History of Western Philosophy I

PHIL-2040 - Course Outlines

Dr. Tze-wan Kwan

   Philosophy Department, Chinese University of Hong Kong

  1. History of Philosophy: Concept and Methods
    1. The notion of "Philosophy" East and West
    2. The notion of "History" (Historie and Geschichte)
    3. Different styles in the writing of History of Philosophy
    4. Begriffsgeschichte and Problemgeschichte
    5. Approach adopted in this course

  2. Greek Religion and Greek Drama before the daybreak of Greek Philosophy
    1. Religious life of the Greeks
      1. The mythical tradition: myth or reality?
      2. The Greek notion of gods: religion or "irreligion"?
      3. Xenophanes' and Jakob Burkhardt's perception of Greek deities
      4. hybris (ὕβρις); nomizein (νομίζειν) vs. asebeia (ἀσέβεια)
    2. Greek tragedy
      1. Religious origin and historical development
      2. Examples of tragic themes:
        1. The legend of Niobe
        2. Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound
      3. Aristotle on tragedy
      4. Tragedy in relation to comedy
        - excursus: Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose
    3. Transition into the age of intellectual understanding -
      1. Nietzsche on the birth and death of Greek tragedy
      2. Lucretius' dictum

  3. The Miletus (Μιλήσιος) School
    1. Thales (*640/625? BCE Miletus, 548/545? BCE)
      1. From cosmogony to cosmology
      2. The concept of arche (ἀρχή) and its manifold meaning
      3. Thales' cosmology
      4. Mathematical doctrines
    2. Anaximander (*~611 BCE Miletus, ~545 BCE)
      1. The concept apeiron (ἄπειρον)
      2. The threefoldness of the Anaximander fragment
      3. Critical assessment - Nietzsche and Heidegger
    3. Anaximenes (*~585 BCE Miletus, ~525 BCE) (flourished ~546 BCE)
      1. The concept of aer (ἀήρ)
      2. Anaximenes' cosmology

  4. The Pythagorean Tradition
    1. Some general remarks of the school: The Orphic religion
    2. Pythagoras (*~580 BCE Samos, ~500 BCE, fl. 532-529 BCE)
      1. Philosophical Doctrines
        1. Cosmology
          1. 10 pairs of opposites
          2. Air as primary stuff
          3. Shape of the earth
        2. concept of catharsis (κάθαρσις)
        3. The doctrine of three lifes
        4. Doctrine of transmigration and reminiscence
        5. Concept of harmony (ἁρμονία) and blend (κράσις)
      2. Mathematical Doctrines
        1. Theory of numbers (ἀριθμός)
        2. Tetraktys as principle of the universe
        3. "Pythagoras Theorem"
        4. Irrational numbers and Pythagoreanism facing challenges
    3. Pythagoras' impact on Western civilization

  5. Heraclitus (*~544 BCE Ephesos, ~483 BCE)(flourished 504 BCE - 501 BCE)
    1. A brief sketch of Heraclitus' life - Heraclitus the Obscure (Ὁ Σκοτεινός)
    2. Philosophical doctrines
      1. The concept of change (κίνησις)
      2. Doctrine of retribution
      3. harmonia (ἁρμονία) and strive (πόλεμος)
      4. Concept of cosmic play: transgression of personal gain and loss
      5. Concept of logos (λόγος) : "One is All" (Ἓν Πάντα)
      6. Dream parables
      7. Man's place in nature: concept of homologein (ὁμολόγειν)
    3. Heraclitus' cosmology, or Heraclitus as a "physiologos"?
    4. Towards a "non-physicalistic" reading of Heraclitus
    5. The impact of Heraclitean philosophy

  6. The Eleatic Tradition
    1. The Ionian vs the Eleatic Tradition
    2. Parmenides (*540 BCE Elea, ~480 BCE)
      1. The doctrine of Being (τὸ ὄν, εἶναι)
      2. The way of truth (ἀλήθεια) and the way of opinion (δόξα)
      3. Namegiving (ὀνoμαζεῖν) and the role of language
    3. Zeno of Elea (*~490 BCE Elea, ~430 BCE)
      1. Zeno as disciple of Parmenides
      2. Zeno's paradoxes
    4. Critique of Parmenides and Zeno by Western posterity
    5. The influence of Eleatism on Western philosophy

