History of Philosophy, Part I: Ancient & Medieval

Steven G. Smith smithsg
Christian Center 11 ext. 1334
Office hours & syllabus posted
Home phone 601-354 2290

Philosophy 3010
Fall 2013

In studying the history of philosophy, we confront philosophical problems as they first arise and as they get restated and reconsidered by outstanding thinkers whose contributions remain touchstones for serious thought. We are not merely learning a historical record: this is an indispensable and fruitful way of doing philosophy ourselves. In the practice of philosophical reason seeking we seek to become more mature intellectually and more skillful and responsible in communication.

Philosophy 3010 moves from the rise of philosophy among the ancient Greeks to the development of Western European “scholastic” philosophy in the later Middle Ages. The root questions animating the literature we will study are, I think, these: What is real in the world, and in ourselves?

Readings will be assigned in Philosophic Classics, Vol. 1: Ancient Philosophy, ed. Forrest E. Baird and Walter Kaufmann (5th ed.), and Vol. 2: Medieval Philosophy, ed. Baird and Kaufmann (4th ed.), and in handouts.

Grading will be based on a History of Philosophy Notebook (35%), a critical study (25%), a take home final exam (25%), and class participation, including an argument review (15%).

subject to revision by announcement in class or by e-mail

In the READ assignments, although I refer to the titles of the original works, all page numbers are in our readers, i.e. Philosophic Classics, Vol. 1 for the ancient thinkers and Vol. 2 for the medievals. In addition, always read the editors’ introductions to the thinkers.

Week of
Aug. 26 Introduction to class. Background of Greek philosophy. Pre-Socratics: phusis.
READ: Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes, 1-10

F-M-W week starting
Aug. 30 Pre Socratics: logos, on, nous.
READ: Heraclitus, Parmenides, and Zeno of Elea, 15-27; Anaxagoras, 36-38

Sept. 6 Socrates and Plato on the soul.
READ: Apology, Phaedo
Sept. 13 Plato on knowledge.
READ: Meno, Republic VI-VII (276-288)

Sept. 20 Plato’s Republic, cont.
READ: Republic I-V, 216-276

Sept. 27 Problems with the Forms. Plato’s theological arguments in Laws.
READ: Parmenides; from Laws X (handout)

Oct. 4 Aristotle on knowledge and the soul.
READ: From Posterior Analytics, On the Soul

Oct. 11 Aristotle on substance and nature.
READ: Metaphysics, Physics


Oct. 18 Aristotle on the good life.
READ: Nicomachean Ethics

Oct. 25 Epicureanism and Stoicism.
READ: Epicurus, 457-480; Epictetus, Encheiridion

Nov. 1 The problem of time.
READ: Aristotle, Physics (handout); Augustine, Confessions, 104-114

Nov. 8 Plotinus and Augustine.
READ: Plato, Timaeus, 307-310; Plotinus, Enneads, 542-548, 548-561; Augustine, On the Free Choice of the Will, 72-99

Nov. 15 Boethius. The problem of universals.
READ: Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, 151-159; Abelard and Ockham on universals, pp. 180-188, 471-476

Nov. 22 Anselm’s and Aquinas’ arguments for God’s existence.
READ: Anselm, Proslogion, 171-177; Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 345-350


M-W-F week starting
Dec. 2 Philosophical theology, continued: the problem of divine attributes.
READ: Maimonides, Guide to the Perplexed, 263-276; Aquinas, Summa Theologica 352-356

Dec. 9 Conclusion.

Final exam due Dec. 12.
Philosophy 3010, Fall 2013


1. The essay should be 6-7 pages in length (around 2000 words).

2. The essay will be devoted to one problem, or a set of closely related problems, as they are treated in the writings of one philosopher (or, exceptionally, more than one). Here are some sample topics:

Plato’s theory of knowledge as recollection
Aristotle’s conception of happiness
Augustine’s argument for the reality of God
Ibn Rushd (Averroes) on the relation between faith and reason
Ockham’s theory of universals

The project should be defined in consultation with the instructor. A project not conforming to this model might be approved, depending on the student’s interest and the availability of appropriate materials.

3. The GOAL of the essay is to advance our understanding of a philosophical issue by improving our understanding of specific arguments. The essay must, therefore, carefully establish what a philosopher’s reasoning is on a given problem, and also evaluate that reasoning.

(a) In the part of the essay that is devoted to making your author’s own case, you must decide which of your author’s arguments are most relevant to the problem that interests you, and which of them you can explain to your reader. (In a short paper you can never deal with all relevant materials.) Be sure you explain the reasoning of your author; do not merely say what a philosopher believed, without showing why the belief was held.

(b) In the evaluative part of your essay, do not merely agree or disagree with your author. Offer reasons of your own for thinking that the author’s treatment of the given problem is right or wrong, adequate or inadequate. You can be a philosophical partner to the author and be creative and honest at the same time.

(c) You must make effective use of the relevant primary material, that is, your author’s own argument, but in this paper you must also make effective use of at least one significant secondary source—some other philosopher who has written on the problem you are interested in. Whether or not you agree with this philosopher’s way of expounding or critiquing your primary author, there will be something significant for your purposes in this fellow reader’s interpretation.

4. A note on secondary sources: Generally you can find useful collections of good writings about well-known philosophers and the main problems they deal with (The Cambridge Companions are good examples), plus you can shop for interesting articles using Philosopher’s Index (under Articles & Databases on the Millsaps library webpage). Inter-Library Loan items often come amazingly fast, often as handy PDFs, but still, give yourself adequate lead time on this project so you’re not stuck at the last minute with whatever you can lay your hands on. One purpose of this assignment is to get you used to looking around in the philosophical scholarly literature.

