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World Philosophies: Greek and Roman Antiquity


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to:

  • BA students in Philosophy: Global and Comparative Perspectives;

  • international pre-master’s students in Philosophy who are in possession of an admission statement, and for whom this course is part of their programme.


The word philosophia is Greek and so are Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, arguably some of the world’s best known philosophers. Unsurprisingly, ancient philosophy was until recently almost synonymous with that of Greece and Rome. Today, however, it is increasingly recognised that Greek and Roman philosophy is only one of several traditions of ancient thought.

This course offers an overview of the philosophy of the Greeks and Romans, and examines both its distinctive characteristics and what it shares with those other traditions. It starts with its origins in the 5th century BCE and follows it up to the 6th century CE.
The focus will be on influential thinkers and schools, such as Heraclitus, Parmenides, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicureanism, Stoicism, Scepticism and Neoplatonism. What were their philosophical ideas for which they are still read today? How does one read their texts anyway? How did discussions and polemical exchanges steer philosophical innovations? What impact did political changes and societal challenges have on the views of these ancient thinkers?

Classes will typically consist of a combination of lectures and group discussions about prescribed primary texts and assignments.

Course objectives

Students who successfully complete the course will have an understanding of:

  • the history of Greek and Roman philosophy, in particular of major thinkers and philosophical schools, within the larger historical context of the ancient world, including periodization, sources and the development of philosophical themes over longer periods of time;

  • the relation of the philosophies of Greece and Rome to other ancient philosophical traditions;

  • the scholarly method of historical interpretation of and research into Graeco-Roman philosophy;

  • the development of the discipline within its historical context;

  • the issues involved in dealing with sources and translations.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • offer an overview of the major figures, schools and issues of Graeco-Roman philosophy;

  • relate the positions of the various Greek and Roman thinkers and schools to each other and to other relevant philosophical traditions;

  • offer a historical contextualization of Graeco-Roman philosophies;

  • analyze and handle (translated) sources in a sophisticated manner.

  • independently study prescribed academic literature.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures (2 hours per week).

Class attendance is required.

Assessment method


  • Midterm exam: written exam with short open and essay questions (50%);

  • Final exam: written exam with short open and essay questions (50%).

Attendance and active participation (including the preparation of assignments) is compulsory.


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of the two subtests (see above). A subtest can be graded as unsatisfactory.


The resit consists of one examination for all parts at once, consisting of written exam covering the entire course content. The mark for the resit will replace all previously earned marks for subtests. No separate resits will be offered for subtests.

Preparatory assignments and/or sufficient attendance or class participation will be a prerequisite for participation in the resit.

Inspection and feedback

Upon appointment with the instructor.

Reading list

  • D. Sedley (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Greek And Roman Philosophy, Cambridge 2003;

  • P.L. Miller, C.D.C. Reeve, and L.P. Gerson (eds.). Introductory Readings in Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy, 2nd edition, Indianapolis 2015.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website.

Registration Exchange

For the registration of exchange students contact Humanities International Office.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga.


Not applicable.