25A Summer 2009

Philosophy 25A - Ancient Philosophy - Summer 2009, Session A

Instructor: James Stazicker

Email: stazicker@berkeley.edu

Office hours: Thursdays 12-2, in 301 Moses

This intensive 6-week course is an introduction to the philosophy of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, as well as an introduction to doing philosophy. Our aim will be to understand the views and arguments of these philosophers, and to engage critically with them. This will require close reading of the ancient texts, and thoughtful discussion of the issues they raise.

Some of the ideas we discuss will be surprisingly familiar, some of them strikingly alien to our usual ways of thinking. In studying and assessing these ideas, we will be asking not only what, if anything, justifies the ancient philosophers’ views, but also what, if anything, justifies our own views.

The questions we will discuss include:

What is the difference between knowledge and belief?
Is one thing true relative to one person, and another thing true relative to another person?
What are definitions?
Must someone who understands a notion be able to define it?
What is the connection between virtue and knowledge?
How is it possible to be weak willed?
Is breaking the law ever morally justifiable?
What is the connection between morality and being human?

Students will be required to prepare for and contribute to in-class discussion, write three short papers, and sit a final exam.

Required Books

  1. Plato, Five Dialogues (2nd edition), trans. Grube, 2002.
  2. Plato, Republic, trans. Reeve, 2004.
  3. Plato, Protagoras, trans. Lombardo/Bell, 1992.
  4. Aristotle, Aristotle: Introductory Readings, trans. Irwin/Fine, 1996.

These are all published by Hackett, and each of them is available new for under $11.


I will be updating this schedule as the course develops. You can use it to check that you’re up to date with the reading. Please make sure you’ve read the material carefully before we discuss it in lecture.


The elenchus in the Apology

The Protagoras: Socrates’ “verbal arguments” for the unity of virtue

Fear of Death & Immortality of the Soul


The 1st assignment is available here. It’s due by 5 pm on Saturday June 6, by email to Skip: swschmall@gmail.com.

The 2nd assignment is available here. It’s due by 5 pm on Saturday June 20, by email to Skip.

Here‘s the 3rd assignment. It’s due by 5 pm on Saturday July 4, by email to Skip.


Here’s a link to the Thucydides passage we discussed, in context. The paragraph we looked at is the 20th on that page.

Here’s one to Aristophanes’ The Clouds – background for the “first lying accusations” which Socrates discusses in the Apology.

Here‘s Hesiod’s Theogony. See lines 507-616 for a more traditional version of the story that Protagoras tells at Protagoras 320c ff.

Here’s the Theaetetus. There are no page numbers in this edition, so the passages we looked at are a little hard to locate. They’re fairly early on, immediately after Socrates’ comments about midwives.

And here‘s one to James Pryor’s guidelines for writing philosophy papers.

Updated on 2009-06-26 15:20:15 -0700 by James Stazicker