A History from the Presocratic Period through the Period of Schools
PHI 328: History of Ancient Philosophy
Thomas A. Blackson, Philosophy Faculty
School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies
Arizona State University
www.public.asu/~blackson These lectures notes are works in progress.
Ancient philosophy, in this course, designates the philosophical discussion that took place in Athens and other parts of the ancient Greek and Roman world in the period from 585 BCE to 529 CE. A history of Ancient philosophy can be a list of authors and descriptions of what they wrote, but the goal is to do more than that. It is to explain why the Ancient philosophical tradition came to exist and changed over time in the way it did.
We only look at about the first five hundred years of Ancient philosophy.
Athens, 5th century BCE. Silver tetradrachm (τετράδραχμον). Athena on the obverse. On the reverse, her sacred owl, an olive sprig, and ΑΘΕ.
ΑΘΕ are the first letters of ΑΘΕΝΑΙΟΝ.
ΑΘΕΝΑΙΟΝ is written in "large letters" or majuscules. It is the older spelling of ΑΘΗΝΑΙΩΝ. In minuscules, ΑΘΗΝΑΙΩΝ transliterates as Ἀθηναίων and means "[from the mint] of the Athenians."
The words majuscule and minuscule are from the Latin majusculus ("somewhat greater") and minusculus ("rather less").
Herodotus (5th century BCE Greek historian, born in Halicarnassus in Ionia) reports that the Lydians invented coins to facilitate trade.
"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 we know who coined and used gold and silver currency" (Histories I.94).
Lydia (east of Ionia) was on 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
The Presocratic Period is the first of the three traditional periods in Ancient Philosophy. In this period, the philosophical tradition comes to exist as a response to a need for a new kind of explanation.
THE BIRTH OF A PHILOSOPHICAL TRADITION
The Milesians Turn to Nature
Reason and Experience
The Tradition goes to Athens
The Period of Schools is the second of the three traditional periods in Ancient philosophy. Beginning with Plato and his Academy, the schools all in one way or another are reactions to Socrates.
This reaction in the philosophers in the Period of Schools is the primary focus in this course.
For what Socrates thought, we depend on what Plato and others wrote about him.
THE GOOD LIFE
Plato writes about Socrates
Wisdom is a State of the Soul
The Project is Incomplete
AGAINST THE SOPHISTS AND RHETORS
The New Teachers
The Sophists sell Teachings for the Soul
The Power of Rhetoric
Plato's "Academy" (Ἀκαδημία) is the first school in the Period of Schools.
His dialogues were transmitted from antiquity in their entirety. This is true of the work of no other philosopher in the Period of Schools, and it is indicative of the interest in his philosophy in the last two thousand years.
THREE PLATONIC THEORIES
The Theory of Recollection
The Theory of Forms
The Tripartite Theory of the Soul
JUSTICE AND ITS REWARD
The Opening Conversation and the Challenge
Justice in the City and in the Individual Human Being
The Just Life is Better than the Unjust Life
Aristotle's Lyceum is the second school in the Period of Schools.
Aristotle is the first great Platonist and Plato's first great critic. He entered Plato's Academy in 367 BCE when he was in his teens and remained until Plato's death in 347 BCE. Aristotle accepts the broad framework of Plato's views, but he rejects and tries to correct what he regards as its excesses and mistakes.
The Existence of Natural Bodies
Natures are Forms in Matter
Teleology in Nature
The Soul is the Form of the Body
The Process of Induction
Becoming like the First Unmoved Mover
Theology is First Philosophy
Thinking about Substance
No Universal is a Substance
The End of our Actions
Living like the Gods
The Best Human Life
Beginning in about 265 BCE, the focus in Plato's Academy changed and two new schools emerged. The Epicureans pushed back against the rationalism of Plato and Aristotle. The Stoics developed this rationalism in a new way. The Academy returned to its roots in the questioning Socrates pursued in dialectic.
REACTION TO THE CLASSICAL TRADITION
Epicurus and the Garden
Zeno and the Stoics
Arcesilaus and the Academics
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. The philosophical discussion in these schools is interesting, but it is beyond
the scope of this course.