LAPS Gerard Naddaf waterlilies
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AP/PHIL 4030.03
Seminar in Ancient Philosophy
Term: Winter

Prerequisite / Co-requisite:  None

Required Course Text / Readings:
Plato’s Laws and other selections from Plato: Complete Works (ed. by John Cooper), Indianapolis: Hackett, 1997.

A number of scholarly articles and book chapters on Plato’s Laws relevant to our readings that can be accessed on-line from the York Library (TBA).

Expanded Course Description: This course will focus on Plato’s Laws: the first work of genuine political philosophy in the Western tradition. The Laws combines an investigation into the foundations of legislation with the concrete elaboration of detailed laws. From this perspective, it is without precedent. Moreover, several concepts elaborated in the Laws have proven of lasting value to political philosophy. These include the mixed constitution, the rule of law, the legislative preamble, punishment as a cure, and the notion that absolute power corrupts. The Laws also contains the first arguments for the existence of God/gods in the Western philosophical tradition. The gods are the models of virtue and goodness for the citizens. The entire legislation of what Plato considers the ‘second best state’ is premised on their existence. Special consideration will be given to Plato’s theory of education and his psychology. Throughout this course, the history and arguments behind Plato’s new political philosophy, including the relation with other Platonic dialogues will be examined in context.

Organization of the Course: The course will be a combination of lectures, class presentations and discussion. Each class will begin with a lecture on a contextualized theme in one or more of the twelve books into which the Laws is divided. The readings are central to the course.  Beginning, Thursday, January 22, there will be voluntary presentations. Presentation topics should focus on the weekly readings and should be around 15 minutes. The presentations should be both critical and engaging to foster discussion. They could also try to examine the topic from a contemporary perspective: how it may be relevant today. Topics will be suggested, but students may choose their own topic on approval. A summary of the presentation must be provided at least the day before the seminar. Handouts should also be provided to students. If students are unhappy with the results of the presentation, they may choose to do an essay.

Course Learning Objectives:

1. Students will be introduced to the first genuine work of political philosophy from a number of different perspectives.

2. Students will receive an in-depth analysis of the origin and development of law codes and theories of punishment.

3. Students will learn how virtually every facet of Plato’s philosophy comes together in one unique work. 

4. Students will learn Plato’s final thoughts on the psychology of virtue and its relevance today.

5. Students will learn to critically evaluate Platonic utopias and the difference between open and closed societies.  

6. Students will develop the ability to formulate and defend a coherent thesis within an essay.

Weighting of Course:

1. Participation 15%
This includes attendance and contribution to class discussion. Since participation is mandatory, if you have particular circumstances that prevent you from participating, then please come to see me as soon as possible (see below).

2. Short essay or presentation 25%
Students can choose their own presentation topic relative to the weekly readings.  Presentations, which will be limited in number, should be around 15 minutes and a class discussion will follow.  Short essays should be around 6 pages. Students can do both and take the best grade.  Topics will be provided, but students can also choose their own, but they must be preapproved.

3. Critical essay 60%
This essay should be from 12 to 15 pages. Topics will be provided, but students can also choose their own.  Students are encouraged to submit an abstract in advance so it can be critically assessed before beginning the essay.  

NB. If students find it difficult to attend classes, then they may want to reconsider taking this course. Missing three or more classes without a medical note will result in zero for attendance and participation.

Additional Information: There will only be time for 8 to 10 presentations. More details will be provided during the first class.


The Senate Committee on Curriculum & Academic Standards Web site provides an important read, the:  STUDENT INFORMATION SHEET.
The Student Information Sheet includes:

Additional information:

The Senate Grading Scheme and Feedback Policy stipulates that  (a) the grading scheme (i.e. kinds and weights of assignments, essays, exams, etc.) be announced, and be available in writing, within the first two weeks of class, and that, (b) under normal circumstances, graded feedback worth at least 15% of the final grade for Fall, Winter or Summer Term, and 30% for ‘full year’ courses offered in the Fall/Winter Term be received by students in all courses prior to the final withdrawal date from a course without receiving a grade (see the policy for exceptions to this aspect of the policy - 

“Final course grades may be adjusted to conform to Program or Faculty grades distribution profiles.”
If Term Test will be held outside of regularly scheduled class time, include announcement of day, date and time here (e.g., Saturday, October 28, 2006, 10 am to 11:30, room TBA). 

