Phil 30301: Ancient and Medieval Philosophy

304 Malloy
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Description of Course
Other Assigned Readings (handouts)
Tentative Syllabus
Lecture Outlines
First Paper Assignment
Alternative First Paper Assignment
Second Paper Assignment
Study Questions for Final Exam
Key to Paper Comments
Grade ScaleMap of Ancient Greek WorldDates of Philosophers

Description  of Course:

     An introductory survey of western philosophy from the 6th-century B.C. Presocratics to the 16th-century Scholastics. The lectures will focus primarily on Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, and St. Thomas Aquinas, using the twin themes of nature and human nature as an occasion for (i) formulating with some precision the main metaphysical and ethical problematics that emerge from the works of Plato and Aristotle, (ii) investigating the influence of Plato and Aristotle on the Catholic intellectual tradition, and (iii) exploring in some depth the relation between faith and reason as articulated by the medievals.

      Because the lectures will not try to cover all the important figures (though there will be ample references to them, as well as to key early modern philosophers), the students will be expected to read all of the assigned secondary source, viz., James Jordan's Western Philosophy: From Antiquity to the Middle Ages, as well as the primary sources assigned for the lectures. In addition, the requirements include (a) two 6-7 page papers on assigned topics, and (b) two exams.

    This course is meant primarily to introduce philosophy majors to important figures and issues in the history of philosophy, and so the course will be taught at a higher level of sophistication than ordinary second courses in philosophy.  As long as they understand this, however, non-philosophy majors, as well as the undecided, are welcome.

Texts (other translations and editions of primary sources are acceptable)

  • Plato, Five Dialogues (Hackett)   ISBN:  978-0872206335
  • Plato, The Republic (Oxford)   ISBN: 978-0199535767
  • Aristotle, A New Aristotle Reader (Princeton)  ISBN: 978-0691020433
  • St. Augustine, Confessions (Oxford)  ISBN: 978-0192833723
  • St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book 1: God (Notre Dame)  ISBN:  978-0268016784
  • Pope John Paul II, On the Relationship between Faith and Reason (Fides et Ratio) (Pauline Books)  ISBN:  978-0819826695
  • James N. Jordan, Western Philosophy: From Antiquity to the Middle Ages (Macmillan)   ISBN: 978-0023614507

Other assigned (and supplemental) readings available at -- referred to below as "handout"

 Outlines of course lectures are available on the instructor's website


1. Class attendance and a careful perusal of all reading assignments.

2. Two 6-7 page papers on assigned topics. These papers will constitute 50% of your final grade for the course. The papers will be due at 11:59pm on 2/10 and 4/17 and should be submitted electronically in .doc or docx format as email attachments to

3. Two exams, Midterm on 3/2 at the regularly scheduled class time and Final on 5/4 from 4:15 to 6:15; each exam constitutes 25% of your final grade for the course. 

Tentative syllabus:

I.  ANCIENT GREEK PHILOSOPHY (In addition to the readings specified below, you are responsible for Jordan, 173-272)   

    A. The Pre-Socratic Philosophers
    • 1/13: The Pre-Parmenideans: Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Heraclitus, Xenophanes, Pythagoras. Reading: Jordan, 3-25 
    • 1/18-1/20: The Eleatics: Parmenides, Zeno, Melissus. Reading: Jordan, 25-33 
    • 1/25: The Response to Parmenides: Empedocles, Anaxagoras, the Atomists (Democritus and Leucippus). Reading: Jordan, 34-50

    B. Socrates and Plato (Background reading: Jordan, 51-127)
    • 1/27: The Good for Human Beings: The Problem. Reading: Republic, 327A-376C 
    • 2/1: Justice in the State and the Individual: The Parts of the Soul. Reading: Republic, 376D-448E & 588B-592B 
    • 2/3:  The Philosopher as the Paradigm of Human Flourishing. Readings: Republic, 471C-502C; Apology, all; Phaedo 57A-69E

    • 2/8: The Middle-Dialogue Account of the Forms (or Ideas) and the Ascent to the Good. Readings: Meno 70A-86C; Phaedo, 70A-95E; Republic, 502D-521B 
    • 2/10: Cosmology and Extrinsic Teleology. Reading: Phaedo, 95E-118A (Paper due)