  7. Empedocles and Anaxagoras:
    1. Further development of Ionian philosophy
    2. Empedocles (*483/482 BCE Akragas, 424/423 BCE Peloponnes)
      1. The concept of elements (στοιχεῖα)
      2. Love (φιλία) and hate (νεῖκος)
      3. Concept of cycle (κύκλος)
      4. Empedocles on life and death
        - excursus: Friedrich Hölderlin's Der Tod des Empedokles
        - excursus: Matthew Arnold's Empedocles on Etna
    3. Anaxagoras (*500 BCE Klazomenai/Asia Minor, 428 BCE Lampsakos?)
      1. Confrontation with Parmenides
      2. Mind (νοῦς) and matter (σπέρματα)
      3. Anaxagoras' dualism compared with Cartesian dualism

  8. Democritus (*460 BCE Abdera/Thrace, 371 BCE Abdera/Thrace)
    1. The problem of Democritus
    2. Philosophical doctrines
      1. The concepts of atom (ἄτομος) and void (κενόν)
      2. Physical doctrine
      3. Theory of soul and knowledge
      4. Morality and conduct
    3. Critical assessment
      1. chance (τύχη) vs. art (τέχνη)
      2. Is a mechanistic worldview sustainable?
        - excursus: Christoph Martin Wieland's Geschichte der Abderiten
        - excursus: D. Coornhert's engraving: "Democritus and Heraclitus" (1557 CE)
        - excursus: Karl Marx' Dissertation

  9. The Sophists
    1. Historical background
    2. Main tenets of the Sophistic movement
      1. Scepticism
      2. Relativism
      3. Professionalism
      4. "Universalism"
    3. Gorgias (* 485 BCE Leontini/Sicily, 380 BCE Larissa/Thessaly) in focus
    4. Contribution and influence

  10. Socrates (*469 BCE Athens, 399 BCE Athens)
    1. Socrates as teacher: Socratic irony and maieutic
    2. Trial and death of Socrates
    3. Major doctrines
      1. General (universal) definition
      2. Inductive argument
      3. Socratic dialectics (ἔλεγχος)
      4. Immortality of the soul
      5. Cocept of love (ἔρος)
      6. Virtue is knowledge
      7. Virtue vs crafts
    4. Critical assessment
      - excursus: Raphael's "School of Athens"

  11. Plato (*427 BCE Athens, 347 BCE Athens)
    1. A brief sketch of Plato's life and work
    2. Major influences upon Plato's philosophical development (E. Zeller)
    3. Philosophical doctrines
      1. The doctrine of ideas (εἶδος)
        1. Etymology of the term εἶδος
        2. Imitation (μίμησις) and participation (μέθεξις)
        3. Analogy of the Sun (Republic)
        4. Simile of the line (Republic)
        5. Parable of the cave (Republic)
      2. Doctrine of the soul
        1. Immortality of the soul (Phaedo)
        2. Tripartition of the soul (Republic)
        3. The role of love (ἔρος) (Symposium, Phaedrus)
      3. Political philosophy (Republic)
      4. Later cosmological position (Timaeus)
    4. Plato's influence

  12. Aristotle (*384/383 BCE Stageira, 322/321 BCE Chalkis)
    1. A brief sketch of Aristotle's life
    2. Problems and challenges
    3. Aristotle's critique of Parmenides: the concept of not-being (μὴ ὄν)
    4. Aristotle's critique of Plato:
    5. Philosophical doctrines
      1. The doctrine of categories (κατηγορία)
      2. The concept of substance (οὐσία)
      3. The doctrine of four causes (αἰτία)
      4. Natural entities (φύσει ὄντα) and artifacts (τέχνει ὄντα)
      5. δύναμις and ἐνέργεια
      6. Aristotle's doctrine of the soul (ψυχή)
      7. The concept of choice (προαίρησις)
      8. Aristotle's concept of happiness (εὐδαιμονία)
      9. Aristotle's theory of knowledge (γνῶσις) and science (ἐπιστήμη)
      10. Aristotle's theory of tragedy (Poetics)
    6. Aristotle's influence on posterity
      - excursus: Aristotle's will
      - excursus: The legend of Aristotle and Phyllis

  13. Post-classical philosophy
    1. Cynics
    2. Cyrenics
    3. Epicureanism
    4. Stoicism
    5. Neo-Platonism
    6. Hypatia and the end of Ancient philosophy

