November 14, 2007

Aristotle's Account of the Human Good- Response Paper 3 (A)

Here's the assignment sheet for the third response paper, due November 27: Download file

November 10, 2007

Ancient -- lectures, paper assignment, reading (A)

The due date for the next response paper is Novemer 27.

Review my notes on the "How Shall We Live?" section. Download file

Read through the beatitudes and think a bit about its relation to the questions about the best human life -- the dialogue with Aristotle -- which were subject of the last class. Think about where Jesus is positioned in this debate.

The Plotinus is very rich and very fine, and we have to skip it if we are to have any decent time for epistemology.

Please read the Laches selection in the section on Knowledge and be able to reconstruct the twists and turns of Socrates' questioning, the flaws of the various definitions presented. Here are some notes: Download file
Think about the questions that Annas asks about this dialogue.

October 26, 2007

Aristotle's Ethics and Stoic Ethics (A)

Here is the handout from the last class: Download file

For next week, please read pages 319 - 338 in Annas. Be ready for a quiz addressing these matters:

1. How does Aristotle organize the various kinds of advice about how to live? (sections 1,2)

2. What major opinions does Aristotle survey regarding the highest human good? (section 4) What arguments does he give against each candidate? (section 5)

3. What reasons does Aristotle give for taking happiness to be the human good? (section 7)

4. Why is it important to Aristotle to determine the human function? (7) What is his final view of the function of human beings, and how does he argue that that is the function of human beings?

5. How far does Aristotle go in agreeing with common views about the human good? How does he correct or modify those views? (8)

6. On what points do the Stoics disagree with Aristotle?

October 19, 2007

How Should You Live? (A)

We will be working through the section, "How Should You Live?" over the next weeks. It would not be a bad to give the whole section a preliminary read-through. Our immediate object of concern for Thursday will be the early pages, 297-319. Please also check this space again on Monday. I am hoping to do some general remarks on where we are in the course, together with an intro to the next section.

I handed out a revised calendar on Thursday; here's the new calendar: Download file

I did a lecture surveying some points from the "Nature and Convention" section of Annas. I hope to fill these out in writing soon. In the meantime, here is the outline: Download file

October 12, 2007

Morality and Convention (A)

There is no new reading assignment over Homecoming, but please be ready to discuss the material on Nature and Convention, Annas 373-403, with particular emphasis on the reading up to Aristotle, up to 387. Check the blog on Monday for updates.

I did a handout in class pulling together some themes from the first weeks: Download file

Here are some questions and quotes about democracy: Download file

October 10, 2007

Ancient for Thursday

Please read in Annas 373-387 carefully. Also, bring your questions about paper 1.

October 5, 2007

Descartes (G)

On Tuesday, we will begin a discussion of Descartes' journey from extreme doubt to a kind of rediscovery of reality. This journey is recounted twice in our readings, very briefly in Discourse and at greater length in the Meditations. Reread with care pages 18-22, part 4 of the Discourse, and the parallel sections in the Meditations, pages 59-92. Make notes of your questions and of anything that puzzles you. Don't worry if there are some sections you don't follow. The main argument is pretty clear, and you can note the sections that need to be revisited later, and move on.

Middleness and Democracy -- Response Paper 2 (A)

Your second response paper addresses the material in political philosophy: Aristotle's discussion of "middleness" and the dispute about the proper extent of democracy. The following handout contains this assignment and also some questions which will occupy much of our time on Tuesday, October 9. Please think about these questions in advance and have things to say. Also, you are welcome to bring up any questions or issues you have regarding the second response paper: Download file

Also, begin reading carefully and noting ideas about the "nature and convention" section, 373-401. We likely won't get to that until Thursday, but it is important to take this material slowly, with lots of thinking time. It is wonderful stuff.

September 28, 2007

Political Expertise (A)

For Thursday, October 4, please read the section on political expertise in Annas, 403-427.

There is no class Tuesday, Oct 2.

September 26, 2007

A very short assignment (A)

Please read pages 404-406 of Annas carefully for Thursday.

Here's the handout from Tuesday: Download file

September 21, 2007

Ancient Political Debates (A)

We'll approach the next section in an order different from that suggested by Annas; the reading for Tuesday (9[25) is the section "Democracy as the Best Form of Government," 427-452. That sequences well with our discussion about the control of the emotions. Any view that says that being a decent, reliable person takes a lifetime of work and substantial talent is going to push against full blooded democracy as the best form of government -- not exclude it, but push against it. So the discussion of moral ideals and desirable character carries over to this section.

Read the piece in several sittings, if possible, making lists between each reading of the points you remember and of the thoughts you had.

I attach the handout from Thursday's class, on three ancient controversies concerning reason and emotion: Download file

I appreciate your lively and intelligent engagement in our discussions. Keep up the excellent work.

September 19, 2007

Ancient Philosophy for Thursday, September 20

Read the rest of the Reason and Emotion section in Annas, pages 110-128. Think about the dispute between Plato/Aristotle and Seneca about getting rid of anger and particularly about Aristotle's claim -- hotly disputed by Seneca -- that there is a right time, situation, place for being angry.

Here is the summary handout covering Aristotle and Seneca: Download file

September 14, 2007

Aristotle and the Stoics on Emotion (A)

Please read pages 85-118 in Annas. Check this space on Monday. I might post something to start off Tuesday's discussion.

The handout on Plato's ethics from Thursday's class is here: Download file

Ancient Philosophy -- First Response Paper

This paper is due on Thursday, September 20, by email, as a paste-in to an email message. Here are the details: Download file

September 11, 2007

The Parts of the Soul in the Context of Plato's Republic

Plato discusses inner conflict and argues that the human soul has parts in the course of a long attack on cheating and bullying -- the over-all argument of the Republic. This is a brief sketch of that over-all argument: Download file

September 7, 2007

"Explanation of Inner Conflict" for Tuesday (A)

Read (or re-read) 71-84. Read with special care Annas' comments on 83-4 and the questions for thought that she poses there. Be prepared to say something about them. Also, check this space on Monday: I want to think a bit more about the relation between the Mork and Mindy episode and the reading. I might have something to post by then.

September 4, 2007

Mork and Mindy on Mixed Emotions (A)

In our opening class, we watched the Mork and Mindy episode "Mixed Emotions," in preparation for reading a cluster of ancient writings about internal conflict and the management of emotion. For Thursday, please write down one question or problem about emotion and emotional conflict raised by the show. Say how that question or problem is presented, and note any suggestions in the show about how it is to be answered or resolved. This should be a very brief piece of writing, 90-150 words. Bring a copy of your question to class. Also, email it to me at

Please read the first selection in the emotion section of the text, pages 71-80.