PHIL 127:  History of Ancient Philosophy

Section 01:  MW 1:30-2:45

Douglass Hall 110



Prof. Thomas F. Pyne

Office Hours:

M 3:00-4:00,   T 1:00-2:00;  other times by appointment.

In addition I will conduct ‘virtual’ office hours via SacCT ‘Discussions’. 

Office Location:

Mendocino 3000


(Office) 278-7288

(Philosophy Department) 278-6424



Faculty Website:


Required Text:

Cohen, Curd & Reeve, Readings in Ancient Greek Philosophy,  4th Ed., Hackett (Indianapolis, 2011)




Course Description



Examination of the origins of Western philosophy, with emphasis on the works of the Pre-Socratics, Plato, and Aristotle. Prerequisite:  3 units in philosophy  Units: 3.0.

Course Objectives

     The course is designed to give a systematic introduction to the early beginnings of western philosophy.

     The course will focus on the relevance of ancient philosophy to contemporary philosophical concerns.

     Students will be required to read primary sources in translation.

     Students will be expected to understand the philosophical problems the ancient authors are addressing and the solutions provided.


Students will be expected to:

     Demonstrate a developed ability to read and understand historical philosophical texts.

     Demonstrate a precise and detailed understanding of the views and arguments of the philosophers studied.

     Evaluate critically the concepts and arguments contained in the texts;

     Maintain and defend with reasons their own critical views on the philosophers.


Students will demonstrate their achievement of the course objectives and expectations through:

     Exams incorporating essay questions.

     Participation in in-class and online discussion;

     Composition of argumentative papers

Course Delivery

While PHIL 127 will be in most ways a standard lecture/discussion class, it will be ‘web-assisted.’  That is, we will be using some features of the SacCT course management system. 

SacCT is a program designed for on-line college courses.  Among other things, it serves as a location for course material, lecture notes, tests, papers, and discussions.

I will make important course content available, including lecture notes and other supplementary material.

You will be participating in discussions, and submitting papers through SacCT.  In addition, you may communicate with me, as well as with other students in the class, through the SacCT Mail facility.


Access the Course

You will use your Saclink account to log into the course from the SacCT Login page ( 


If you do not have a Saclink account yet, please refer to the Setting Up a Saclink Account webpage ( to create a saclink account online. 


To get started using SacCT, visit the Student Resources webpage ( where you can access Online Tutorials, Frequently Asked Questions, and other help resources.


The course will use the communication tools built into SacCT: 

     Announcements:  It’s a good idea to check for announcements from time to time during the semester

     Mail:  You may send me (or a classmate) a message via the ‘Mail’ function.  I will respond promptly.  (I can’t vouch for the classmate.)

     Discussions:  You will be expected to participate in discussions, whether in class or through the ‘Discussions’ function in SacCT.

     Calendar:  Exams and due dates for papers will all appear in the Calendar.

Technical Requirements

To access a course in SacCT you will need access to the Internet and an internet browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari).  To ensure that you are using a supported browser and have required plug-ins please run the Check Browser from your SacCT course.  Refer to the SacCT Browser Tune-up page for instructions.


For help or to report a problem with SacCT you can:


     Visit the Student SacCT FAQ’s webpage

     Submit a SacCT Problem Form

     Contact the University Help Desk at (916) 278-7337

Work for the Course


1.      Reading Quizzes (15%)


2.      Three exams (10% each ) Bluebook. A combination of multiple-choice, fill-in, true/false questions, plus some essay questions.  The questions will be on the readings, lectures, and discussions up to that point. 


3.      First Paper (4-7 pages) (15%)

See ‘Paper Topics’ below.


4.      Second Paper (4-7 pages) (15%)

See ‘Paper Topics’ below.


5.      Third Paper (4-7 pages) (15%)

See ‘Paper Topics’ below.


6.      Discussion Contributions (10%)

You will be expected to make regular contributions to discussion, either in the class period itself or in the online ‘Discussion’ conducted in SacCT.

Assignment Submission Instructions


Papers will be submitted in SacCT.

In writing the paper, follow the instructions for argumentative papers found in the “Guidelines for Writing Philosophy Papers” at the Philosophy Department website:


To submit a paper in SacCT:

     Enter SacCT at

     Open the main page for PHIL 127.

