6AANA042 Topics in Greek Philosophy
Credit value: 15
Module tutor: Dr Shaul Tor
Summative assessment: two x 2,500-word essays (100%)
Formative assessment: seminar presentation
Teaching pattern: one one-hour weekly lecture and one one-hour weekly seminar over ten weeks
Availability: view module availability for current/next academic year
Pre-requisites: Either 4AANA001 Greek Philosophy I, 5AANA001 Greek Philosophy II: Plato or 5AANB002 Greek Philosophy II: Aristotle (or equivalent)
We are used to encounter ‘the sceptic’ as a hypothetical adversary to be overcome. The ancient world, however, presents us with a rich variety of philosophers who advanced their scepticism as a viable and, indeed, attractive way of life, as well as others who developed sophisticated critical responses to such scepticisms. In this module, we will explore these varieties of sceptical and anti-sceptical thought in the presocratic philosophers Xenophanes and Democritus, the towering Classical figures of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, the Hellenistic schools of Academic and Pyrrhonian scepticism and, finally, in the anti-sceptical treatises of Augustine and Al-Ghazali. Among many other questions, we will ask whether the sceptic’s life can indeed be viable and attractive, how we should understand the nature and limits of justification, what strategies of argumentation the ancient sceptics and anti-sceptics developed, and how the later prominence of monotheistic theologies changed the terms of the debate.
Preliminary / suggested readings
J. Annas and J. Barnes (eds. and trans.), Sextus Empiricus: Outlines of Scepticism (Cambridge, 2000).
R. Bett (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Scepticism (Cambridge, 2010).
M.F. Burnyeat (ed.), The Skeptical Tradition (Berkeley/Los Angeles/London, 1983).
By the end of the module, students will develop intellectual and practical skills appropriate to a level 6 module. In particular, they will be able to demonstrate the following;
a capacity to acquire a firm grasp of the philosophical content of ancient Greek texts in translation
an ability to ascertain the significance of works within their philosophical, historical and cultural background,
skill in the careful analysis of language and argument as a means of exposition, as an instrument of refutation and as a dialectical process of engaging with other philosophers.