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Ancient Philosophy

Course Code: PHIL 3310
Faculty: Humanities & Social Sciences
Department: Philosophy
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15
Learning Format: Lecture, Seminar
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

Western philosophy was born in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, and to those worlds belonged great minds who have continued to be a source of insight. Beginning as early as with the Pre-Socratics, this course will cover philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Pyrro, Lucretius, Epicurus, Epictetus, Sextus Empiricus, Marcus Aurelius, Plotinus, Origen and Tertullian. The course may consider any number of the major themes found in ancient thought, including those derived from metaphysics and epistemology, as well as from ethics and politics. Students will read selections from major texts, as well as consider the work of important representatives from the main schools, such as the Cynics, the Skeptics, and the Stoics.

Course Content

Topics may include one or more of the following:

  1. Examine the major themes in Pre-Socratic thought, such as the substance of the cosmos, the warring opposites, the one and the many, the reincarnation of the soul, the doctrine of the flux.
  2. Examine the life and ideas of Socrates, with emphasis on Plato’s early dialogues, from which we learn much about the man, his method, and his various moral beliefs.
  3. Examine Plato's doctrine of the Forms, including the nature of universals, the doctrines of recollection and participation, the distinctions between reality and appearance and between knowledge and beliefs, as well as Plato's ideal society and the role of virtue within it.
  4. Examine Aristotle's doctrine of being as substance, including the difference between essence and substratum, between form and matter, and between potentiality and actuality, as well as Aristotle's accounts of the categories and of the four causes, his distinction between moral and intellectual virtue, and his conception of the soul and knowledge.
  5. Examine the practices and ideas of Pyrrho and the Academic Skeptics, such as the impossibility of knowledge and its implications for social and political life.
  6. Examine the teachings of the early Greek Stoicism and its later development in the Roman world, including the doctrines of sufficiency of virtue, resignation, and cosmopolitanism.

Methods of Instruction

A combination of lecture and seminar. Some classes may involve formal lectures for the entire time (allowing time for questions), in which case a later session will allow discussion of the lecture and reading material. Other class sessions may involve a combination of informal lecture and structured discussion.

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based upon course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College Policy The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific criteria for assessment during the first week of classes.

Any combination of the following totaling 100%

In-class tests, quizzes, short written assignments 20-50%
Written class presentations, Essays, Final Exam 30-100%
Instructor's General Evaluation (may include attendance, class participation, group work, homework, etc.) 0-20%

Learning Outcomes

The general objectives of the course are to:

  1. familiarize students with some of the main philosophical issues prevalent in ancient thought, such as the nature and origin of the cosmos, the relation between knowledge and reality, the possible immortality of the soul, the role of virtue in the individual and in society;
  2. develop an understanding of the main concepts and ideas in the writings of different representative philosophers and their place in an cient Greek and Roman philosophy;
  3. develop a capacity for philosophical awareness and analysis in the context of one or more of the major schools within ancient thought, such as the Sophists, the Neo-Platonists, etc.

Specific learning outcomes: by the end of the course, successful students should be able to:

  1. demonstrate an understanding of the main concepts and theories of the philosophies considered;
  2. explain and analyze competing theories and, where appropriate, their relevant similarities and differences;
  3. demonstrate an ability to employ aspects of philosophical analysis and reasoning, as well as critical thinking skills, in the context of interpreting original philosophical writings;
  4. recognize and explain some of the basic philosophical problems that surround and inform the more specific concerns and projects of the philosophies considered.

course prerequisites

18 credits or with instructor's consent.

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.