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The University of Southampton

PHIL1003 Ancient Greek Philosophy

Module Overview

Philosophy has always progressed by being aware of its past, and it has been said that the legacy of the ancient Greek thinkers to Western philosophy is nothing less than Western philosophy itself. The ancients invented our subject, and Plato and Aristotle are still widely regarded as the two greatest philosophers of all time. A full philosophical education demands some understanding and critical engagement with key aspects of their wide and powerful thought. These great thinkers and their predecessors, the earliest Greek philosophers, raise fundamental questions and develop the use of argument to try and answer them: What is the nature of reality? Is the world the way we perceive it to be? Is the world constantly changing or always the same? What is it to be a good person? What is the best kind of life for a human being to lead? What it is to know what is good? What is it to know anything, rather than just have an opinion?

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • some of some of central views of the ancient Greek philosophers.
  • the arguments in support of those views and the problems facing them.
  • the influence of those views on subsequent thinkers.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • interpret, synthesise and criticise complex texts and positions
  • present and debate ideas, both orally and in writing, in an open minded and rigorous way.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • undertake, with adequate supervision, independent work, including identifying and using appropriate resources.
  • appreciate points of view remote from one’s own.
  • to work effectively to deadlines.
  • to take notes from talks and written materials.


In this module you will explore some of the central concepts, claims and arguments embodied in the some of the major works of ancient Greek philosophers, principally Plato and the earlier Pre-Socratic philosophers. While the syllabus may vary from year to year, topics might include: - Concepts of being, not-being, and change - Methods of argument and persuasion used by ancient philosophers - Theories of the ethical virtues - Theories of knowledge - Plato’s theory of Forms, and philosophical problems it raises

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include - Lectures - In class discussion - One on one consultation with the module co-ordinator Learning activities include - Attending lectures - Contributing to discussion in class - Doing research for and writing assessed textual commentary and exam - Applying techniques and skills learnt to your reading and writing inside and outside the module In the lectures, you will not only be introduced to the philosophical issues central to this module and the ideas of the philosophers studied but also encouraged to think about them for yourself. Your own ideas and any difficulties you encounter can be raised and discussed in discussion hours, and you will have the opportunity to revise your written work in light of feedback received on a plan. The writing of a textual commentary and your preparation for exams should involve you in thinking deeply about the relevant issues and texts.

Follow-up work24
Preparation for scheduled sessions24
Wider reading or practice24
Completion of assessment task23
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Plato, Meno, in e.g. Plato, (1997). Complete Works. 

Jonathan Barnes (ed.) (2001). Early Greek Philosophy. 

Resources. Primary and secondary texts available from the library and digitally. Key texts held in the Reserve Collection. Blackboard.



Draft essay


MethodPercentage contribution
Commentary 40%
Timed Assignment 60%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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