Topics in ancient philosophy



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TOPICS IN ANCIENT PHILOSOPHY
BA/MA; T1, 2015/16
Module convenor: Anthony Price

The title of this course is devised to distinguish it from two BA courses, ‘Introduction to History of Philosophy’, and ‘History of Philosophy’. The topics themselves are not different in kind from topics within those other courses (and there may well be some overlap); but the expectation is that my treatment, and your understanding, of them should be somewhat more advanced. MA students without previous acquaintance with ancient philosophy should especially read the two items of secondary reading listed below under ‘Preparatory Reading’.


This year, the focus of this module will be on the virtue of courage, though that requires a background in Plato’s and Aristotle’s more general ethics and moral psychology. In each case, we shall start with eudaimonia. This is commonly translated as ‘happiness’, but in effect equivalent to acting and living well, of which both Plato and Aristotle have an ethical conception. We shall then consider their general conceptions of the emotions, and of moral virtue. This will prepare for paying special attention to their conceptions of courage, the emotions that this involves, and any special value that it may possess. We shall mainly be attending to Plato’s Laches, Protagoras, and Republic, and to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.
Recommended Translations
Plato, Complete Works, (ed). J. Cooper (Hackett); or, for the Protagoras, C.C.W. Taylor (OUP, either Clarendon Plato, 2nd edn, with full and excellent commentary, or World’s Classics with brief introduction), and, for the Republic, Desmond Lee (Penguin, 2nd edn).
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics Books II-IV, tr. & com. C.C.W. Taylor (OUP 2006); backed by Nicomachean Ethics (Ross/Brown, OUP World’s Classics, 2009), Eudemian Ethics (Kenny, OUP World’s Classics, 2011)

Preparatory Reading
Primary:

• Plato, Laches

• Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, I-II (1194a1-1109b26), III 6-9 (1115a6-1117b22)
Secondary:

• C.C.W. Taylor, Socrates: A Very Short Introduction (OUP 2000)

• R. Kraut, ‘Aristotle’s Ethics’, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy



(http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-ethics/)

Lectures

The lectures for this module will be held in ***, on Tuesdays from 2 to 3 p.m. in the Autumn Term. The lecturer is Prof. Anthony Price (a.price@bbk.ac.uk).


Seminars

The seminars for this module will be held, in various places, on Tuesdays from 3 to 4 in the Autumn Term. The MA seminar will be led by Anthony Price, the BA seminars by ***.


Readings

Every week the ‘primary reading’ forms the focus of the seminar discussion; it is essential that you read what you can of that in advance of the lecture and seminar. In addition, I offer a selection of ‘secondary reading’ (a variably generous selection, intended not to deter, but to illustrate how intensely these things are presently being studied, and to ensure that anyone can always find something – but without making it predictable what). Attending to some ‘secondary reading’ will deepen your understanding and help you to get the most out of the module; it is essential to read several pieces of it in preparing your assessment essay.


Note that recent OUP books, and some older ones, are available free electronically, via our library, within Oxford Scholarship Online. It is also useful that the recent Cambridge Companion to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics can be accessed online through our library at http://vufind.lib.bbk.ac.uk/vufind/Record/498714
Essays (BA)

This module is assessed by one essay of not more than 3,200 words (including footnotes or endnotes, but not final bibliography). This must be written in response to one of the set questions listed below, except with permission from the module convenor. For details concerning submission of the essay, including deadlines, see the BA Handbook.


Prior to (though very likely in preparation for) these assessed essays, you should also write at least two essays during the course, taken from the titles below, and should receive feedback on them from your seminar leader. These can be useful practice for your eventual assessed essay. You should submit the first such essay by the first seminar after reading week, and the second by one week after the last seminar of term. [Notes: (1) You are always welcome to submit an essay earlier than these dates; (2) the seminar leader should not be expected to comment on the same essay more than once.]
Essays (MA)

This module is assessed by one essay of not more than 3,700 words (including footnotes or endnotes, but not final bibliography). This must be written in response to one of the set questions listed below, except with permission from the module convenor. For details concerning submission of the essays, including deadlines, see the MA Handbook.


