Ancient Philosophy

The details
Philosophical, Historical and Interdisciplinary Studies (School of)
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Monday 13 January 2025
Friday 21 March 2025
05 April 2024


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This module provides an advanced introduction to ancient philosophy. We will look in detail at central works by Plato and Aristotle, introducing key themes in their ethics, epistemology and metaphysics. We will end the course by looking briefly at the different Hellenistic schools that flourished after Aristotle.

The course will be centred on four key texts: Plato's Meno, Plato's Republic, Aristotle's De Anima and Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. All of these texts are extremely rich and it will be impossible to cover all the topics they raise. We will focus on a selection of key passages and topics, exploring the passages carefully enough to assess the various arguments presented and see what different interpretations of the texts are possible. In engaging closely with the texts, students will also become familiar with the philosophical style and methodological orientations of Plato and Aristotle.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To provide students with the knowledge required to competently interpret selected texts in ancient Greek philosophy.

  • To study in depth and evaluate key arguments and theories by Plato and Aristotle.

  • To enable students to understand the historical context in which these texts emerged.

  • To further develop their capacities to reconstruct and analyse unfamiliar patterns of thought.

  • To get students to competently reflect on the place of Greek thought in the development of Western philosophy.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students will be expected to:

  1. Generate insightful and accurate reconstructions of selected passages from ancient philosophic texts.

  2. Subject the theories and arguments covered in the module to a sustained critique.

  3. Competently reflect on some of the differences between Greek and contemporary forms of philosophical thinking.

  4. Generate accurate and original interpretations and evaluations of the theories and arguments covered in the module.

Module information

Indicative syllabus

  • Socrates and the Pre-Socratics

  • Meno’s paradox and the theory of recollection

  • Knowledge and true belief in the Meno and Republic

  • Plato’s Republic

  • Philosopher rulers and Plato’s critique of democracy

  • De Anima II

  • Aristotle’s Ethics

  • Aristotle on Virtue

  • The Hellenistic Schools and the good life

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • Nine 2-hour lectures
  • Nine 1-hour discussion and reading seminars


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Commentaries TOTAL (best 2 out of 3)    40% 
Coursework   Essay plan including short review of secondary literature (600 words)    20% 
Coursework   Essay (2500 words)    40% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Ellisif Wasmuth, email:
PHAIS General Office: 6.130;



External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
No lecture recording information available for this module.


* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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