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A Survey of Ancient Philosophy (Non-credit)

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

Greek and Roman philosophy form the basis of much of our modern thought. Learn about the development of the subject in the ancient world, covering not just major figures such as Plato and Aristotle, but other important schools such as Stoicism and Neo-Platonism.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

No previous knowledge required.

Content of Course

  1. Pre-Socratic philosophy. This session will examine the beginnings of philosophical thought and the scientific study of nature in Ancient Greece.
  2. The Sophists and Socrates. This session will examine the differences and connections between the Sophists and Socrates.
  3. Plato. Concentrating on the middle dialogues, this session will focus particularly on the role of philosophy in understanding the universe.
  4. Aristotle. This session will examine Aristotle’s understanding of nature, with a particular focus on the Physics.
  5. Plato and Aristotle. The two philosophers’ approaches to ethics and human flourishing will be examined.
  6. Epicureanism. This school emphasized the centrality of pleasure in ethics and, in particular, the avoidance of the fear of death. This session will examine these views in the light of ancient and modern criticisms.
  7. Stoicism. Apart from Plato and Aristotle, the Stoics have probably been the most influential ancient school of philosophy. This session will examine their ethics and psychology, with a particular emphasis on Roman Stoics.
  8. Academics and Pyrrhonists. This session will concentrate on ancient schools of scepticism which emphasized the suspension of judgment due to the unattainability of knowledge.
  9. Neo-Platonism. Much of the influence of Plato’s philosophy has been through its development by Neo-Platonist schools of philosophy. This session will concentrate on this influential blend of religion and philosophy.
  10. Final discussion. An opportunity to consider the course as a whole and to return to specific issues in the light of that overview.

Teaching method(s)

Teaching will be a mix of mini-lectures, practical class exercises and class discussions.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate a broad knowledge of some key ideas in ancient philosophy;
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the diversity of ancient philosophical thought and the continuities and discontinuities between different periods;
  • Use some of the basic skills, techniques and practices associated generally with reading philosophical texts and specifically with reading ancient philosophical texts;
  • Present and evaluate some arguments and ideas which are key to ancient philosophy.


Core Readings


Shields, C., ed., 2003. The Blackwell Guide to Ancient Philosophy. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Web Sources

Perseus digital library (online ancient texts)

Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Password access)

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Class Handouts

Handouts will be provided.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.