     Open ‘Assignments’ (under ‘Course Tools’ on the left margin).

     Open the correct assignment;  you will see the text of the assignment itself as well as the due date and time.

     You will see a space for the paper – don’t use that.  (Some students, operating on the Belt And Suspenders Principle, paste their paper into that space just in case.  That’s fine.  But you don’t have to.)

     Click on the ‘Attachment’ button.

     Attach your paper as an editable file that will open in Microsoft Word (not a .pdf or .htm file);  if you’re unsure, attach it as a ‘text’ (.txt) or ‘rich text’ (.rtf);  those options are available in all word-processing programs.

     Late papers will be lowered a grade increment for every day past the due date.  I leave the window open for submitting a paper for five days after its due date.  After that the paper will not be accepted.



     Philosophy involves discussion and argument.  It’s the best way to explore philosophical questions, the best way to learn how to philosophize.  So I will expect you to participate in the discussions.  You will either receive full credit for participation (15%) or no credit, depending on how seriously you take your responsibility to make contributions.  If I notice that you are not participating, I will let you know that I expect more. 


     To participate in an online discussion:

     Enter SacCT;

     Open ‘Discussions’ (under ‘Course Tools’ on the left margin’);

     Click on one of the topics; you will be able to read the other contributions;

     You can contribute to the discussion by clicking ‘Create Message’.


Online Quizzes

Reading Quizzes:  There will be a reading quiz on almost every assignment.  A reading quiz will consist of five to ten multiple-choice questions designed so that a careful reader should be able to answer them.  The quiz will ‘open’ a week before it is due;   it will ‘close’ at the beginning of the first class period in which the reading will be discussed.


To take a reading quiz in SacCT:

Enter SacCT at;

     Open the main page for PHIL 127;

     Open ‘Assessments’ (under ‘Course Tools’ on the left margin of the main page);

     Answer the questions (make sure you ‘submit’ each question as well as the entire exam).

You will have only one chance to take the quiz, so check your answers before submitting.


Exams:  Exams will be taken in-class.


Exams:  Exams will receive numerical grades; your score will be ‘out of’ 100.


Papers:  Papers will receive letter grades.  To determine your final grade, I will convert those letter grades into the highest number in the grade range under ‘Grading Criteria’ below. (For example, a B grade on a paper converts to 89.)


Discussion:  Discussion participation will receive either complete credit (100) or none (0).   Periodically, I will post progress reports on your participation in the Gradebook.  These progress reports are indications of what you would get at the end of the semester if you continue your present course.  That grade does not ‘count’;  it’s just information.


Final Grade:  The final grade for the course will be determined by the weighted sum of the exams, quizzes, discussion, and papers.


Grading Criteria

Scaled Score

Letter Equivalent


























Viewing Grades in SacCT

For reading quizzes you will be able to see your score as soon as you have submitted your quiz. 

For exams, and papers I will post the grades as soon as I have finished grading them.

You can see your grades during the semester by going to ‘MyGrades’ in SacCT.


Course Policies


I expect attendance at every class meeting.  If for some excellent reason you cannot make class, let me know – preferably in advance.  If this is impossible, let me know by 5:00 on the day you miss, preferably by an e-mail message within SacCT.  I will lower you a grade increment for every absence in which you fail to contact me the same day. 


Class meetings will begin at 1:30 am with a roll.  Be on time.  No excuses. Anticipate. I will treat a pattern of late arrival as an unexcused absence.


I expect attention to the material during class periods.  If there is a class discussion, I will serve as moderator;  please wait to be recognized before making a contribution.


If you wish to ask a question, answer a question, or make a contribution to the class, please ask to be recognized.  There is no excuse for conducting a private discussion during class time.  I will treat a pattern of talking in class as an unexcused absence.


Make-Up Exams and Quizzes

Since you may take exams and quizzes at your convenience, there will be no make-ups. Period.  The opening and closing dates and times will be listed in the calendar.

Late Work

For papers, I will leave the assignment window open for five days after the due date. The grade will be lowered a grade increment for every day it’s late.  

