Instructor: Simon Shogry
Description of Course Goals and Curriculum
- Course topics: Students study the big ideas of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle through these philosphers' major works. Moreover, this course focuses on each philosopher's ways of reasoning. Students learn how to deconstruct, analyze, and ultimately synthesize their own philosophical ideas.
- Course structure: Historically, Socrates was Plato's teacher and Plato was Aristotle's. This course follows this chronology and is divided into three units, one for each philosopher (although the one on Socrates is not as in depth and serves mostly as a lead-up to Plato).
- Course challenges: The readings are dense and deceptively short (especially Aristotle's works). Many of them also require knowledge of ancient Greek language and life (which are covered in class) to fully appreciate the texts.
- Hidden expectations: While certain sections of books are omitted, it is worthwhile to read them (especially book four of Plato's Republic). They give a fuller picture of the philosopher's ideology and can be incorporated into papers.
Learning From Classroom Instruction
- Purpose: Lectures outline the main philosophical ideas and reasoning techniques behind the texts, whereas precepts play with these ideas and techniques and allow students to construct arguments of their own.
- Organization: Lectures usually start with a brief summary of the reading and context relevant to understanding the text. Then, most of the lecture is spent on distilling the reading's big philosophical ideas and how the philosopher logically supported those conclusions (e.g. how Socrates uses questioning and cross-examination to find a definition for beauty or justice). Precepts translate these ideas and techniques into present day by going over relatable examples. Students also engage in group discussions to contrast the ideas of different philosophers and forge their own beliefs.
- Challenges: These philosophers covered a wide range of ideas and precepts don't have enough time to discuss everything (go to office hours!).
- Strategies: Professor Shogry posts his lectures slides online, so it is not important to focus on copying down notes during lecture. Rather, it is more important to get a grasp of the reasoning techniques to get the most out of precepts.
Learning For and From Assignments
- Problem sets: There are weekly problem sets meant to ensure that students are reading the texts and can identify the major philosophical themes. It is a good idea to attempt these before precepts, as there are often opportunities to go over and answer these questions in class.
- Papers: There are two papers and this is where students have the opportunity to exercise the reasoning skills they've developed. The paper topics are open and meant for students to reach and support their own conclusions.
- Challenges and strategies: Philosophy papers have a different style to them, so start on them early! There are often certain preferences that preceptors have, so go to their office hours to bounce ideas around and understand their requirements.
External ResourcesOffice hours are a huge help, especially for understanding ideas more deeply and developing unique stances (they're also seldom used, so take advantage of them!). I also found the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy to be a thorough philosophy resource.
What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course SelectionThis is a good (though relatively brief) introduction to Greek philosophy. This is not a prerequisite for other classes, though many thinkers are influenced by the ones covered in this course. However, if you're looking for a specific branch of philosophy (such as metaphysics) or want to go deeply into one of the texts covered in this course, this course presents a more high-level view of philosophical topics and you'll likely find that it does not go into enough detail.
Introduction to Ancient Philosophy