This is a standard, yet critical and personalized introduction to pre-modern classical philosophy (prior to 1500). As a standard intro course, it offers you a golden opportunity to sample, in some depth, some of the canonical philosophical texts, both Eastern and Western. And our approach is self-reflectively contemporary: constantly and critically, we shall be asking (1) what it means to philosophize, to “do philosophy,” (2) how the other ancient sages did it, i.e., how we should be doing it, and (3) why bother. In the end, philosophy, or at least this course, should mean something to you: what is it?
By the time you take the final exam, you will:
- Understand/appreciate a set of “big” traditional philosophical questions/theories on self and society, knowledge and belief, reason and emotion, death and freedom, God, etc.
- Know how to formulate your own questions & ideas, in both dialogue and writing; intellectual plurality and originality, if well-justified and grounded, will be rewarded.
- Say, with a qualified confidence, that “I did some philosophy and did it my way.”
1. [B] Conze (ed.), Buddhist Scriptures (1959, Penguin)
2. [T] Feng and English (trans.), Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching (1989, Vintage Books)
3. [P] Grub (trans.), Apology in Plato: Five Dialogues: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo (1981, Hackett)
4. [V] Annas (ed.), Voices of Ancient Philosophy: an Introductory Reader (2001, OUP)
5. Other reading materials, required/recommended: available in print, online (link /LC Elec Lib), downloadable (if short) or in class.
Course Requirements: You must also read FAQs re Grading for further important details
NB: All submissions and class activities must be in compliance with the honor code to which you pledge.
(05%) Attending : the College’s policy and conventional rules apply.
3 excused & 3 unexplained absences are allowed, but beyond that 6,
1 full grade drops automatically per class missed, e.g., from A to B, down to F.
(15%) Presenting: scheduled formal presentation: all presentations will be graded on the scale of 1 to 5.
Any alternative accommodation for those who have a fatal fear of public speaking is to be arranged separately after a
consultation with the instructor within 2 weeks before the start of the semester; no last minute, make-up request is accepted.
(20%) Participating: in-class discussions and other group activities; the level of class preparation too is continually monitored.
(10%) Coming to class prepared and Speaking intelligently: reticence or shyness will have to be complemented otherwise.
[Voluntary/Alternatively] One alternative way to contribute to class activities is to write a voluntary one-page class
note, worth up to 1 point, and e-mail it to the instructor within 7 days after each class; no late submission accepted.
[Note] Towards the mid-term break, and the final, there is a class vote that identifies most substantial and responsible
contributors: two top contributors, announced on the spot in class, will each receive 2 bonus points.
(10%) Occasional, in-class quizzes, before or after lecture; this is separate from an occasional group credit, which is a bonus.
(20%) Journal Writing (10 out of 20: 2 points per submission that satisfies the minimum standards - if not, graded 0/0.5/1.0/1.5)
(20%) One In-class Final Exam
NB: Observe all deadlines religiously, as if you were literally dying. All the deadlines are firm and non-negotiable;
any paper turned in after the class period will be assessed a penalty of one letter grade for the submission per day late.
Grading Scale: A=100-90; B=89.99-80; C=79.99-70; D=69.99-60; F=59.99-0.
All the grades up to the final exam or paper are calculated numerically in order to give each student maximum opportunities to recuperate from any undesirable or accidental loss of points, and to evaluate more precisely the learning process and incremental achievements. The total figure will simply be converted to the corresponding letter grade. Therefore, there is very little reason either to rejoice or to despair at any stage of following the course. Just keep putting coins in the piggy bank, and your consistent and overall efforts will be justly rewarded: you reap what you sow, no less, no more. See FAQs for further details.