University Policies

Academic Honesty

Students are expected to be familiar with the University’s Academic Honesty, Policy & Procedures.  The policy on Academic Honesty and other information regarding student conduct can be accessed from the University Policy Manual (


The University Library has a helpful treatment of plagiarism at


The University has very helpful information on plagiarism at the Library’s Plagiarism Website. 

Reasonable Accommodation Policy

If you have a disability and require accommodations, you need to provide disability documentation to Services for Students with Disabilities (SSWD).  For more information please visit the SSWD website (  They are located in Lassen Hall 1008 and can be contacted by phone at (916) 278-6955 (Voice) (916) 278-7239 (TDD only) or via email at


Please discuss your accommodation needs with me after early in the semester.  Don’t wait until the first exam or paper.  

University Resources

The CSUS Writing Center  

The Writing Center provides encouraging, focused, and non-judgmental one-to-one tutorials in writing.  Their tutors can help with writing at all points in the process, from initial planning and organizing through developing and revising a paper. You can bring the assignment to them for help.

Sac State Library

The Sac State Library’s webpage is

To find a book or periodical, click on “Eureka: Library Catalogue” under “Resources and Collections or go directly to


For a largely undergraduate institution, the Sac State library’s holdings and resources in philosophy are pretty good.  I particularly recommend Sac State librarian Lisa Roberts’ website “Philosophy:  Resources.”   Two ways to find it:  through “Research Guides” under “Resources and Collections”, or go directly to


Student Computing Labs

To access SacCT from campus, or use any of the other campus online resources, you can use the IRT managed student computer labs on campus. See University Labs website , that is,

for information about locations, hours, and resources available. 


SacCT is the course management system used on the Sac State campus for web-assisted courses. To access a course on SacCT, you must login from the SacCT Login Page ( 


To learn more about SacCT visit the Student Resources webpage ( where you can view online Tutorials, FAQ’s and other help resources.



Πάντων χρημάτων μέτρων άνθρωπος

Course Schedule

(Numbers in brackets refer to pages in the textbook.)


Introduction:  The Ancient World

What are they – violent, savage, lawless?

or friendly to strangers, god-fearing men?”

-  Odyssey





Due Dates

Week 1

M 1/23







M:  Introduction:  The Eastern Mediterranean in the 6th Century B.C.; 

Homer and the Early Hellenic Conception of the World



M:  [1-10]












Part I.  The Earliest Philosophers

All things are full of gods.

   - Thales



W 1/25


W:  The ‘Milesians’;


W:  [10-17]




Week 2

M 1/30


W 2/1



M:  Pythagoras and his School


W:  Xenophanes; Heraclitus


M:  [18-23]


W:  [23-40]






Part II:  Eleatics and Atomists


And what are their arses looking at in the heavens?


They are studying astronomy on their own account.

- Aristophanes, The Clouds


Week 3

M 2/6




W 2/8





M:  The Eleatics




W:  Versions of Atomism







M: [40-47; 47-51]




W [75-80; 52-74; 80-93]









Part III:  The ‘Sophist’ Movement


…(W)e should send him to those who profess to be teachers of virtue and have shown themselves to be available to any Greek who wishes to learn, and for this fix a fee and exact it?


And who do you say these are, Socrates?


You surely know yourself that they are those whom men call sophists.


By Heracles, hush, Socrates.  May no one of my household or friends, whether citizen or stranger, be mad enough to go to these people and be harmed by them, for they clearly cause the ruin and corruption of their followers.


Week 4

M 2/13








M: Sophists







M:  [104-118]











Part IV:  The Life and Career of Socrates

And so, when I read such things of such men, I can hardly help exclaiming, 'St Socrates, pray for us!'

- Erasmus


W 2/15


W: Socrates’ ‘Mission’


W: [Euthyphro 135-152]



Week 5

M 2/20



M: The Socratic Method



M: [Protagoras 192-218]




Part V:  Plato: Ethics

The Love that moves the sun and other stars.

