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Ancient Philosophy

Contact Information

  • Leemon McHenry
  • Philosophy
  • leemon.mchenry@csun.edu
  • Office Phone 818-677-5806
  • Fax Number
  • Office Hours--8:00-9:00 and 11:00-11:30 TTh
  • ST 534

Instructional Materials

Required Texts

Wallace Matson, A New History of Philosophy, Volume One: From Thales to Ockham, 2nd edition, Harcourt Brace, 2000.

Forrest E. Baird and Walter Kaufmann, (eds), Ancient Philosophy, 6th edition, Prentice Hall, 2011.


Course Syllabus.pdf







Important Notices

Exam I -- March 15

Exam II -- May 10


Class Accommodations


Course Information Overview

Course Description

This course satisfies the "Philosophy and Religion" (C-3) section of the General Education Program.  Courses in this section are designed to promote critical reflection on questions concerning the nature, meaning, and value of human existence, the world in which we live, and our relations with one another.  Students should understand the sources and limits of knowledge, and they should appreciate and be able to assess different world views and moral teachings that have played central roles in human culture.

More specifically, this course is designed as a critical evaluation of classical philosophy with a focus on the metaphysic and epistemology of the Pre-Socratics, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.  We will also examine the historical situation of the rise of philosophy in ancient Greece, the role of the sophists, democracy in 5th century B. C. Athens, and the influence of the Peloponnesian War on Plato's Republic.


Tentative Course Outline


1.         Introduction to Ancient Philosophy

Mythos to Logos, The rise of science and philosophy

            Required Reading:

 A New History of Philosophy, Chapter 1


2.         The Pre-Socratics

The doctrines of substance, form, process and permanence

            Required Reading:

            A New History of Philosophy, Chapters 2, 3, 4, 5

            Ancient Philosophy, pp. 1-30.

3.         Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War


            Required Reading:

            Ancient Philosophy-- Pericles, Funeral Oration

           Thucydides, The Melian Conference, p. 56

4.         Socrates vs. the Sophists

            Absolutism vs. Relativism, Dialectic vs. Rhetoric

            Required Reading:

            A New History of Philosophy, Chapters 9, 10

            Ancient Philosophy--Plato's Euthyphro, Apology,






5.         Plato

            The Theory of Forms, Mathematics, The Ideal State

            Required Reading:

            A New History of Philosophy, Chapters 11, 12, 13, 14

            Ancient Philosophy--Plato's  Symposium, Republic, Theaetetus

            Recommended Reading:

            Reflections on Philosophy, Ch. 3




6.         Aristotle         

            The Theory of Substance, Change, Potential and Actual, Natural Science


            Required Reading:

            A New History of Philosophy, Chapters 15, 16, 17

            Ancient Philosophy--Aristotle's Categories, Physics, Metaphysics,


            Recommended Reading:

            Reflections on Philosophy, Ch. 3