Ancient Philosophy Pathways Course Review

Ancient Philosophy – The First Philosophers
When I was starting this course I had a lot more problems trying to gather the correct background material and overview of the subject matter. I missed some lecture course like Grim’s Philosophy of Mind from the Great Courses. I find also that the Pathways course will assume you have the pre-requisite background and GK asks a lot of questions in each unit, which is to prompt discussion of the relevant subject. One must have a good background of the subject being discussed of course, and it took me a while to get my head around the full story and spirit of the Pre-Socratic philosophers. For this course I decided to just stick with GK’s brief reviews of my essays, as I was, at this stage, happy with their general structure. I got Martinich’s book on Philosophical Essay writing and have read some of it, and plan to come back to it again.

I read in about Angie Hobbs best five books on the Pre-Socratics. Apart from KRS, which is quite extensive, I do not think they may be apt for this level, especially Kerford. KRS is good though. I got Barnes Ancient Philosophy also, which is a dumbed down version of KRS. In this respect I would read the chapter in Barnes first, then KRS. I found the intro in KRS quite intimidating, as it referenced the old myths as a background to the first philosophers. As a result I looked at the first 4 Yale lectures on the Introduction to Greek History by Donal Kagen. I got the text book on Greek history by Pomeroy also. These were quite accessible and I plan to come back to them as I find this whole subject in itself quite involving. Additionally since then I have listened to Homers Iliad and Odyssey and Hesiod’s Cosmogeny, all on (a useful way to get through books that you are not used to reading). I also read some background chapters on the Greeks from Russell’s History of Philosophy together with Peter Adams first chapters in the History of Philosophy without any gaps. Only then I got a grasp of how to engage with the ancient philosophers and attempt to look at the world through their eyes.

For my first essay I discussed the theories of how the world stays stable, from the Ionian point of view. KRS, in this instance, proves to be indispensable, as the fragments (the bits of information, mostly incomplete left behind by the Pre-Socratics) can be ambiguous and at times can appear contradictory when read from different sources. My second essay related to Heraclitus’ treatment of the world as flux and his statement that “you can never step into the same river twice”. Again KRS came to the rescue. I also found the questions in Ask a Philosopher were useful and I think that such queries about the exact nature of discussion in philosophy are quite common. It is at this stage one can get quite frustrated with the lack of fragments as one feels there  were more there (as there was) , but one is just left to guess about it all, rather than interpret what was said or written (as most of it is gone). GK like the first two and I was quite please with them also.
We moved from Portsmouth up to Harrogate in October and my third essay, which began in September was not finished til January. It is important not to have much change in ones life when doing study as any changes in lifestyle can really interrupt ones thought process. I discussed Zeno’s Dichotomy Paradox in the third essay. I bought a book Space and Time by Barry Dainton, which dedicated two chapters to Zeno. I think this was overkill as I did not use much of it in the essay and I think, for a 1000 word essay, one should not go into this much background reading. I am sure it will be useful in the future. Through writing about Zeno and his defence of Parmenides’ theories, I began to realise how significant Parmenides is in ancient philosophy, and until Plato comes along World of Appearance and World of Truth are by far the yard stick by which other theories are measured. I was not that please with this essay.

An appreciation of Parmenides was needed for my next essay, which dealt with Atomism. I found initially reading about this quite frustrating, but then appreciated it for the piece of elegant rational thinking that it is. My final essay also discussed Atomism and its effect on the perspectives of the use of rationalism vs empiricism in philosophical debate and whether Democritus is really advocating scepticism, in pointing out that Ato

mism shows us the limits of the senses.
Along the way I did read Thaetetus in the hope of answering a question on it. I found I wanted to deal with Atomism more, and not spread the net too wide. I have spent enough time on this course and was becoming less interested, most likely because of the move and also because of the lack of any lecture syllabus to adhere to, like I had with Grim in Philosophy of Mind.


Pls find essays below.Stephen Lumsden C1 13.8.18Stephen Lumsden C2 27.8.18Stephen Lumsden C3 10.1.19Stephen Lumsden C4 23.2.19Stephen Lumsden C5 18.3.19


Philosophy of Mind Pathways course Review


Philosophy of Mind – Searching for the Soul


When I started this course I had an external tuition source critique my essays. Not that GK
is not helpful, but Pathways as it currently stands does not give involved tuition. As a result GK will give pointers when submitting essays to the essay cabinet and also may ask for the essay to be submitted again with certain improvements. However there is no active mentoring or tuition anymore.

As a result I had my 5 previous essays from the Introduction course reviewed in more depth. Basically I was told (among other things ) to structure my essays with a definite introduction, main and conclusion. Additionally I was told not to be overly descriptive, argue for a certain point and not quote too much as I was doing this mostly “for adornment”, which did not strengthen my case.

Before starting the Pathways course I bought the Philosophy of Mind course from the Great Courses. This was about $30 (they regularly discount their courses) and was presented by Professor Patrick Grim, who was very clear. This gave me a good overview before reading the Pathways material. PFA did a lecture on Philosophical Zombies, so I picked that option for my first essay. I found this interesting as I could work in ideas from Cartesian Dualism from the Descartes Meditations book (this is quite short and easy to read). The second essay revolved specifically around Descartes sixth Meditation, so all in all I got a good introduction to Descartes. I look forward to reading his other work, Discourse on Method.

The third essay was on the change of personal identity over time. I read Introducing Persons by Peter Carruthers for this, but did not finish the whole book, as I found it hard going (though I do plan to come back to it to cover Hume’s bundle theory). Again I found Grim’s course a good reference point. I was familiar with the ideas from the Introduction to Philosophy course and also referred back to Shelly Kagen’s course on Death on the Yale courses web site. I had to refer to John Locke also, whose ideas I find practical, though he does not write so clearly as Descartes. I came back to Locke for the discussion on Qualia which served as my fourth essay. Again Grim proved a great reference point and his example of Dennett’s thought experiments were excellent.

For my last essay I read Three Dialogs by George Berkeley to investigate how subjective idealism relates to free will. GK did not like my interpretation of compatabilism so I had to amend the essay and re-submit it. All in all I liked Berkeley and this rounded off a good course. Overall I felt I learnt a good deal, but really needed to learn a lot more. Martin Jenkins from the ISFP also reviewed my essays and provided good feedback also, together with GK’s comments. Again I had some of my essays reviewed by an external tutor, but was not sure at what level his remarks were aimed at (and did not exactly agree with some of them). As a result I may come back to them if I start studying Philosophy at a higher academic level.

I found Grim’s course of lectures provided a good overview. I later found out that John Searle has Philosophy of Mind audio lectures freely available on the web, but I found the Great courses option worth the money, as it provides a guide book also which summarises the lectures and suggests further reading. I find that having a set of lectures as a reference (together with the Pathways guides) essential as the Pathway guides sometimes appear to presume previous knowledge. I think that is because they were originally presented as material which would come together with definite tuition. I have definitely missed a good course of lectures while beginning my current course on the Pre-Socratics and will buy Great courses lecture series on Ethics and MetaPhysics for Pathways E and F courses, as these form a more definite self contained curriculum than the Pathways courses currently do. They do not have any on Philosophy of Language, but I will use Searles Philosophy of Language lectures for that.

Finished essay for perusal as below:Stephen Lumsden B1 15.1.18Stephen Lumsden B2 24.2.18Stephen Lumsden B3 22.3.18Stephen Lumsden B4 12.4.18Stephen Lumsden B5 10.6.18