      Dante, Paradiso


W 2/22





W: Plato

      Extending Socrates’ ‘Craft Analogy’

      The Paradox of Inquiry


W: [Meno 241-250]








Week 6

M 2/27






W 2/29





M: Plato

      Solution of the Paradox:  Recollection

      The Method of Hypothesis


W: Plato

      A Definition of Justice

      The Ring of Gyges


M: [Meno 250-266]






W: [Republic I-II 369-403]









Week 7

M 3/5


W 3/7



M:  Guest Lecture


W: Exam 1








W:  Exam 1



Week 8

M 3/12





W 3/14




M: Plato

      Justice, Psychic and Political

      A Definition Found


W: Plato

      The Ideal State



M: [Republic II-IV 403-482]





W:  [Republic V 483-514]









Week 9

M 3/19


  W 3/21



M:  Spring Recess


W: Spring Recess



Part VI:  Plato: Metaphysics

In the beginning was the deed.

      Goethe, Faust, Pt. I.


Week 10

M 3/26



W 3/28




      Mind and Body



      Physicalism and the ‘Simple Aitia



M:  [Phaedo 267-301]




W:  [Phaedo 301-319]



Week 11

M 4/2




W 4/4





M:  Plato

The Forms and the Physical World


W: Plato

Critique of the Theory of Forms




M: [Republic VI-VII 515-566]



W: [Parmenides 642-651]










Part VII:  Aristotle: Logic and Metaphysics

“Indeed, the old question – always pursued from long ago till now, and always raising

puzzles – ‘What is being?’ is just the question ‘What is substance?’

Aristotle (1028b3-5)


Week 12

M 4/9


W 4/11





M: Exam 2


W:  Aristotle

Logic and Explanation




W:  [Categories   694-700; 

      Posterior Analytics 714-731]



M: Exam 2 (Bring




Week 13

M 4/16





W 4/18






M:  Aristotle

The concept of change

The Four Causes



W:  Aristotle

      The First History of Philosophy

      Aristotelian Substances



M: [Physica Bk I, 732-740;  

      Bk II, 740-749]




W: [Metaphysics Bk I, 800-809

       Bk VII, 815-820]










Week 14

M 4/23




W 2/25


M: Aristotle

      Substance and Essence

      Matter and Form


W:  Aristotle

      Potentiality and Actuality



M: [Metaphysics Bk VII, 821-




W: [Metaphysics Book  VIII,










Part VIII:  Aristotle: Philosophy of Mind

To call these things causes is too absurd.  If someone said that without bones and sinews and all such things, I should not be able to do what I decided, he would be right, but surely to say that they are the cause of what I do, and not that I have chosen the best course, even though I act with my mind, is to speak very lazily and carelessly.

Plato, Phaedo (99a)


Week 15

M 4/30



W 5/2


M: Aristotle




W:  Aristotle

      The ‘Rational Soul’


M: [De Anima, Bk I, 847-863]




W: [De Anima Bk III, 863-869]






Part IX:  Aristotle: Ethics

O Duty!

Why hast thou not the visage of a sweetie, or a cutie?

Ogden Nash






Week 16

M 5/7



W 5/9






M: Aristotle

      The Good


W:  Aristotle







M: [Nicomachean Ethics Bk I, 870-883]


W: [Nicomachean Ethics, Bk II, 883-890











Finals Week

M 5/14


W 5/16








M: Final Exam 12:45-2:45 (Bring Bluebook)

W:  Paper 3 due 11:30 pm




The descriptions and due dates are subject to change for pedagogical reasons.


Paper Topics

Paper 1 (due Monday, February 27, 11:30 pm)

(4-7 pages)

Choose a ‘Pre-Socratic’ philosopher and, for some philosophical problem of our time, argue how he provides the basis for a solution to that problem.  Alternatively, argue that his own theory constituted an impediment to a solution. 


Paper 2 (due Friday, April 16, 11:30 pm)

(4-7 pages)

Consider one important element of Plato’s views and, for some philosophical problem of our time, argue how that element provides the basis for a solution to that problem.  Alternatively, argue that this feature constituted an impediment to a solution.



Paper 3 (due Wednesday, May 16, 11:30 pm)

(4-7 pages)

Consider one important element of Aristotle’s views and, for some philosophical problem of our time, argue how that element provides the basis for a solution to that problem.  Alternatively, argue that this feature constituted an impediment to a solution.




Good luck in all your courses this semester!