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Ancient Philosophy

Module Code: PI4024/PI4124

Module Name: Plato: Aristotle's Metaphysics

  • ECTS Weighting: 5/10
  • Semester/Term Taught:

    Michaelmas Term/Semester 1

  • Contact Hours: 22 hours of lecture
  • Module Personnel: Lecturer - Pauline Sabrier

Module Content

The Sophist is one of Plato’s dialogues which has received most attention over the past century. On one view, the Sophist is the dialogue that signifies the rise of attention drawn to language to answer philosophical problems, especially predication and negation; on another view, the Sophist is the first time in the history of western philosophy where the twin questions of being — what is being? — and not-being — what is not-being? — are clearly raised.
In this seminar, we shall focus on the question of being. An important part of the seminar will be dedicated to understanding what precisely is the question that Plato is raising. Is it about the meaning of the verb ‘to be’? Is Plato asking about what there is, that is, the sum of all the existing things? Or is he asking about the essence of being, namely, what it is for something, anything, to be? Or is he enquiring about all these questions together, and if yes, how, if at all, does he distinguish between them? 
A second part of the seminar will be dedicated to Plato’s answer to the question of being. In particular, we shall concentrate on the ‘theory of the five great kinds’ (Being, Change, Rest, Sameness, Otherness) that Plato develops in this dialogue. We shall ask how this theory is supposed, if at all, to answer the question of being, and, as far as possible, whether his attempt is successful. In this respect, we shall also draw on contemporary studies in metaphysic, especially works by E. J. Lowe (The Four-Category Ontology; More Kinds of Being), but also W. V. O. Quine (‘On What There Is’).

Learning Outcomes:

Having successfully completed this module, students will be able to:
• reflect on and distinguish between fundamental ontological questions
• learn how to work philosophically on ancient texts
• identify and critically evaluate interpretative traditions, how they relate to philosophical issues of their time
• assess competitive ontological theories, including comparison between ancient and contemporary takes on the issue