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Unit information: History of Thought in 2015/16

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Unit name History of Thought
Unit code CLAS22366
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Lampe
Open unit status Open




School/department Department of Classics & Ancient History
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit introduces students to several foundational texts in western intellectual history, and to the modes of thinking and writing which characterize them. The overarching theme will be how Greeks and Romans think about and use logos (language, thought, speech) to understand and manipulate the world around them. This theme is of profound importance for western culture today, since we constantly use evaluative terms like “logical” and “illogical”. But what is logos? We’ll look at how traditions as diverse as shamanism, myth, physics, jurisprudence and politics interact in the creation of western ideas of thought, speech and knowledge.


The aim of this unit will be to explore the emergence and transmission of a number of ancient modes of thought, studying a number of key texts and engaging with issues related to the development of knowledge and its movement through cultures and time.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, all students should:

  • Have read and analysed a number of classical texts important in the history of thought
  • Have become familiar with a range of modes of thought developed in the classical period which remain important in the modern world
  • Have engaged with a number of important issues concerning the production, transrnission and reception of ancient modes of knowledge and thought
  • Have had the opportunity to develop their skills in oral cornmunication

(through discussion and questions) and in written communication (through essay work and examinations)

  • In addition, second year stUdents will be expected to have developed more sophisticated analytical skills, as demonstrated in their formal assessment and in their participation in class discussions.

Teaching details

Lectures, but with the use of small-group work for discussion and of informal presentations by students.

Assessment Details

One continuous assessment essay (Level 1: 2000 words, Level 2: 2500words): 50 marks

One written examination of 90 minutes, consisting of:

(a) Comment on two out of four passages (2 x 15 marks)

(b) Write on one out of four essays (20 marks)

Total: 50 marks

Reading and References

Short texts: Gorgias, Helen, Palamedes, epitome of On What Is Not; Antisthenes, Ajax and Odysseus; Antiphon, Third Tetralogy; Parmenides, fragments

Plato, Timaeus. Trans. R. Waterfield. Oxford.

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things. Trans. A. E. Stallings. Penguin.