Aristotle Biology Essay Exam

The notion of practical wisdom is one of Aristotle’s greatest inventions. It has inspired philosophers as diverse as Martin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Elizabeth Anscombe, Michael Thompson, and John McDowell. Now a leading scholar of ancient philosophy offers a challenge to received accounts of practical wisdom by situating it in the larger context of Aristotle’s views on knowledge and reality.

That happiness is the end pursued by practical wisdom is commonly agreed. What is disputed is whether happiness is to be found in the practical life of political action, in which we exhibit courage, temperance, and other virtues of character, or in the contemplative life, where theoretical wisdom is the essential virtue. C. D. C. Reeve argues that the dichotomy is bogus, that these lives are in fact parts of a single life, which is the best human one. In support of this view, he develops innovative accounts of many of the central notions in Aristotle’s metaphysics, epistemology, and psychology, including matter and form, scientific knowledge, dialectic, educatedness, perception, understanding, political science, practical truth, deliberation, and deliberate choice. These accounts are based directly on freshly translated passages from many of Aristotle’s writings. Action, Contemplation, and Happiness is an accessible essay not just on practical wisdom but on Aristotle’s philosophy as a whole.


This course is an advanced survey of ancient Greek philosophy from the presocratic period through to the Hellenistic period, focusing on the development of Greek views of the cosmos, the soul, and the virtuous life.

Textbooks (Required)

Ancient Greek Philosophy, from Thales to Aristotle, Edited by S. Marc Cohen, Patricia Curd, and C.D.C. Reeve (Hackett 1995)

Hellenistic Philosophy: Introductory Readings, Translated by Brad Inwood and L.P. Gerson (Hackett 1988)

See also:

Ancient Philosophy Web Pages, located at

On-Line Resource Texts in Ancient Philosophy

Course Plan

The course will be divided into four units as follows:

Unit I The Presocratics

Unit II Plato

Unit III Aristotle

Unit IV Hellenistic Philosophy

Units I and IV are short units, and Units II and III are long units.


The Presocratics



Hellenistic Philosophy

Other Interesting On-Line Resource

Meet your classmates on the Web

Cynthia Freeland's Graduate Seminar in Ancient Science

Ancient Philosophy, taught by Prof. S. Marc Cohen, U. of Washington (includes bibliographies and lecture notes)

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

The Interpreting Ancient Manuscripts Web

Cultural Map of Hellas (Greece) (Includes search engines for regions and histories)

History and Philosophy of Ancient Astronomy

A gallery of Greek Philosophers' Portraits

Some helpful course outlines on ancient Greek history

The Ancient City of Athens (With interesting photographs)

Ancient Cultures: Greece


a. There will be a take-home essay exam on each unit. The short unit exams will have one essay question, and the long unit exams will have two questions. Each question should be answered in an essay that is 3-5 pages long.

b. There will be other short summary papers and in-class discussion assignments, at the instructor's discretion.


a. The exams will be 80% of the final grade.

b. The summaries and in-class discussions will be 20% of the final grade.

Attendance, Absences, Late Papers

While attendance is not required, it is expected. Each class will cover a considerable amount of material, and so missing a class will detract from a student's ability to complete the exams. Also, if the in-class discussion assignment is missed the grade will reflect it. Absences or late papers may be excused only in cases of illness or other extreme circumstances. Late summary papers will not be accepted. Late exam papers will be accepted only for up to one week, and they will be marked down one half grade per class day late.

There is an electronic discussion list for this class, limited to course members in the current (Fall 1997) course at Rice University. Its address is:

Information on how to subscribe to the discussion list.

Cynthia Freeland's Home Page

Rice U. Philosophy Home Page

UH Philosophy Home Page

URL for this page:
Copyright © 1997, Cynthia A. Freeland. All rights reserved.
January 15, 1998 - 09:09 AM

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