You are advised to send Anthony Price a draft by the end of Week 9, with the expectation of an hour’s individual supervision in Week 10.

Moodle

Electronic copies of selected course materials (and at least of lecture handouts) will be available through Moodle, at http://moodle.bbk.ac.uk. You will need your ITS login name and password to enter.


Topic 1, Socrates and Eudaimonism
Primary Reading:

• Plato, Crito 48b-d

Symposium 204e-205a

Euthydemus 278e-282a


Secondary Reading:

• G. Vlastos, ‘Happiness and Virtue in Socrates’ Moral Theory’, in his Socrates: Ironist and

Moral Philosopher (CUP 1991), 200-232

• T. Irwin, Plato’s Ethics (OUP 1995), 52-64

• A.W. Price, Virtue and Reason in Plato and Aristotle (OUP 2011), 9-32
Question

In Socrates’s view, is virtue both necessary and sufficient for eudaimonia (happiness)? Is his

position defensible?
Topic 2, The Laches on Courage
Primary Reading:

• Plato, Laches
Secondary Reading:

• D. Devereux, ‘Courage and Wisdom in Plato’s Laches’, Journal of the History of



Philosophy 15 (1977), 129-41.

• Walter Schmid, On Manly Courage: A Study of Plato’s Laches (SIU Press, 1992)

• T. Penner, ‘What Laches and Nicias Miss – and whether Socrates thinks Courage is

Merely a Part of Virtue’, Ancient Philosophy 12 (1992), 1-27

• D. Devereux, ‘The Unity of the Virtues’, in H.H. Benson (ed), A Companion to Plato

(Wiley-Blackwell, 2006), 325-34 of 325-40


Question

How does the Laches conceive of courage, and its relation to virtue in general?
Topic 3, The Protagoras on Virtue and Courage
Primary Reading:

• Plato, Protagoras 328d-334c, 358d-360e


Secondary Reading:

• T. Irwin, Plato’s Ethics, 80-1, 84-5

• G. Vlastos, ‘The Unity of the Virtues in the Protagoras’, Review of Metaphysics

25 (1971/2), 415-58

• T. Penner, ‘The Unity of Virtue’, Philosophical Review 82 (1973), 35-68

• D. Devereux, ‘The Unity of the Virtues in Plato's Protagoras and Laches’,



Philosophical Review 101 (1992), 765–89

• D. Devereux, ‘The Unity of the Virtues’, in H.H. Benson (ed), A Companion to Plato

(Wiley-Blackwell, 2006), 334-9 of 325-40

• A.W. Price, Virtue and Reason in Plato and Aristotle, 86-100


Question

How does Socrates relate what are apparently different virtues? Does he hold that they are

really identical, or that they are different but such that one can’t have one without the others, or what else?
Topic 4, Other Plato on Virtue and Courage
Primary Reading:

Phaedo 68d-69b

Republic IV esp. 429a-430c

Statesman 306a-308b, 308e-310a

Laws I 629e-630c, 634b, 646e-649d, XII 963c-964b, 965c-966b
Secondary Reading:

• T. Irwin, Plato’s Ethical Theory (OUP 1977), 197-9

• R.F. Stalley, Introduction to Plato’s Laws (Hackett 1983), ch. 3

• T. Irwin, Plato’s Ethics (OUP 1995), ch. 14; 347-8

• C. Bobonich, Plato’s Utopia Recast (OUP 2002), 15-16, 43-4, 117-18, 184-5, 289-91
Question

How does Plato in places distinguish courage from other virtues, and the courage that is not

really or fully a virtue from the courage that is both?
Topic 5, Aristotle’s Eudaimonism
Primary Reading:

