AP/PHIL4030 3.0 A: Seminar in Ancient Philosophy

Offered by: PHIL


Fall 2019






Calendar Description / Prerequisite / Co-Requisite

A close examination of an important work of one of the great ancient philosophers. Alternatively, the seminar may also focus on an important area or theme of ancient philosophy including, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and political theory. Prerequisite: At least nine credits in AP/PHIL courses, including AP/PHIL 2015 3.00.

Course Website

Many courses utilize Moodle, York University's course website system. If your course is using Moodle, refer to the image below to access it.

    Additional Course Instructor/Contact Details

Prof. J. Allen            

Office Location:   S445 Ross

Phone Number: (416) 736-2100 Ext 77541

Office Hours:  Mondays   4:00pm – 5:30pm

                        Wednesdays by appointment between 1:00pm-2:00pm

                        Fridays, by appointment between 10:00am – 11:00am

                        Additional days and times are by appointment only.

    Expanded Course Description

In this course we will take a close look at some main doctrines in ancient moral and political philosophy.   Related metaphysical and epistemological issues will also be addressed.   Classical philosophy, expressed primarily in the Greek language spanned 1100 years, from approximately 550 B.C. to approximately A.D. 550.  While Plato's and Aristotle's doctrines dominated during and subsequent to the 4th century B.C., the Neoplatonists and Peripetitics were challenged by the competing doctrines of the Hellenistic Philosophers (the Stoics, Epicureans, Skeptics, and others) who struck out in new directions.   Since ethical aims were both the starting point and end goal of the ancient philosophical enterprise, there are good historical reasons to focus our study on the substance and inter-relation of moral and political issues during this period.  Furthermore, the late 20th and early 21st centuries have seen a resurgence of interest in virtue ethics amongst theorists who are increasingly dissatisfied with the seemingly insurmountable problems generated by deontological and consequentialist accounts of moral judgments and principles.  Thus, our historical study of ancient ethics and related topics will be undertaken with an eye to the critical evaluation of the relevance or irrelevance of its principle tenets in regards to contemporary attempts to construct viable moral theories.

    Required Course Text / Readings
  1. Plato, Republic, Trans. G.M.A. Grube, Hackett Publishing, 1992


  1. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics. Trans. David Ross. O.U.P. 1980.


  1. Aristotle, The Politics, Trans. Ernest Barker, Oxford University Press.



  1. Epictetus, The Handbook (The Encheiridion), Trans. Nicholas P. White, Hackett

Publishing, 1983.  973-0-915145069-0


  1. The Epicurus Reader & Selected Writings and Testimonials. Trans. & Ed.  Brad Inwood,  Hackett Classics, 1994

ISBN:  978-0-87220-241-2


  1. Later Greek and Roman Moral and Political philosophy. Reading Selections package (Stoicism, Epicureanism, The Academics, Plotinus) Course package.


Recommended Texts:


  1. William D. Stephans, Stoic Ethics:  Epictetus and Happiness as Freedom,  Bloomsbury        Academic, 2007.   ISBN-13:  978-0826496089
  2. Stephen E. Rosenbaum, “Epicurean Moral Theory”,  History of Philosophy Quarterly,       University of Illinois Press, Vol. 13 No. 14 (Oct. 1996)  389-410
    Weighting of Course

Each student is expected to read the assigned material for each class meeting.  Specific reading assignments will be announced as we proceed.


Abstract length critical summary(1 page)        (1)                              10%


Short Critical Summaries of Readings   (2)   (18% each)                  36%

( 6 succinct pages maximum )

In-class tests    (2)  (18% each)                                                           36%

Class Participation                                                                              18%


DEADLINES:           Critical summaries of scheduled readings are due at the beginning of class, on the date due, as outlined below.  Anyone who misses a critical summary deadline will have to complete a make-up assignment. (See below)


ASSIGNMENT #1 (Everyone)     Monday,   Oct.  7th  

            ASSIGNMENT #2 (A-L)                Monday,   Oct. 28th  

ASSIGNMENT #2 (M-Z)               Monday,    Nov. 4th   

            ASSIGNMENT #3 (A-L)               Monday,    Nov. 18th  

            ASSIGNMENT #3 (M-Z)               Monday,    Nov.  25th


    Organization of the Course

This is a seminar course which meets for 3 hours on Mondays from 11:30 -2:30 in HNE 206.   We will typically take a 20 minute break at the half way point.

    Course Learning Objectives


    Relevant Links / Resources