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Level 6

6AANA042 Topics in Greek Philosophy


Credit value: 15
Module tutor: Katherine O'Reilly



  • Summative assessment: 1 x 2-hour examination (100%)
  • Formative assessment: 1 x 2,500 word essay


  • Summative assessment: 1 x 2-hour examination (100%)
  • Formative assessment: 1 x 2,500 word essay

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

Teaching pattern: one two-hour weekly combined lecture and seminar over ten weeks.
Pre-requisites: Either 4AANA001 Greek Philosophy I5AANA001 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 ways of attacking such sceptics and 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.

Further information

Module aims

To become versed in ancient theories of pleasure; to understand the importance of pleasure for the good life; to trace the philosophical difficulties in trying to account for pleasure.

Learning outcomes

Competence in reading ancient texts on pleasure very closely, making relevant distinctions, and being able to put forward cogent interpretations of the relevant sections of the text. Developing a sense of detecting philosophically interesting and fruitful lines of argument.

Indicative reading list
  • R. Bett (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Scepticism (Cambridge, 2010)
Past syllabi

Please note that module syllabus and topics covered may vary from year to year. 

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

module availability
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