Nicomachean Ethics [NE] I (1094a1-1103a10), II.6 1106a15-24, VI.7 1141a16-b8, VI.13

1145a6-11, IX.8-9, X.6-8


Secondary Reading:

• J.L. Ackrill, ‘Aristotle on eudaimonia’, Proceedings of the British Academy 60 (1974); in

his Essays on Plato & Aristotle (OUP 1977), 179-200; A.O. Rorty (ed), Essays on Aristotle’s



Ethics (California 1980), 15-33

• J. Barnes, ‘Introduction’ to Penguin translation of the NE (1976), 30-6

• J. McDowell, ‘The Role of eudaimonia in Aristotle’s Ethics’, in his Mind, Value, and

Reality (Harvard 1998), 3-22; Rorty (ed), 359-76

• D. Bostock, Aristotle’s Ethics (OUP 2000), 7-32

• J. Whiting, ‘Eudaimonia, External Results, and Choosing Virtuous Actions for

Themselves’, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 65 (2002), 270-90

• M. Pakaluk, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics: An Introduction (CUP 2005), 47-86

• S.S. Meyer, ‘Living for the Sake of an Ultimate End’, in J. Miller (ed), Aristotle’s



Nicomachean Ethics (CUP 2011), 47-65

• A.W. Price, Virtue and Reason in Plato and Aristotle, 33-69

• A.W. Price, ‘Eudaimonism and Egocentricity’, Harvard Review of Philosophy 19 (2013),

84-95 (accessible through my academia.edu site)

• C.D.C. Reeve, ‘Beginning and Ending with Eudaimonia’, in R. Polansky (ed),

The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (CUP 2014), 14-33
Questions

In Aristotle’s view, is there a single end of all an agent’s actions? Is his view well grounded?

Is it a fair criticism that, in orienting each agent upon his own eudaimonia, Aristotle makes

him unattractively egocentric?


Topic 6, Aristotle on Emotion
Primary Reading:

De Anima I.1 403a3-b19



Rhetoric II (most relevant to courage is ch. 5)

Problemata (ps-Arist) XXVII
Secondary Reading:

• J.M. Cooper, ‘An Aristotelian Theory of the Emotions’, in A.O. Rorty (ed), Essays on Aristotle’s Rhetoric (California 1996), 238-57 (deriving from a paper in OSAP 1993)

• D. Frede, ‘Mixed Feelings in Aristotle’s Rhetoric’, in Rorty (ed), Essays on Aristotle’s

Rhetoric, 258-85

• A.W. Price, Virtue and Reason in Plato and Aristotle, 113-30

• J. Moss, Aristotle on the Apparent Good (OUP 2012), ch. 4

• G. Pearson, ‘Aristotle and the Cognitive Component of Emotions’, Oxford Studies in



Ancient Philosophy 46 (2014), 165-214

• Jamie Dow, Passions and Persuasion in Aristotle’s Rhetoric (OUP 2015), chs 8-9

• D. Frede, ‘Reasonable and Unreasonable Emotions’ (draft)

Question

How does Aristotle conceive of the emotions (pathē)? How does his conception of them relate

to the contrasts of soul and body, and reason and phantasia (imagination or perception)?


Topic 7, Aristotle on Moral Virtue
Primary Reading:

NE II.6-9 (1106a14-1109b26), III.11 1119a16-18, IV.1 1121b5-10, VI (= EE V) 13 (1144b1-1145a11)
Secondary Reading:

• J.O. Urmson, ‘Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean’, American Philosophical Quarterly

(1973), 223-30

• R. Hursthouse, ‘A False Doctrine of the Mean’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 81

(1980/1), 57-72

• D. Bostock, Aristotle’s Ethics, 38-45

• M. Pakaluk, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, 108-13, 231-2

• A.W. Müller, ‘Aristotle’s Conception of Ethical and Natural Virtue: How the Unity Thesis

