The Concept of Life in Ancient Greek Philosophy & Its Relevance Today

During this course we will explore the concept of life in ancient Greek philosophy and its relevance to contemporary philosophical debates. In the first part of the course, we will examine the notion of life in the context of Plato’s and Aristotle’s metaphysical, psychological, political and ethical writings. Our primary aim will be to understand how Aristotle’s explicit treatment of life challenges Plato’s dualistic, metaphysical theory of Forms and leads to a distinct conception of ethics and politics. Through the comparison of the relevant doctrines and views, we will seek to get a better understanding of the crucial role that the concept of life plays in the formation of the ancient Greek philosophy of ethics, politics, and culture. In the second part of the course, we will try to appreciate the extent to which this philosophy of life informs the inception and critique of modern thought, while also providing a potential alternative to the challenges it faces. By studying modern and contemporary thinkers, we will see how the treatment of the concept of life by ancient Greek philosophers has become a primary focus in contemporary debates concerning pressing ethical and political challenges posed by late modernity, notably those pertaining to totalitarianism, the Holocaust, and the issue of animal rights.

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