Nature, Mind, and Knowledge in Ancient Greece

The Greeks have been credited with originating paradigms for the conduct of life and its cultural representations of unrivaled formal perfection and with the momentous discovery of the human mind's power and purpose. The order of nature in its entirety was there to be intelligently observed and - over time - rationally explained and heeded. Reason, the Greek nous, was not conceptualized as a subjective and psychological faculty but rather as the eternal power that is the ground and rule of all that constitutes the cosmos.

The human faculty of reasoning is not separate and distinct from universal reason, but identical with it. Reason's purpose, the Greek thinkers and scientists maintained, is to discover the first principles, or laws, that underlie as formal matrix the order of nature as it presents itself to methodical observation. They undertook rational inquiries into the workings of the cosmos that led over the span of three generations of thinkers to an empirically based and speculatively enhanced knowledge of the human sphere in its political and moral dimensions: a knowledge the classical philosophers convey with clarity and passion. The first semester of this course is devoted to the writings of the early Greek nature philosophers, the fathers of what now has become the modern scientific enterprise; the second to Plato's Socratic dialogues and an introduction to Aristotle's Nikomachian Ethics.