Sheds Light on the Doctrine of the Mean’, in J. Szaif & M. Lutz-Bachmann (eds), Was ist

das für den Menschen Gute?/What is Good for a Human Being? (De Gruyter), 18-53

• R. Hursthouse, ‘The Central Doctrine of the Mean’, in R. Kraut (ed), The Blackwell Guide



to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (Blackwell 2006), 96-115

• C. Rapp, ‘What Use is Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean?’, in B. Reis (ed), The Virtuous Life



in Greek Ethics (CUP 2006), 99-126

• A.W. Price, Virtue and Reason in Plato and Aristotle, 122-43

• L. Brown, ‘Why is Aristotle’s Virtue of Character a Mean? Taking Aristotle at His Word (NE ii 6)’, in Polansky (ed), The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle’s Nicomachean

Ethics, 64-80

• D.C. Russell, ‘Phronesis and the Virtues (NE vi 12-13)’, in in Polansky (ed),



The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, 203-20
Questions

How can we best make sense of Aristotle’s doctrine that virtuous actions, and states of

character, constitute a mean between opposed extremes? How well and widely is it

applicable?

Does Aristotle hold that no one can possess a virtue of character without possessing all the

virtues of character? If so, why does he hold this, and is he right to hold this?


Topic 8, Aristotle on Courage (I)
Primary Reading:

NE III.6-7

Eudemian Ethics (EE) III.1


Secondary Reading:

• P.Geach, The Virtues (CUP 1977), ch. 8

• D. Pears, ‘Aristotle’s Analysis of Coruage’, Midwest Studies in Philosophy 3 (1978), 273-85

• D. Pears, ‘Courage as a Mean’, in Rorty (ed), Essays on Aristotle’s Ethics, 171-87



• A. Duff, ‘Aristotelian Courage’, Ratio 29 (1987), 2-15

• J. Casey, Pagan Virtue (OUP 1990), ch. 2

• J.F. Heil, ‘Why is Aristotle’s Brave Man so Frightened? The Paradox of Courage in the



Eudemian Ethics’, Apeiron 29 (1996), 47-74

• G. Pearson, ‘Does the Fearless Phobic Really Fear the Squeak of Mice “Too Much”?’,



Ancient Philosophy 26 (2006), 81-91

• G. Pearson, ‘Aristotle on the Role of Confidence in Courage’, Ancient Philosophy 29

(2009), 123-37

• H.J. Curzer, Aristotle and the Virtues (OUP 2012), ch. 2

• G. Pearson, Aristotle on Desire (CUP 2012), 241-4

• G. Pearson, ‘Courage and Temperance’, in Polansky (ed), The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, 110-23 of 110-134





Questions

What are the emotions relevant to courage, and how do they relate?

How well does the doctrine of the mean apply to courage?




Topic 9, Aristotle on Courage (II)
Primary Reading:

NE III.8-9, IX.8 1169a11-b2
Secondary Reading:

(see also under Topic 8)

• S. Broadie, Ethics in Aristotle, 319-20

• M. Pakaluk, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, 153-66

• T. Irwin, ‘The Sense and Reference of kalon in Aristotle’, Classical Philology 105

(2010), 381-96.

• A.W. Price, Virtue and Reason in Plato and Aristotle, 64-7

• R. Crisp, ‘Nobility in the Nicomachean Ethics’, Phronesis 59 (2014), 231-45


Questions

How does courage as a virtue differ from other kinds of courage?

To what extent is it possible to enjoy acting courageously, despite the associated dangers and

pains?
Topic 10, Homer on Fear and Courage
Primary Reading:

Iliad (I shall circulate a selection of quotations.)


Secondary Reading:

• M. Clark, ‘Manhood and Heroism’, in R. Fowler (ed), Cambridge Companion to Homer

(CUP 2004), 74-90

Question

Compare and contrast Homer’s conception of fear and courage with that of Aristotle.




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