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Lecture 16

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Ben Akrigg

CLA260H1S Method and Theory in Classics Session 16: Philosophy 1 In the textbook chapter 12 ‘Philosophy’ (which is generally a fine introduction) you may wish to pay particular attention to pages 146 to 152, on ‘the schools of ancient philosophy’ and ‘the major subjects’. To the ‘major resources’, it is probably still worth adding W. K. C. Guthrie’s History of Greek Philosophy (in 6 volumes from 1962 onward; though note that volume 3 The Fifth-Century Enlightenment was also later (in 1971) published in two shorter volumes, on The Sophists and Socrates). Much shorter, but accessible and still useful, introductions to Plato and Aristotle were published by Oxford University Press in their Past Masters series in the early 1980s, by Richard Hare and Jonathan Barnes respectively. Similar in scope, but more recent, are OUP’s Very Short Introductions to Ancient Philosophy; Plato; (both by Julia Annas) and Aristotle (Barnes again). 5 -century Athens has an important part to play in the story of ancient philosophy, as it did with history, partly because Athens’ size and wealth as an imperial capital tended to attract intellectual figures (known collectively now as the ‘sophists’) from across the Greek world, but also because one of the city’s own citizens, Socrates (469-399).  Famously, Socrates himself produced no written works, but those of his associates and (especially Plato) were numerous and have been enormously influential – to the extent that all earlier Greek philosophers have been labelled ‘pre-Socratic’ (page 146 in the textbook neatly describes the sheer range of people included under this umbrella term). o Plato has dominated our knowledge of Socrates, but there were th many other ‘Socratic’ writers in the 4 century – though the only one whose works survive intact is Xenophon. Note these writers’ use of another new prose genre, the dialogue. At its most basic, a dialogue is (or rather claims to be...) just a verbatim record of a conversation between two or more people; in Plato and Xenophon’s philosophical works, one of the interlocutors is usually Socrates himself. Xenophon however wrote in several other genres too.  Plato founded a philosophical ‘school’ called the Academy, na
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