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Philosophy as the Art of Living: Ancient and Modern Views


Wednesday 24 April - Wednesday 03 July 2024, 6pm-9pm

20 sessions - Check class timetable


Philosophy has been with us for thousands of years, ever since abstract thought became possible. Records of early philosophy come from around the globe. The tradition of the history of philosophy in the West focuses on the expansion of the discipline in Ancient Greece from the sixth century BC onwards and its continuation into the Roman world. Our Philosophy as the Art of Living: Ancient and Modern Views short course explores one key theme in almost all philosophical ponderings from the very earliest times: our place in the world, and particularly why what the world is like and how it operates matters to the way we lead our lives. If philosophy is to function as an art of living, it will have to teach us several things:

  • We are human beings, but what is it to be human?
  • How do we differ from or resemble other natural things?
  • Given what we are like, and given the similarities and differences between us and other kinds of things, what do we have to do to live well?
  • How, if at all, can philosophy help us to live as well as humans can? 

The first part of the course focuses largely on early Greek philosophy, beginning with the ideas found in certain so-called pre-Socratic writers. Next, we will explore aspects of the philosophy of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, followed by discussion of slightly later schools of thought which took a more radical or sceptical bent in both the Classical world and in India.

The second part turns to the so-called early modern period - the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries - in which philosophers such as René Descartes, Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia, Thomas Hobbes, Mary Astell, John Locke, Margaret Cavendish, Anne Conway, Benedict de Spinoza and David Hume debated all these questions. We shall discuss some of their answers, along with the arguments they gave for them.

Assessment is via a 1000-word writing assignment (50%) and 1000-word examination (50%).

This can be taken as a standalone short course or as a part of:

30 credits at level 4

  • Entry requirements

    Entry requirements

    Most of our short courses have no formal entry requirements and are open to all students.

    This short course has no prerequisites.

    As part of the enrolment process, you may be required to submit a copy of a suitable form of ID.

    International students who wish to come to the UK to study a short course can apply for a Visitor visa. Please note that it is not possible to obtain a Student visa to study a short course.

  • How to apply

    How to apply

    You register directly onto the classes you would like to take. Classes are filled on a first-come, first-served basis - so apply early. If you wish to take more than one short course, you can select each one separately and then register onto them together via our online application portal. There is usually no formal selection process, although some modules may have prerequisites and/or other requirements, which will be specified where relevant.