PHIL 721: Advanced Seminar in Philosophy

PHIL 721-DL1: Advanced Seminar in Philosophy: Selected works of Aristotle
(Spring 2021)

04:30 PM to 07:10 PM T


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Section Information for Spring 2021

PHIL 721 - DL1: Advanced Seminar in Philosophy: Ancient Philosophy (selected works of Aristotle) — 04:30 PM to 07:10 PM T – Online

Instructor: Dr. R. Cherubin

This course will study two works of Aristotle, namely the Nicomachean Ethics and Politics. Taken together, they offer an account of humanity as always simultaneously natural and social, creative and rational, animal and political, emotional and theoretical, cooperative and competitive.

The Nicomachean Ethics and the Politics are parts of the same project: the search for understanding of the nature, potential, and promise of human communities, with respect to how to lead a human life in the best possible ways, whatever those turn out to be. Aristotle frames this project within the wider question of the nature of human good and how it might be pursued.

We will consider Aristotle’s explorations of these questions in their historical context, and also with regard to contemporary applications.

Recent scholarship is bringing to the forefront some important problems within the very fabric of the Nicomachean Ethics and Politics, problems that challenge not only Aristotle’s arguments but our approaches to reading them. For example:

  • In places Aristotle frames his explorations very hypothetically; in other places the same discussions include what look to be direct and often unwarranted claims.
  • Some passages seem to suggest an inclusive and pluralistic notion of who and what is human, while others are exclusory.
  • Some arguments seem to establish that the condition of slavery is never just; others seem to suggest that there may be a place for slavery even in a society that purports to seek justice. 
  • Some passages seem to feature a pluralistic framework for identifying both human good and the social structures that would enable us to pursue it; others are more limited, without an obvious reason.
  • Some passages suggest that some segments of a population (women, “slavish” people) are unfit for the decision-making that characterizes the ways of life most worth living, ways that will define the society’s laws and institutions; others suggest that all can be educated to make these kinds of decisions.
  • And the education involved sounds at times modeled on what would support a particular kind of upper-class Greek male identity; yet elsewhere it seems to admit much more variety.

What are we to make of these apparent discrepancies? Are they real fundamental discrepancies, or can seemingly opposed aspects be reconciled? Do they affect the other parts and features of these (and other) works of Aristotle, so that their flaws and exclusions vitiate the substance of Aristotle’s proposals? Can the other proposals instead be considered in isolation? Must these texts be treated as historical relics fatally flawed by prejudices and areas of ignorance? Or are there other ways we can learn from these texts?

For students in the Ethics and Public Affairs concentration (ETPA), this course can be used to fulfill 3 credits of the history of philosophy requirement (substituting for PHIL 603); or it can be used as an elective.

For students in the Traditional and Contemporary Philosophy focus (TC), this course can be used to fulfill the ancient philosophy requirement or the seminar requirement or both; or it can be used as an elective.

PHIL 721 DL1 is a distance education section.


Course Information from the University Catalog

Credits: 3

Close study of selected topics in current philosophical discourse. Notes: May be repeated for credit when topic is different. May be repeated within the term.
Registration Restrictions:

Enrollment is limited to Graduate or Non-Degree level students.

Students in a Non-Degree Undergraduate degree may not enroll.

Schedule Type: Seminar

The University Catalog is the authoritative source for information on courses. The Schedule of Classes is the authoritative source for information on classes scheduled for this semester. See the Schedule for the most up-to-date information and see Patriot web to register for classes.