Western philosophy, as it provides context for later theological developments, has its roots in the Greece of the sixth through fourth centuries BCE, becoming most definitively cast in the work of Plato and his successor Aristotle. These two thinkers tower over fourth-century BCE Athens. In tandem or in tension, they shape the schools which will later in significant part interact with Christian theology at the points of its origin and development. This unit offers the student an opportunity to research, reflect, discuss and present at postgraduate level on the ways in which Plato and Aristotle give shape to the pre-Socratic philosophers upon whom they build, but also to our own thought, and to the art of reasoning itself.

Unit code: AP9729P (Approved)

Points: 24.0

Unit level: Postgraduate Elective

Unit discipline: Philosophy

Proposing College: Pilgrim Theological College

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Learning outcomes


Offer coherent reflection, after research, upon the thought of the pre-Socratic philosophers


Show insight into the approaches of the two philosophers to key questions of being, truth and ethics


Discuss Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy in their respective broad influences upon theological stances


Reflect, with emphasis on particular philosophers, upon the legacy bequeathed by Greek philosophy to our own era

Unit sequence

A previous unit of philosophy at any level


Lectures and Tutorials

Indicative Bibliography

  • Ackrill, A. Aristotle the Philosopher. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981.
  • Barnes, Jonathon, ed. The Complete Works of Aristotle. 2 Vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984.
  • Barnes, Jonathon. Early Greek Philosophy . Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1987.
  • Biffle, Christopher. A Guided Tour of Five Works by Plato. 3rd ed. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Co., 2001.
  • Herman, Arthur. The Cave and the Light: Plato versus Aristotle and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization. Trade Paperback Edition. NewYork: Random House, 2014.
  • Kraut, Richard, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Plato. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
  • Melchert, Norman. The Great Conversation: A Historical Introduction to Philosophy. 4th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2001. (recommended for purchase)
  • McKirahan, Richard D. Philosophy Before Socrates: An Introduction with Texts and Commentary. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Co., 1994.
  • Plato. The Collected Dialogues of Plato, including the Letters. Ed. Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns. Bollingen Series 71. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961.
  • Ring, Merrill. Beginning with the Pre-Socratics. 2nd ed. Mountain View: Mayfield, 2000.
  • Taylor, A. E. Plato: The Man and His Work. Dover Books on Western Philosophy. New York: Dover Books, 2011. (recommended for purchase)
  • Taylor, C.C.W., R.M. Hare and Jonathon Barnes. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle. Past Masters. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.


Type Description Word count Weight (%)

Reflection-Integration Exercise (1200 words)

0 20.0

Essay 1 (1800 words)

0 30.0

Essay 2 (3000 words), following prior presentation at seminar of draft essay*.

*Seminar presentation of draft [clarity of presentation plus leadership of subsequent discussion to be assessed (40% of assessment for this essay)]; followed by submission of the written-up essay, assessed as a written piece of work (60%).

0 50.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by John Capper on 1 Nov, 2015

Unit record last updated: 2019-02-05 08:37:59 +1100