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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

PHIL2221 Ancient Philosophy

20 creditsClass Size: 80

Module manager: Dr Jamie Dow

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This course will introduce and critically examine some of the main ideas in the work of Plato and Aristotle. In his 'early' dialogues Plato examines moral questions raised by his tutor Socrates. In the middle and later dialogues Plato develops his moral and political views but also addresses methodological, epistemological, and metaphysical questions raised by those ethical investigations. Aristotle can be seen as exploring more systematically the strands that Plato points to, whether in metaphysics or ethics, epistemology or philosophy of mind. Both sought to develop a framework within which it was possible to have knowledge of, and explain, the external world, and the place of human beings within it.Topic themes may include:1. Platonic Forms and Aristotelian Form and Matter: change, form, matter, substance, accident, potentiality, actuality2. Nature, change, explanation: Platonic and Aristotelian theories of explanation, the Form of the Good and natural teleology 3. Dialectic and method in metaphysics 4. Knowledge, belief, and understanding5. Human nature: ensouled bodies6. Perception and motivation; desires, beliefs and actions.7. Methodology in Ethics and Politics8. The nature and importance of virtue, and how it is acquired.9. Moral psychology, intentional action, choice and weakness of will.10. Justice in individuals and states.


On completion of this module, students should be able to:

a) read and consider selected works of Plato and Aristotle (and other material) in a sensitive yet critical manner -- that is, to establish what is important in what they read, and to grasp the power of the views expressed, whilst at the same time thinking out problems for those views;

b) develop their own views on the main topics running through the course, considering how those views relate to, build upon, or reject the ideas that they locate in reading the works of Plato and Aristotle; and

c) have developed their skills in:
i) reading;
ii) writing;
iii) thinking; and
iv) oral presentations.


The central aim of this course is to introduce and critically examine some of the main ideas in the work of Plato and Aristotle. Thus themes may include selected topics from, for example, their approach to methodological, epistemological, and metaphysical questions, and their views in philosophy of mind and action, ethics, political philosophy. Topics might include, for example, Plato on dialectic, definition, knowledge, belief, recollection, forms, explanation, motivation, virtue, acrasia, justice, happiness; and Aristotle on nature, change, substance, essence, form, matter, explanation, natural teleology, ensouled bodies, perception, motivation, human nature, virtue, and happiness. The basic objectives are twofold: to introduce some key Platonic and Aristotelian views, both central to their works and of importance for the subsequent development of philosophy; and to enable students to develop their own ideas on the issues discussed.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours167.00
Total Contact hours33.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Preparation for seminars: 109 hours;
Seminar revision notes: 8 hours;
Preparation for essay: 50 hours.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Text-based presentations in seminars; 1000 word essay plan.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay3000 words (end of module)100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2022 15:26:27


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