  14. St. Augustine (*354 CE Thagaste, 430 CE Hippo)
    1. A brief sketch of Augustine's life
    2. Philosophical doctrines
      1. Creatio ex nihilo
      2. Extra ecclesiam nulla salus
      3. Good and evil, and the order of nature
      4. Perversity (perversitas) and Primacy of the will, arbitrium liberum
      5. On Christian love, caritas
      6. Pre-destination, and the challenge of "theodicy"
      7. Doctrine of illumination
      8. Philosophy of history (De Civitate Dei, The City of God)
    3. Augustine's influence
      - excursus: St. Augustine versus Pelagius (*~360 CE probably Britania, ~418 CE possibly Palestine)
      - excursus: St. Augustine and the child on "trinity"
      - excursus: Jostein Gaarder's Vita Brevis: A Letter to St. Augustine

  15. St. Thomas of Aquinas (*1225/6 CE Aquino near Naples, 1274 CE Rome)
    1. A brief sketch of Aquinas' life
    2. Philosophical doctrines
      1. Theory of human knowledge
      2. Principium individuationis
      3. Primary and secondary substances
      4. Theory of universals
      5. Act and potency
      6. Doctrine of the soul
      7. Problem of will
      8. Proof of the existence of God
      9. Analogia entis
    3. Conclusion and appraisal

  16. Final Summary - Recapitulation of some philosophical issues underlying the history of Western philosophy


  1. Text for History of Western Philosophy

    1. Mathias Bertram, (ed.) Geschichte der Philosophie. Darstellungen, Handbücher, Lexika, ausgewählt von Mathias Bertram. Digitale Bibliothek Band 3 (Berlin: Directmedia, 1998).
    2. Rüdiger Bubner, ed., Geschichte der Philosophie in Text und Darstellung, hrsg. von 8 Bände (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1995).
    3. Friedrich Ueberweg, Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie. Völlig neubearbeitete Ausgabe, Band 2, 4/1, 4/2 (Basel: Schwabe & Co. 1998ff)
    4. François Châtelet, (ed.) Geschichte der Philosophie (Histoire de la philosophie). Translated into German (Frankfurt/Main: Ullstein, 1974).
    5. Frederick Copleston S.J., A History of Philosophy, in 8 volumes (New York: Image Books, 1964). (*)
    6. Otfried Höffe, Kleine Geschichte der Philosophie (München: C.H. Beck, 2001).
    7. Julían Marías, History of Philosophy. transl. from the Spanish by Stanley Appelbaum and Clarence C. Strowbridge (New York: Dover, 1967).
    8. John C. Plott with James Michael Dolin et al., Global History of Philosophy. Vol. 1-5 (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1963-1989).
    9. Bertrand Russell, History of Western Philosophy and its Connection with Political and Social Circumstances from the Earliest Times to the Present Day (London: Allen & Unwin, 1946, 1961). (*)
    10. Karl Vorländer, Geschichte der Philosophie, 2 Bände (Leipzig: Felix Meiner, 1911).
    11. Alfred Weber, History of Philosophy, tranl. By Frank Thilly (New York: Scribners & Sons, 1908).
    12. Wilhelm Windelband, History of Philosophy : with especial reference to the formation and development of its problems and conceptions (Lehrbuch der Geschichte der Philosophie) (New York: Dover, 1905). (*)
    13. Eduard Zeller, Grundriss der Geschichte der griechischen Philosophie. English. Outlines of the History of Greek Philosophy. 13th ed., rev. by Wilhelm Nestle and translated by L. R. Palmer (New York : Meridian Books, 1955).

