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PI7107 Ancient Philosophy - (Not offered in 2020/21)

Ancient Philosophy: Plato on Enquiry and Knowledge

  • ECTS Weighting: 10
  • Semester/Term Taught: Hilary Term
  • Contact Hours:11 x 2-hour seminars; 4 supervision hours; 174 hours of independent study
  • Module Personnel:Professor Vasilis Politis

Module Outline

Critics have dedicated by far the largest efforts on Plato’s theory of knowledge, compared to his theory of enquiry; and they have treated of the two independently of each other, as if Plato’s theory of knowledge is independent of his theory of enquiry. This approach may be due to modern epistemology, which standardly conceives of knowledge as independent of enquiry.

The aim of the course is to investigate Plato’s theory of knowledge and his theory of enquiry, and to consider how the two are related and whether they are independent of each other. We shall also consider why modern epistemology is exclusively concerned with knowledge, not with enquiry; and whether we can learn from Plato’s apparently different approach.

The method of the course shall be textual, based on several of Plato’s dialogues, as well as some modern texts (especially Jaako Hintikka’s 2007 book Socratic Epistemology. Explorations of knowledge-seeking by questioning, Cambridge).

Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to consider critically Plato’s theory of knowledge, his theory of enquiry, and the relation between the two. They will be able to do so both in relation to a selection of Plato’s texts and in relation to some modern texts. They will be able to assess how Plato’s approach to knowledge and enquiry compares to modern approaches, and the significance of this.


The basis for the assessment of this module will consist of a one written essay of 3000 words. Students must attach a cover sheet to all Philosophy essays.

The word count includes footnotes but it does not include the bibliography. Essays that go over the limit will be liable for a 5 mark deduction.

Students may request an extension by contacting the MPhil Coordinator Dr Kenneth Pearce (Michaelmas term) and the MPhil Coordinator Dr Ben White (Hilary term).

Recommended Reading List

As advised/circulated by lecturer during the lecture series.