    C. Aristotle (Background reading: Jordan, 128-152)
    • 2/15: Substance and Accident. Readings: Categories, chaps. 1-5; Topics I, chaps. 5-9
    • 2/17 & 2/22: The Analysis of Change: Form, Matter, and Privation. Readings: Physics I, chaps. 1-2 & 5-9; On Generation and Corruption I, chaps. 3-4; Metaphysics XII, chaps. 1-5
    • 2/24: Nature, the Four Causes, and Intrinsic Teleology. Readings: Physics II, chaps. 1-3 & 7-9; Physics III, chaps. 1-3; Metaphysics V, chap. 4
    • 2/29: The Soul. Readings: On the Soul I, chaps. 1 & 4; On the Soul II, chaps. 1-5; On the Soul III, chaps. 4-5
    3/2 Midterm Exam
II. MEDIEVAL PHILOSOPHY (In addition to the readings specified below, you are responsible for Jordan, 318-375 & 419-442)   
    A. Faith and Reason (Background Reading: Jordan, 275-317 & 376-385) 
    • 3/14-3/16: The Nature of Faith. Readings: Aquinas, De Veritate, ques. 14, art. 1 (handout), 1-3; Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles I, chaps. 3-6; Augustine, Confessions VI, chaps. 1-5; John Paul II, Fides et Ratio, nos. 1-34
    • 3/21-3/23-3/30: Faith and Philosophy: The Specters of Anti-Secularism and Accommodationism. Readings: Aristotle, Metaphysics I, chaps. 1-2; Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles I, chaps. 1-2 & 7-9; Augustine, Confessions III, chaps. 1-7; Augustine, Confessions V, chaps. 1-5; John Paul II, Fides et Ratio, nos. 36-48
    • 4/4: Augustine and Classical Philosophy. Readings: Augustine, Confessions IV, chap. 16; Augustine, Confessions V, chaps. 10-14; Augustine, Confessions VI, chap. 11; Augustine, Confessions VII, chaps. 9-21

    B. God and Nature (Background Reading: Jordan, 386-405) 
    • 4/6-4/11-4/13: Natural Theology: The Existence and Nature of God. Readings: Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles I, chaps. 13-18 & 28-36; Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles II, chaps. 52-53 (handout) 
    • 4/18-4/20: The Emanation of Creatures from God: Creation, Conservation, and Concurrence. Readings: Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles II, chaps. 15-21 (handout); Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles III, chaps. 65-70 (handout); Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I-II, ques. 93, arts. 1-5 (handout) (Paper due on 4/17 at 11:59pm)

    C. God and Human Nature (Background Reading:  Jordan, 152-171 & 405-418) 
    • 4/25: The Good for Human Beings: Greek vs. Christian Perspectives. Readings: Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics I-II (all); Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics X, chaps. 6-9; Augustine, Confessions I, chaps. 1-5; Augustine, Confessions II, chaps. 1-10; Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I-II, qq. 1-5 (all) handout
    • 4/27: The Good and the Obligatory: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Teleology in Morals. Readings: Aquinas Summa Theologiae I-II, ques. 90-94 (all) (handout); Suarez, De Legibus II, chap. 6 (handout)
    Wednesday May 4, 4:15-6:15 Final Exam


Ancient Philosophers
Medieval Philosophers
Early Modern Philosophers
Thales 624-548 BC 
St. Augustine 354-430
Francis Bacon 1561-1626
Anaximander 611-545 BC 
John Philoponus 490-570
Galileo Galilei 1564-1642
Anaximenes 587-525 BC 
al-Farabi 875-930 
Thomas Hobbes 1588-1679
Pythagoras 572-? BC 
Saadia 882-942
Pierre Gassendi 1592-1655
Xenophanes 570-475 BC 
Avicenna 980-1037 
René Descartes 1596-1650
Heraclitus 544-484 BC 
St. Anselm 1033-1109
Antoine Arnauld 1612-1694
Parmenides 515-? BC 
al-Ghazali 1058-1111 
Blaise Pascal 1623-1662
Anaxagoras 499-428 BC
Peter Abelard 1079-1142 
Robert Boyle 1627-1691
Empedocles 495-435 Averroes 1126-1198 Baruch Spinoza 1632-1677
Zeno 490-? BC 
 St. Albert the Great 1200-1280 
John Locke 1632-1704
Melissus fl. 445 BC 
Moses Maimonides 1135-1204 
Nicholas Malebranche 1638-1715
Philolaus 470-? BC 
Roger Bacon 1214-1292 
Isaac Newton 1642-1727 
Socrates 469-399 BC 
Henry of Ghent 1217-1293
G.W.F. Leibniz 1646-1716
Democritus 460-? BC
St. Bonaventure 1221-1274 
Samuel Clarke 1675-1729
Leucippus 459-? BC 
St. Thomas Aquinas 1225-1274
Christian Wolff 1679-1754
Plato 428-348 BC 
John Duns Scotus 1265-1308
George Berkeley 1685-1753
Aristotle 384-322 BC
Durandus de Saint-Pourçain 1270-1332
Joseph Butler 1692-1752
Pyrrho of Elis 360-270 BC
William of Ockham 1285-1347
Thomas Reid 1710-1796
Epicurus 341-270 BC
John Buridan 1295-1358
David Hume 1711-1776
Zeno of Citium 336-265 BC
Peter D'Ailly 1350-1420
Immanuel Kant 1724-1804
Carneades 214-129 BC 
Nicholas of Cusa 1401-1464
 Marcus Tullius Cicero 106-43 BC
Dionysius Carthusiensis 1402-1471
Aenesidemus fl. c. 25 BC
Gabriel Biel 1410-1495
Epictetus 55-135
Domingo Bañez 1528-1604
Marcus Aurelius 121-180
Luis de Molina 1535-1600
Sextus Empiricus c.160-c.220
Francisco Suarez 1548-1617
Plotinus 205-270