  2. Other related references

    1. Oskar Becker, "Die Aktualität des pythagoreischen Gedankens", in: Dasein und Dawesen. Gesammelte philosophische Aufsätze (Pfulliigen: Neske, 1963), pp. 127-156.
    2. Ernst Bloch, Zwischenwelten in der Philosophiegeschichte (Stuttgart: Suhrkamp, 1977).
    3. Walter Bröcker, Die Geschichte der Philosophie vor Sokrates (Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1965).
    4. Jacques Brunschwig and Geoffrey Lloyd, Das Wissen der Griechen. Eine Enzyklopädie (München, Wilhelm Fink, 2000), being a german translation by Volker Breidecker et al. of the French original Le savoir grec. Dictionnaire critique (Paris: Flammarion, 1996).
    5. Jakob Burkhardt, Griechische Kulturgeschichte. 4 Bände. 2. Auflage (München, dtv, 1982).
    6. John Burnet, Greek Philosophy : Thales to Plato (London : Macmillan, 1964).
    7. F. M. Cornford, Greek Religious Thought from Homer to the Age of Alexander (New York: AMS Press, 1969).
    8. Chen Chung-hwan 陳康(忠寰), Sophia: The Science Aristotle Sought (New York/Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 1976).
    9. Hermann Diels und Walther Kranz, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker. 3 Bände (Zürich/Hildesheim: Weidmann, 1989-1990). Nachdruck der 6. Auflage von 1951-52. The monumental Diels-Kranz edition has been partially translated into English by Kathleen Freeman. See her Ancilla to the Pre-Socratic Philosophers (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1962).
    10. Eugen Fink, Nachdenkliches zur ontologischen Frühgeschichte von Raum-Zeit-Bewegung (Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1957).
    11. Theodor Gomperz, Greek Thinkers: a History of Ancient Philosophy, Vol. 1-4 (London : J. Murray, 1901-12). (Pfullingen: Neske, 1963). pp. 127-156.
    12. Heinz Heimsoeth, Die sechs großen Themen der abendländischen Metaphysik (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1981).
    13. Elmar Holenstein, Philosophie-Atlas: Orte und Wege des Denkens (Zürich: Ammann Verlag, 2004).
    14. Werner Jaeger, The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers. The Gifford Lectures 1936 (Oxford: OUP, 1947,1967).
    15. Walter Kaufmann and Forrest E. Baird (ed.), Philosophic Classics, in 4 volumes (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1994).
    16. Walther Kranz, Die griechische Philosophie. Zugleich eine Einführung in die Philosophie überhaupt (Birsfelden-Basel: Verlag Schibli-Doppler, 1955)
    17. Walther Kranz, Geschichte der griechischen Literatur (Basel: Verlag Schibli-Doppler, 1960)
    18. Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Emminent Philosophers. English translation by R. D. Hicks (Cambridge : Harvard University Press, 1965).
    19. Jaap Mansfeld, Die Vorsokratiker (Griechisch/Deutsch). Zwei Bände (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1983-1986).
    20. K. W. Mills, "Some aspects of Plato's theory of Forms: Timaeus 49c ff.", Phronesis, Vol. 13 (1968), pp.145-170.
    21. Georg Misch, The Dawn of Philosophy. A Philosophical Primer, edited in English by R.F.C. Hull (London: Routledge, 1950).
    22. Friedrich Nietzsche, Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks. Transl. by Marianne Cowan (Chicago: Regnery, 1962).
    23. F. E. Peters, Greek Philosophical Terms. A Historical Lexicon (New York: NYU Press, 1967).
    24. Joachim Ritter und Karlfried Gründer (ed.), Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie (Basel: Schwabe, 1985).
    25. Bruno Snell, The Discovery of the Mind. The Greek Origins of European Thought. Translated by T. G. Rosenmeyer (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1953).
    26. Wilhelm Weischedel, Die philosophische Hintertreppe. 5th ed. (München: DTV, 1979).
    27. Tze-wan Kwan,『西方哲學史撰作的分期與標名問題』[Periodization and Nomenclature in the Historiography of Western Philosophy]. Paper presented at the Philosophy Department, Zhongsan University, Guangzhou, China, December 18, 2003. Printed in《現代哲學》(Xiandai Zhexue), No. 81, (No. 2, 2005) Guangzhou, Zhongshan University, 2005.04, pp. 69-90. Now also available as a chapter in:
      關子尹著:《語默無常-尋找定向中的哲學反思》, (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 2008), 增訂重校簡體字版:(北京:北京大學出版社,2009.12), pp. 251-297.
    28. 關子尹著:『虛己以遊世──早期希臘哲學的非自然哲學解讀』 [Man’s Place in Nature: A Non-Physicalistic Reading of Early Greek Philosophy], 《中山大學學報》社會科學版,廣州,2010-4期(總第226期),pp. 124-150。 Journal of Sun Yat-Sen University, Social Science Edition, Guangzhou, 2010, issue 4, pp. 124-150. (Chinese)
    29. Tze-wan Kwan, "The Role of the Historian of Philosophy: Some Phenomenological Reflections", paper presented at the international conference "Phenomenology & History of Philosophy", Inaugural Conference of the Archive for Phenomenology & Contemporary Philosophy, held January 23-24, 2006, at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Pending publication.

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Page last updated on 8 December 2015 by Tze-wan Kwan.