PHIL 283/CLAS 261 - Great Works: Ancient & Medieval

Library of Celsus ruins

This course involves a selective survey of the writings of some of the most significant philosophers from the ancient and medieval periods. The emphasis falls on themes and questions in the areas of Metaphysics (the study of reality) and Epistemology (the study of knowledge), but along the way we'll delve into questions of Logic (the study of the rules for thinking well) and Ethics (the study of good and bad human activity) as they arise in connection with our main themes. We'll be exploring what some of the greatest thinkers in the Western tradition have said about such questions as, "What is real?", and, for that matter, "What is really real?" "Can we know anything?" "If we can know something, how do we know it?" "Do we have souls, and if so what are they like?" "Does God exist?" "How do faith and reason interact, if at all?"

You may be asking yourself, "Why should I care about what ancient and medieval philosophers had to say about subjects like this?" Let me offer three reasons why studying the history of Philosophy is important and interesting:

  1. The Greco-Roman world and its Philosophy and culture can justly be called the cradle of Western civilization. We can come to better understand contemporary Western culture and thought by examining its historical roots.
  2. Finally, the message of these thinkers continues to speak to us today. People worked hard to preserve the writings of the great thinkers because they found in those writings insights they could use to guide their own pursuit of wisdom and happiness.
  3. Finally, the message of these thinkers continues to speak to us today. People worked hard to preserve the writings of the great thinkers because they found in those writings insights they could use to guide their own pursuit of wisdom and happiness.

Fall 2021

Types of assessment: Two essays, midterm exam, take-home final exam

Instructor: Jacqueline Feke

Mode: online