4. CITATIONS. The purpose of citations is to give the reader adequate information about the text you are using and, so far as possible, adequate help in finding your references in other editions. Your secondary aim is to do this unobtrusively.
When you quote from a work not originally in English, be sure to mention the name of the translator in the first note along with a full bibliographic report, e.g.:

1. Augustine, Confessions, trans. Rex Warner (New York: New American Library, 1963), p. 100.

A subsequent reference would look like this:

Ibid., p. 102.


Augustine, p. 102.


Augustine, Confessions, p. 102.

depending on what needs to be said to avoid confusing different sources.
When all references are to one book, or there are many references in a row to one book, you can put page numbers in your text in parentheses at the ends of sentences, footnoting only the first. That first footnote will conclude, “Page references in the text are to this edition.”
With the texts of Plato and Aristotle it is customary to cite the pagination of a standard edition that is given in the margins of nearly all translations, e.g:

Republic 501a
Nicomachean Ethics 1148b

Philosophy 3010, Fall 2013

Multi volume histories of philosophy:
Emile Bréhier, The History of Philosophy
Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy
Ralph McInerny, A History of Western Philosophy
One volume histories of philosophy:
Julian Marías, History of Philosophy
Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy
Samuel Stumpf, Socrates to Sartre
Online sources:
The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (www.iep.utm.edu)
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (plato.stanford.edu)

Pre Socratics
F. M. Cornford, From Religion to Philosophy
G. S. Kirk, J. E. Raven, & M. Schofield, The Pre Socratics

Socrates and Plato
R. M. Hare, Plato
Paul Shorey, What Plato Said

Jonathan Barnes, Aristotle
W. D. Ross, Aristotle

Emile Bréhier, The Philosophy of Plotinus

Etienne Gilson, The Christian Philosophy of St. Augustine

Medieval Philosophy
Gordon Leff, Medieval Thought. St. Augustine to Ockham

Etienne Gilson, The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas

A good starting point for feminist critique
Genevieve Lloyd, The Man of Reason

Philosophy 3010, Fall 2013


For your course notebook, a loose leaf binder is strongly recommended. This will make it easier to hand in and take back your entries, and also to keep handouts together.

¬Once a week (normally) you will be asked to bring to class a new entry in your History of Philosophy Notebook—about 2 or 3 pp., if typed double-space—in which you discuss the week’s work (readings and discussions) both positively and negatively.

Positively, you will attempt to draw out of the week’s work the elements that you most want to include in your own philosophical toolkit—ideas and arguments that are, you think, valid and worth remembering and benefiting from in the future. You are encouraged to develop ideas and arguments in ways that suit your own purposes.

Negatively, you will attempt to identify the mistakes or otherwise unhelpful elements in the week’s work. (You are not committing yourself to rejecting anything! You can change your mind later about your earlier “mistake” calls! So be bold!)

The History of Philosophy Notebook is an important learning tool that will enable you to keep track of what our class comes up with in a cumulative way. The class meetings at which Notebook entries are due will generally be devoted to examination of them.

Individual Notebook entries and responses will be graded unsatisfactory (-), satisfactory (\/), or very good (+) depending on the attentiveness and thoughtfulness they show. The Notebook as a whole will get a letter grade. You’ll get a midterm advisory on how that grade is shaping up.


At least once in the semester you will provide guidance to class discussion by preparing a 1-page handout for us in which you address such questions as these: What basically is going on in the assigned reading? What do you think is a particularly important passage? How does the argument of the reading seem to fit into our group’s discussion so far? How does it speak to your concerns in particular? What is most obscure in it or controversial about it?

Philosophy 3010, Fall 2013


1. Class attendance. Being in class, being engaged with the work of the class, and behaving courteously are all expected. One discourtesy to avoid is coming into class late. Better late than never, definitely; but lateness counts as half an absence—that is, your work with the class that day will be counted as only half done. One percent of the course grade will be lost for each absence from class for any reason, beginning with the fourth absence. (For example, someone who missed class 8 times would lose 5% of the course grade, or half a letter grade.) The reason for this: our in-class work is a crucial and irreplaceable part of the substance of the course.

2. Electronic communication devices (phones, laptops, etc.). Electronic devices have become harmful Interrupters and Distracters in the current state of our social evolution. Their use is banned in our class. If you have special needs, discuss with me.

3. Late papers. Written assignments turned in late will lose a letter grade or equivalent. Homework may not be turned in more than one week after its due date. No work of any kind will be accepted after the last day of final examinations. Exceptions to this policy will be granted only to the victims of unforeseeable and uncontrollable circumstances.

4. As a general rule, no e-mail submissions. Unless the instructor allows it under specified circumstances, e-mail submissions of assigned writing are not accepted.

5. Plagiarism. Using the words or ideas of others without acknowledgment—that is, passing them off as your own—is a fraudulent practice called plagiarism. It also misses one of the main points of being in college, which is to develop your powers of thought and expression. Plagiarism is an offense under the Academic Honor Code (see next page).

6. Incompletes. An “Incomplete” grade for the course will only be given to students who, due to unforeseen and uncontrollable circumstances, find themselves unable to complete course requirements during the term and can reasonably be expected to complete them within a few weeks after the term’s end. The “Incomplete” must be requested and appropriately justified before the end of final examinations.

7. Disabilities. Students with documented disabilities should discuss their needs with the instructor at the beginning of the semester.
From the ODS: If you have any needs or require accommodations related to a disability or learning difference, please contact Patrick Cooper to register with the Office of Disability Services. You can reach him via e-mail at coopeap@millsaps.edu or by calling extension 1228. Accommodations will not be granted until a meeting has taken place with Patrick and letters have been received by your instructor.