Plotinus in the Jungle

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A mad dash at the end


So I’ve decided to put together an introductory course to Plato and Aristotle for Catholic Distance University.  I’ve actually been working for them for the past year as the instructor for three correspondence courses in Theology.  The idea is that I will type out and record twelve lectures on Plato and Aristotle, set up assignments and readings, and compose a final exam and then someone else will teach the course while I am in the jungle.

Working on this course during the last few weeks that we are in the US will and has made things a little more hectic for us.  However, I see the course as coinciding with my course prep for my courses in PNG, as helping my general facility with Greek philosophy, and as providing some income during the space between my last paycheck from Catholic (May 10) and when we leave for PNG (June 4).  I am not sure if Catholic will fund my tuition expenses while I am abroad and my payment for putting together this course will more than cover one semester of tuition.

In putting together the course, I’ve been forced to wrestle with the fact that my Aristotle has become rather rusty.  I spent about three days rereading the Categories and De Anima (On the Soul) just to refresh myself.  At some point in the near future, I will reread Physics and Metaphysics and read De Caelo and On Generation and Corruption, both to give me a firmer grasp on the Aristotelian worldview and also for the dissertation, since Plotinus is constantly reinventing Platonism in order to respond to and correct Aristotle.

Here is my course outline:

1. Euthyphro – Socratic elenchus, idea of definition, philosophy’s clash with traditional religion

2. Apology – Socrates vs. the Sophists, Socratic ignoranPhilosophy as divine service, evil cannot be harmed by the good

3. Symposium, Phaedrus – Eros, fall of the soul, doctrine of the Forms

4. Timaeus – Generation of the world, explanation of evil, the Forms

5. Republic – Why be just? Human soul and virtues

6. Republic – image of the soul from book 9; Allegory of the Sun, Analogy of the Cave, the Forms!

7. Metaphysics, Physics –Idea of Philosophy, 4 Causes,

8. Categories, Metaphysics – Categories, primacy of substance, accidental vs. essential

9. Metaphysics Lambda – Argument for God’s existence, Aristotle on God

10. De Anima – Hylomorphic account of the soul, immortality?, empiricism

11. Ethics – Happiness, Moral Virtue

12. Ethics – Intellectual Virtue, what is the best life?

Unfortunately, the students will not be reading full works of Plato and Aristotle, other than the Euthyphro and the Apology.  This decision was painful for me, but I’ve decided to go for a buffet style approach to the course, to give them tastes of the various ideas of Plato and Aristotle.  I also want to expose them to ideas that were particularly important for the development of Christian theology, hence the emphasis on God, the soul, and ethics.  I have unfortunately had to cut any coverage of political theory.  I have a slight worry that Plato will be remembered as the ‘fun’ philosopher, since I am covering a number of his images, while Aristotle will be the hard, boring guy.


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