PHIL10070 The First Philosophers

Academic Year 2024/2025

Philosophy began in Greece, and it remains true to say that the greatest philosophers were the Greeks. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle shaped the course of Western Civilization. The best possible introduction to philosophy as a subject is through engagement with Ancient Greek Philosophy. It is also in a way the easiest introduction to Philosophy, because, whether we are exploring the odd, cryptic remarks of Heraclitus, or eavesdropping on a spiky conversation between Socrates and one of his fellow Athenians, there is a directness, an immediacy, an urgency and virility about Greek philosophy that is missing from the more abstract, dry, technical and frankly tedious nature of later, especially recent, philosophy. This is because the central issue for the Greeks always comes back to the most important question of all: how should one live?
In this module we will look at some of Plato's writings about his friend and mentor Socrates, in particular those writings that bear on the trial and death of Socrates. These include Plato's 'Apology', 'Euthyphro', and 'Crito', a series of short, lively dialogues that offer excellent introductions not only to Socrates, but to the practice of philosophy itself. We will also look back at the earliest Greek philosophers, such as Parmenides and Heraclitus, and forward to Aristotle and beyond. But the central focus of this module is on the figure of Socrates, and his impact on philosophy.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module diligent students should be able to: 1. show familiarity with the problems that preoccupied the Ancient Greek philosophers; 2. interpret and comment intelligently upon selected texts of the Presocratics, Plato, and Aristotle in English translation; 3. appreciate the impact of the figure of Socrates on the development of Greek philosophy; 4. show an awareness of the 'Socratic problem', and in general be able to identify and distinguish the 'Socratic dialogues' from Plato's other dialogues; 5. compare and critically evaluate the key ideas and arguments of Greek philosophy; 6. show familiarity, and critical engagement, with influential interpretations in the secondary literature on the Presocratics, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle concerning the topics under consideration; 7. appreciate the importance of historical context when studying Ancient Philosophy and the History of Philosophy in general.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours




Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
PHIL10010 - Intro to Ancient Philosophy, PHIL1009E - Intro to Ancient Philosophy, PHIL10130 - Intro to Ancient Philosophy

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Assignment(Including Essay): Essay n/a Graded No


Exam (In-person): End of term exam n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn Yes - 2 Hour
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Not yet recorded.

Name Role
Armando Francesco D'Ippolito Tutor