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Level 5

5AACTL12 Cosmos and Body: Presocratics and Hippocratics

Credit value: 15
Module tutor/convenor 2019/20: TBC
Teaching pattern: 10 x 2-hour seminar (weekly)
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment 2019/20: 1 x 2,500 word essay (100%)

Assessment patterns (pre-2019/20)

Graduate Diploma: 2 x 2,000-word essays (100%, each essay worth 50%)

Undergraduate: 1 x 2 hour exam (50%); 1 x 2000 word essay (50%)

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

In this module, we will explore the emergence of philosophical and scientific thinking in archaic Greece about the cosmos at large and about humans and human bodies within it. We will examine a variety of ways in which the Greeks approached the relation between macrocosm and microcosm: what is the fundamental nature of the world around us? By what means can we pursue such a question? What is the relation between our bodies and souls on the one hand and the cosmic order which accommodates them on the other? What would it mean for us to flourish and to be healthy and well within this cosmic order and how can we achieve those goals?

In the first portion of the module, we will explore these questions in relation to such key and seminal Presocratic philosophers as Alcmaeon, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, the Pythagoreans, and the ancient atomists Democritus and Leucippus. In the second portion, we will pursue these same questions in a number of important and fascinating Hippocratic medical treatises (such as On the Nature of Man, On the Sacred Disease and Traditions in Medicine), asking, among other things, how this body of ancient medical theorising relates to the emerging traditions of philosophical thought.

All texts will be studied in English translation.

Suggested introductory reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of these books is not mandatory.

  • P. Curd (ed.), P. Curd and R.D. McKirahan (eds.), A Presocratics Reader (Indianapolis, 2011) (A user-friendly and accessible edition of the fragments in English) [available as electronic resource]
  • G.E.R. Lloyd (ed.), J. Chadwick and W.N. Mann (trans.), Hippocratic Writings (Penguin Classics, 1978)
  • J. Warren, Presocratics (Stockfield, 2007)
  • A.A. Long (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Early Greek Philosophy (Cambridge, 1999) [available as electronic resource]
  • G.E.R. Lloyd, Magic, Reason and Experience (Cambridge, 1979)
  • V. Nutton, Ancient Medicine (London and NY, 2013), chs. 1-7
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