The Hellenistic Age, traditionally dated from the death of Alexander and his (Macedonian) Empire at 323 BCE to the birth of Augustus’ (Roman) Empire in 31 BCE, gave the West three of its most innovative and influential schools of philosophy: Epicureanism, Skepticism, and Stoicism. This course investigates the central features of their thought. Special attention is paid to the still-relevant debates between the Stoics and Skeptics about the possibility of knowledge, to the disagreements among all three schools about the issues of freedom, responsibility, and determinism, and to their ethical theories.
This class is mainly designed to offer graduate students a more thorough understanding of key notions and ideas in Hellenistic Philosophy, but the class is open to anyone who has completed at least one course in Philosophy at the 300-level or has received permission of the instructor. These prerequisites, however, are the minimum: students who have not previously taken any introductions to ancient philosophy (such as Phil. 347C: Ancient Philosophy) or do not already have some experience reading ancient philosophers might find this course very difficult.
Course requirements 1) Two short (20 min.) seminar presentations 30% (15% each)
2) Ten short ‘reaction-journal’ entries 10%
3) One research paper (15-20 pages) 55%
4) Participation 5%
Note: You must complete all assignments to receive credit for this course. In addition, regular attendance and class participation are expected. Please bring assigned readings to class.
Ad 1. Two short (20 min.) seminar presentations
Each student will be expected to give two short presentations, which will mainly (a) provide an introduction to the assigned readings and (b) help focus the discussion of the primary texts in class on the most important or interesting issues. The presentations constitute 30% of the final grade.
Ad 2. Ten short ‘reaction-journal’ entries
Each student writes 100-120 words per week about that week’s readings and/or discussions during class, amounting to at least 10 short entries on Hellenistic philosophy in total. These entries may raise questions about the class material, point out disagreement with claims made in class, interpret difficult sections in the readings, express problems that require further exploration, apply some aspect of Hellenistic philosophy to contemporary philosophical issues, draw out connections between ideas discussed during earlier sessions, etc. The journal is meant to give you an extra opportunity to play with ideas, record your insights during the semester, and provide a source of materials to draw from when planning the project for your research paper. The journal-entries constitute 10% of the final grade.
Ad 3. One research paper
Each student will be expected to write a research paper (15-20 pages, double-spaced, standard font and margins) on a topic of his or her choice related to the course material (students are encouraged to discuss this topic first with the instructor before starting their research). A research paper should develop a genuine argument, while both giving a thorough analysis of primary texts and taking account of the relevant secondary literature on the issues discussed (more detailed instructions will be provided in class). The research paper constitutes 55% of the final grade. The paper is due on May 1st, 2009.
Ad 4. Participation
Students are expected to be willing to participate in discussions. In order to be able to participate actively students will have to have prepared the primary and secondary literature recommended. Participation constitutes 5% of the final grade. (Bonus points at instructor’s discretion.)
Plagiarism will be punished as severely as the university allows. Please make yourself familiar with the university’s policies on plagiarism.
Course Readings: Required: B. Inwood and L. Gerson, 1997, Hellenistic Philosophy 2nd ed. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing 1997. (IG)
Recommended: A. A. Long and D. N. Sedley, 1987, The Hellenistic Philosophers 2 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Other texts (e.g. Lucretius & Seneca) will be posted on e-reserve (password: ataraxia).
Course schedule (subject to adjustment)
Three main schools: Skepticism; Stoicism; Epicureanism
Hellenistic division of philosophy
No class: Martin Luther King day Read (Readings are posted on e-reserve):
J. Mansfeld, ‘Sources’, pp.3-30;
T. Dorandi, ‘Chronology’, pp. 31-53
T. Dorandi, ‘Organization and structure of the philosophical schools’, pp. 55-62
From: Algra, K., and J. Barnes, J. Mansfeld and M. Schofield (eds.), 1999, The Cambridge History of Hellenistic Philosophy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Section I: Epicureanism
Life of Epicurus in Diogenes Laertius (IG 3-5)
Letter to Menoeceus (IG 28-31)
Ancient Collection of Maxims (IG 32-40)
Diogenes Laertius on Epicurus’ ethical views (IG 42-44)