ANCIENT PHILOSOPHY

From the Presocratics to the Hellenistic Philosophers


PHI 328: History of Ancient Philosophy

Thomas A. Blackson
Philosophy Faculty
School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies
Arizona State University
email: blackson@asu.edu
academic webpage: tomblackson.com
old academic webpage: www.public.asu/~blackson
These lectures notes and videos are works in progress.

INTRODUCTION

Ancient philosophy, in this course, designates the philosophical discussion in Athens and other parts of the ancient Greek and Roman world from 585 BCE to 529 CE.

Silver tetradrachm (τετράδραχμον). Athena on the obverse. On the reverse, her sacred owl, an olive sprig, and ΑΘΕ for Athen
Athens, 5th century BCE. Silver tetradrachm (τετράδραχμον). Athena on the obverse. On the reverse, her sacred owl, an olive sprig, and ΑΘΕ for ΑΘΕΝΑΙΟΝ

ΑΘΕΝΑΙΟΝ is in "large letters" or majuscules. It is the older spelling of ΑΘΗΝΑΙΩΝ. In minuscules, ΑΘΗΝΑΙΩΝ is Ἀθηναίων ("[the money] of the Athenians").

majuscule and minuscule are from the Latin majusculus ("somewhat greater") and minusculus ("rather less").


Herodotus (5th century BCE Greek historian) reports that the Lydians were the first to use coins.

"The customs of the Lydians are like those of the Greeks, except that they make prostitutes of their female children. They were the first men whom we know who coined and used gold and silver currency" (Herodotus, Histories I.94).

Lydia (in western Asia Minor) was located on important trade routes that ran west to the Aegean Sea, east to central Asia, and southeast to Mesopotamia.
Course Outline
The Period and Method of Study
Some Online Resources

PRESOCRATICS

The Presocratic Period is the first of the three traditional periods in Ancient Philosophy.

Introduction

THE BIRTH OF A PHILOSOPHICAL TRADITION
The Milesians Turn to Nature. (Video)
Reason and Experience. (Video)
A Defense of the Inquiry into Nature. (Video)

SOCRATES

The Period of Schools is the second of the three periods in Ancient philosophy. Beginning with Plato and his Academy, the schools all in one way or another react to Socrates.

The Period of Schools is the primary focus in this course.

Texts

THE GOOD LIFE
Plato writes about Socrates. (Video)
Wisdom is a State of the Soul. (Video)
The Project is Incomplete. (Video)

AGAINST THE SOPHISTS AND ORATORS
The New Teachers. (Video)
The Sophist sells Teachings for the Soul. (Video)
The Power of Rhetoric. (Video)

PLATO

Plato's "Academy" (Ἀκαδημία) is the first school in the Period of Schools.

Texts

THREE PLATONIC THEORIES
The Theory of Recollection. (Video)
The Theory of Forms. (Video)
The Tripartite Theory of the Soul. (Video)

JUSTICE AND ITS REWARD
The Opening Conversation and the Challenge. (Video)
Justice in the City and in the Individual Human Being. (Video)
The Just Life is Better than the Unjust Life. (Video)

ARISTOTLE

Aristotle's Lyceum is the second school in the Period of Schools.

Texts

SECOND PHILOSOPHY
The Existence of Natural Bodies. (Video)
Natures are Forms in Matter. (Video)
Teleology in Nature. (Video)

PSYCHOLOGY
The Soul is the Form of the Body. (Video)
The Process of Induction. (Video)
Becoming like the First Unmoved Mover. (Video)

FIRST PHILOSOPHY
Theology is First Philosophy. (Video)
Thinking about Substance. (Video)
No Universal is a Substance. (Video)

ETHICS
The End of our Actions. (Video)
Living like the Gods. (Video)
The Best Human Life. (Video)

HELLENISTIC PHILOSOPHERS

Beginning in about 265 BCE, the focus in the Academy changes and two new schools emerge.

The new schools are the Epicureans and the Stoics. Both schools try to correct what they take to be the mistakes in Plato and Aristotle. The Epicureans look to Democritus in the Presocratic Period for their philosophy. The Stoics develop insights they associate with Socrates.

The focus in the Academy returns to its roots in the questioning Socrates pursued.

Texts

REACTION TO THE CLASSICAL TRADITION
Epicurus and the Garden. (Video)
Zeno and the Stoics. (Video)
Arcesilaus and the Academics. (Video)

In about 100 BCE, the critical reaction that unites the Hellenistic philosophers began to disintegrate. This traditionally marks the end of the Period of Schools. Some of the schools themselves continued, but this history is beyond the scope of this course.




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