Susan Sauvé Meyer is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, where she was chair of the Department of Philosophy from 2008-2015. Educated at the University of Toronto (BA 1982) and Cornell University (PhD 1987), she held a joint appointment in Philosophy and the Classics at Harvard University before joining the University of Pennsylvania faculty in 1994. She has written widely about natural philosophy and the tradition of ethical inquiry in ancient Greek philosophy and is North American editor of the international journal Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie. Her books include Aristotle on Moral Responsibility (1993), Ancient Ethics (2008), and Plato: Laws 1 and 2 (2015).
About this Course
What is philosophy? How does it differ from science, religion, and other modes of human discourse? This course traces the origins of philosophy in the Western tradition in the thinkers of Ancient Greece. We begin with the Presocratic natural philosophers who were active in Ionia in the 6th century BCE and are also credited with being the first scientists. Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximines made bold proposals about the ultimate constituents of reality, while Heraclitus insisted that there is an underlying order to the changing world. Parmenides of Elea formulated a powerful objection to all these proposals, while later Greek theorists (such as Anaxagoras and the atomist Democritus) attempted to answer that objection. In fifth-century Athens, Socrates insisted on the importance of the fundamental ethical question—“How shall I live?”—and his pupil, Plato, and Plato’s pupil, Aristotle, developed elaborate philosophical systems to explain the nature of reality, knowledge, and human happiness. After the death of Aristotle, in the Hellenistic period, Epicureans and Stoics developed and transformed that earlier tradition. We will study the major doctrines of all these thinkers. Part I will cover Plato and his predecessors. Part II will cover Aristotle and his successors.