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Level 5

5AACTL14 Wisdom and the divine: ancient Greek philosophy and religion

Credit value: 15
Module convenor/tutor 2018/19: Dr Shaul Tor & Dr Ioannis Lambrou
Teaching pattern: 10 x 2 hour classes
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 1 x 2 hour examination

Assessment (pre-2018/19)

2 x 2,000 word essays (50% each)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

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.

Who or what are gods? How do they relate to us? What do philosophers, in particular, do with the gods? How do they deal with the gods of cult and of the poets?

It is often thought that philosophy and religion must be anathema to one another. Certainly, ancient philosophy of religion confronts us with some fascinating clashes between radical thinkers and their surrounding culture. And yet, a closer look at the ancient philosophers and their engagements with the traditional gods will reveal rich mixtures of far-reaching criticism and creative appropriation. The gods are ubiquitous and all-important in ancient Greek culture, and ancient philosophy is no exception. Questions about the divine frequently stand at the heart of ancient Greek philosophical inquiries. The philosophers’ investigations into religious and theological questions thus offer a unique window into their ethics, politics, metaphysics and cosmology.

In this module, we will explore some of the most important and consequential milestones in the history of ancient Greek philosophical engagements with questions of religion and theology. We will trace the story of the gods from the early poets, philosophers and sophists, through Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, and up to the Hellenistic schools of the Stoics, Epicureans and Sceptics.

Suggested introductory reading

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

  • G. Betegh (2006), ‘Greek philosophy and religion’, in M.L. Gill and P. Pellegrin (eds.), A Companion to Ancient Philosophy. Oxford: 625-639. [Available as electronic resource]
  • G. W. Most (2003), ‘Philosophy and religion’, in D. Sedley (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Greek and Roman Philosophy (2003). Cambridge: 300-322. [Available as electronic resource]
  • G. Oppy and N. Trakakis (eds.) (2009), The History of Western Philosophy of Religion, vol.1: Ancient Philosophy of Religion. Durham
  • A. Drozdek (2007), Greek Philosophers as Theologians. Ashgate
  • L.P. Gerson (1994), God and Greek Philosophy: Studies in the Early History of Natural Theology. NY
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