theorem beyond all cavil), and sometimes for sheer entertainment (like the agons in tragedy, or contests between rival sophists). Greeks also liked to theorise about reasoning: by no means the strangest example is Plato’s doctrine of the Philosopher Kings, that people are qualified to share in government only if they have extremely well-developed powers of abstract reasoning.

In this course we will look at how Greeks reasoned. The topics to be discussed in lectures will fall under four general headings:

Science and pseudo-science: debates about the cognitive value of various intellectual enterprises. Sample topic: Ptolemy Tetrabiblos 1.1–3, Sextus Empiricus Adversus Mathematicos 5, for and against astrology.

The value of knowledge: can knowledge make us happier, and if so, how? Sample topic: Stoics on how reason can save us from passion, in Section 65 of A.A. Long and D.N. Sedley The Hellenistic Philosophers (Cambridge 1987).

Mind and its place in nature: what about the minds of sub- and super-human beings? Sample topic: Epicurus on whether a divine reason controls the world, in Sections 13 and 23 of A.A. Long and D.N. Sedley The Hellenistic Philosophers (Cambridge 1987).

Recipes for reasoning: systematic reflections about techniques for argumentation. Sample topic: Aristotle on syllogistic and demonstration in Prior Analytics 1.1–7, Posterior Analytics 1.1–6

The classes will give students the opportunity to make presentations on topics of their choice.

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