CL/PL 317 is taught with different contents each time. This is one example.
In this course we will approach and compare the two philosophers Plato and Aristotle through an in-depth study of some of their texts. We will read
- Plato’s, Apology, Republic and Phaedrus and
- Aristotle’s Poetics, Rhetoric and Nicomachean Ethics.
Whereas Plato’s dialogues are rather self-contained, Aristotle is constantly referring to things he has explained in other works. For this reason, we will, from time to time, look at snippets from other of his works as well, in particular the Metaphysics and the Politics.
The texts were selected for the following criteria:
- Accessibility to readers without prior knowledge.
- Texts are of interest to the student of literature as well (this is obvious in the case of Aristotle’s Poetics and Rhetoric, but rhetoric is also an important theme in Plato’s Apology and the Phaedrus, while art, representation and poetry are debated in the Republic).
- Starting with shorter texts to warm up and working our way into one long central and very influential book.
- Focus on subjects that are transferable to modern debates: this is easier with an ethical question, for example, than with an obsolete ancient physical theory.
- The selected texts offer an opportunity to present all the main elements of the philosophers’ thought.
STUDENT LEARNING GOALS:
- Learn how to tackle a difficult philosophical text and to discuss it both as a philosophical argument (structure of argument, meaning of terms, is the argument valid, role in the context of a theory developed by the author, etc.) and a literary work (genre, audience, style and figures of style, text function, etc.).
- Reflect on the interrelationship of (literary) form and philosophical meaning.
- Acquire basic knowledge about the thought of Plato and Aristotle and make up your own mind about these intellectual giants through acquaintance with a selection of original works.
- Get to know four founding texts of rhetorical theory and poetics.
- Compare both philosophers, the issues they address, their outlook and their philosophical methods and see how this informs their impact on later intellectual culture.
- Study and reflect on the manifold ways in which both philosophers desire, try to effect or model ‘alterations’ of the human mind and compare them with analogous processes in our modern experience, e.g. in a higher education context.
Texts of the dialogues mentioned above. The following books have been ordered for the AUP Bookstore. I think they are the best value you can get for your money. If you use other translations, you may have difficulties to follow the discussion (online translations often do not give the references according to Éstienne or Bekker pages that we will use to quote passages).
Plato. Republic. Translated from the New Standard Greek Text, with Introduction, by C. D. C. Reeve. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2004.
Plato. Five Dialogues. Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo. Translated by G. M. A. Grube. 2nd ed. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2002.
Plato. Phaedrus. Translated by Alexander Nehamas and Paul Woodruff. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1995 (also contained in the Edition “Plato on Love” by C. D. C. Reeve, if you happen to possess that).
Aristotle. Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation. Ed. Jonathan Barnes. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984 (and later reprints)
Additionally, reading some accessible introduction on each of the two philosophers might be helpful. There are many of various kinds. I particularly like Jonathan Barnes. Aristotle. A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. There is an introduction on Plato in the same series, written by Julia Annas, which is also good but not quite as brilliant (according to my taste).