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PI8002 Ancient Philosophy

Module Outline

The aim of these seminars is to study and critically discuss Plato’s theory of Forms, understood as a theory of essence. The seminar will be conducted as a combination of a close reading of a selection of texts from Plato (especially the Phaedo and the Republic, but also other dialogues) and a close reading of my manuscript Plato’s Essentialism. I hope students will help me in improving this manuscript one last time before I submit it for publication, through their critical comments and questions and in general their suggestions.


We shall concentrate on the following issues and questions:

  • What is Plato’s theory of Forms a theory of?
  • Is Plato’s theory of Forms a coherent and well-defended theory?
  • What reasons are there to suppose that Plato’s Forms are, basically, essences?
  • What is meant by an essence here?
  • Through what several characteristics does Plato characterize the Forms?
  • What is his motivation and justification for each of these characteristics? (Concentrating on one or two characteristics at a time.)
  • Is there any characteristics that Plato definitely fails to justify and defend?
  • How (if at all) can Plato’s Forms/essences be both theoretical entities and really real?
  • Is Plato’s essentialism worth taking seriously today?

Learning Outcomes

  • At the end of this course students will be able to critically discuss Plato’s theory of Forms, understood as a theory of essence.

Recommended Reading List

As advised/circulated by lecturer during the lecture series.

  • Plato, selection from his works (see each chapter in Politis 2018 manuscript)
  • Politis, V. Plato’s Essentialism (=Politis 2018 manuscript)
  • Politis, V. paper in Phronesis 2018 (on Blackboard)


PhD students will be required to write one substantial essay (3,000-4,000 words). Students should confirm the essay title with their lecturer.

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.

There will be a 5 mark deduction for each week an essay is late. Students may request an extension by contacting the lecturer of their module.

Students must attach a cover sheet to all Philosophy essays.