PHIL 204

Greek Philosophy


PHIL 204 traces the origin of western philosophy in Ancient Greece through selected works from the Pre-Socratic philosophers, Plato and Aristotle.

The course is divided into three parts:

1. We begin with the earliest western philosophers, the Pre-Socratics, and their search for principles to explain the world around them, in particular their treatment of the problems of understanding how it is that things in the world can change while remaining the same, and how there can be many things which are all the same.

2. Plato’s theory of Forms is introduced as his solution to the problems of change and identity, and unity and multiplicity. We examine the presentation of this theory in Socrates’ arguments for the immortality of the soul, and the criticisms of it by Parmenides and Aristotle. Here we closely read a single work by Plato, the Phaedo.

3. We investigate Aristotle’s rejection of Platonism and his development of a comprehensive philosophical system, moving from logic to natural science and on to his theory of human nature. We conclude by discussing Aristotle’s ethical theory. In this section the readings are taken from a selection of Aristotle’s writings chosen to illustrate the enormous range and power of his work.

By the end of the course students will have acquired an appreciation of how philosophy emerged in ancient Greece and of some important philosophical theories that have shaped the development of western thinking up to the present day. They will also have gained an understanding of some basic philosophical concepts and principles and in particular those having to do with the importance of reasoning and argument. The course will contribute to developing the skills needed in analysing and evaluating the arguments employed by philosophers and by others writing on the most fundamental questions that arise in thinking about the universe and our place in it.


Coursework + Exam

For full course information see the Digital Course Outline .

Digital Course Outlines are refreshed in November for the following year. Digital Course Outlines for courses to be offered for the first time may be published slightly later.

Availability 2024

Semester 2


Coordinator(s) Professor Chris Martin


Coursework and exam


PHIL 204: 15 points


30 points at Stage I