• "20% Rule"
No examination or test worth more than 20% of the final grade will be given during the last two weeks of classes in a term, with the exception of classes which regularly meet Friday evenings or on the weekend (Saturday and/or Sunday at any time). (Approved by Senate, November 28, 1996)

PHIL 4030: Ancient Philosophy Seminar (Winter 2015)

Theme: Plato’s Laws
Seminar Thursday 2:30-5:30
Location:  Ross N 812
Course Director: Professor Gerard Naddaf
Campus address: Ross S 443
Tel: 416 736 2100 ex 77594
Office Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays 11:30-12:30 or by appointment

Required Course Text / Readings:

Plato’s Laws and other selections from Plato: Complete Works (ed. by John Cooper), Indianapolis: Hackett, 1997.

A number of scholarly articles on Plato’s Laws, which are relevant to our readings and which can be accessed on-line from the York Library (TBA).


Thursday, January 8: Introduction to course and syllabus; relation between Plato’s Laws and the Republic.

Thursday, January 15:  The nature and purpose of education (Part 1). Required reading : Laws Books 1 and 2 (and article/s TBA).

Thursday, January 22:  The lessons of history. Required reading: Laws  Book 3 (and article TBA). [First Presentation].

Thursday, January 29:  The rule of law and the correct way to legislate. Required reading: Laws Book 4 (and article TBA).  [Second Presentation]

Thursday, February 5:  General preamble to a/the legal code and the conditions for an “ideal” state. Required reading Laws Book 5 (and article TBA). [Third Presentation]

Thursday, February 12:  The civil and legal administration; the election, duties and tenures of the Guardians of the Laws. Required reading: Laws Book 6 (and article TBA). [Fourth Presentation]

[Thursday, February 12 first essay topics. This six-page essay is due on Thursday, February 26.  You can hand in the essay in class or alternatively you can drop it off in the box especially designated for this in the philosophy department. This essay is mandatory for those who have not done (or who do not intend to do) a seminar presentation. However, students may also opt to do both and take the higher of the two marks. Late papers will be penalized. [ALL ESSAYS MUST BE SUBMITTED TO TURNITIN VIA MOODLE]


Thursday February 25:  The educational curriculum in Plato’s ideal city of Magnesia  and the lawcode as the ultimate text. Required reading; Laws Book 7 (and article TBA). [Fifth Presentation]

Thursday, March 5: The problems of sexual conduct and Plato’s theory of love Required reading: Laws Book 8, notably 835cc-842a; -Republic 5.457b-466d on the abolition of the family and marriage regulations and other Platonic texts TBA [Sixth Presentation]

[Note that March 6 is the last date to drop a course without receiving a grade.]

Thursday, March 12: Plato’s theory of punishment in the Laws. Required reading: Laws Book 9 (and article/s TBA).  [Seventh Presentation]

 [Thursday, March 12 major essay topics. Students can choose a topic of their own as long as it is preapproved. Students are encouraged to submit an abstract in advance so it can be critically assessed before beginning the essay. This essay is due on Monday, April 13]

Thursday, March 19: The Theology of the Laws (Part 1): the three forms of impiety; atheistic doctrines; arguments for the immortality of the soul and the existence of God. Required reading: Laws 10. 884a-899c (and article/s TBA).  [Eighth Presentation]

Thursday, March 25: The Theology of the Laws (Part 2): arguments for divine providence and the myth of the destiny of the soul after death. Required reading: Laws 10. 899c-910d (and article/s TBA). [Ninth Presentation]

Thursday, April 2; The importance of scrutineers, observers, and the Nocturnal Council. Required reading: Laws Book 12 and selections from other Platonic dialogues TBA; also article/s TBA).  [Tenth Presentation]

Bibliography (TBA)

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