ANCIENT PHILOSOPHY

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
Email: blackson@asu.edu

tomblackson.com
history-of-ancient-philosophy.com
www.public.asu/~blackson
These lectures notes and videos are works in progress.


INTRODUCTION

Ancient philosophy is 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 nothing more than a list of authors, their works, and brief descriptions of these works, but the goal is to do much more than that. It is to explain why Ancient philosophy came to exist and changed over time in the way it did.

In this course, we look at the first five hundred years of Ancient philosophy.

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.

1 tetradrachm = 4 drachmas. 1 δραχμή = 6 ὀβολοί

ΑΘΕ are the first letters of ΑΘΕΝΑΙΟΝ.

ΑΘΕΝΑΙΟΝ is written in "large letters" or majuscules. It is the older spelling of ΑΘΗΝΑΙΩΝ. In minuscules, it is Ἀθηναίων and means "[from the mint] of the Athenians."

The Latin majusculus ("somewhat greater") and minusculus ("rather less") gives us the words majuscule and minuscule.


Herodotus (5th century BCE Greek historian, born in Halicarnassus in Ionia in what is now Turkey) 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 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

PRESOCRATICS

The Presocratic Period is the first of the three 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.

Introduction

THE BIRTH OF A PHILOSOPHICAL TRADITION
The Milesians Turn to Nature
Reason and Experience
The Tradition goes to Athens

Video, Video, Video

SOCRATES

The Period of Schools is the second of the three periods in Ancient philosophy.

The first school in this period is the most famous. It is called the "Academy" (Ἀκαδημία). Plato founded it in about 387 BCE. He had been in the circle around Socrates and wrote dialogues about him after he was executed by the city of Athens in 399 BCE.

Socrates himself left no written account of his thought. We depend on what others wrote about him. Several authors wrote about Socrates, but Plato is our primary source.

Texts

THE GOOD LIFE
Plato writes about Socrates
Wisdom is a State of the Soul
An Interpretation of Socrates

Video

AGAINST THE SOPHISTS AND RHETORS
The New Teachers
The Sophists sell Teachings for the Soul
The Power of Rhetoric

PLATO

Plato's dialogues were transmitted from antiquity in their entirety. This is true of the work of no other philosopher in the Period of Schools. In his middle dialogues, Plato works through possible solutions to problems he uncovered in thinking about Socrates.

Texts

THREE PLATONIC THEORIES
The Theory of Recollection
The Theory of Forms
The Tripartite Theory of the Soul

Video, Video, Video

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

Video

ARISTOTLE

Aristotle is the first great Platonist and Plato's first great critic. He accepts the broad framework of Plato's views, but he rejects and tries to correct what he regards as its excesses and mistakes.

Aristotle entered the Academy in 367 BCE (when he was in his teens) and remained until Plato's death in 347 BCE. In about 335 BCE, he founded his school. It is called the Lyceum.

For time considerations, I do not cover FIRST PHILOSOPHY in the class I teach for ASU.

Texts

SECOND PHILOSOPHY
The Existence of Sensible Substances
Natures are Forms in Matter
Teleology in Nature

PSYCHOLOGY
The Soul is the Form of the Body
The Process of Induction
Becoming like the First Unmoved Mover

Video, Video, Video, Video

FIRST PHILOSOPHY
Theology is First Philosophy
Thinking about Substance
No Universal is a Substance

ETHICS
The End of our Actions
Living like the Gods
Human Lives with the Best Good

HELLENISTIC PHILOSOPHERS

The Hellenistic philosophers belong to the Hellenistic Age. This is the time from the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE to the end of the Roman Republic in 27 BCE.

In this time, Aristotle falls into the background. The focus in Plato's Academy returns to Socrates. Two new schools emerge, the Epicureans and the Stoics.

Texts

REACTION TO THE CLASSICAL TRADITION
Epicurus and the Garden
Zeno and the Stoics
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.




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