Department of Greek & Latin


UCL Summer School in Ancient Philosophy 2024

Plato Aristotle by Raphael

University College London (Some courses are available in an online format)
Monday 08 July to Fri 12 July 2024

What are the origins of the world? How can we achieve happiness? What is the best form of government? Is democracy good? These are only some of the questions which ancient philosophers tried to answer more than 2,500 years ago. Their bold and unprecedented enterprise prompted an intellectual revolution, the relevance of which has not since faded. The Summer School in Ancient Philosophy aims to follow the steps of the ancient philosophers in their enquiries on the world and human life, and explore their continuing importance today.

The Summer School offers a five-day programme covering the major themes and thinkers of Ancient Philosophy. There will be four classes each day, between 10:30 am and 3.30pm. Courses will be held in person unless otherwise specified. For more details about the modules’ format, please see below or get in touch with us. Students will have access to a variety of online material before and throughout the course. The fee is £160. The course is not residential. 

Students will be assigned to teaching groups of normally not more than 15-20 people. Groups will comprise students with similar levels of knowledge of the subject. Classes will consist of lectures, close reading of texts, and debates and will touch on a variety of themes, including ethics, metaphysics, and theories of knowledge. Texts will be studied in translation, though some classes will be offered in the original language. The style of teaching is friendly, but demanding. Students are expected to actively participate in classes, and they will be invited to discuss and critically engage with texts along with other students and teachers. Our tutors include some of the most talented and passionate teachers of ancient philosophy in the London area and beyond.


Introduction to Ancient Philosophy

NB: The course is available both in person and in online format.

How did philosophy start in Ancient Greece? What were the Ancients thinking about, 2,500 years ago? Is Ancient Philosophy still relevant today? These are all questions one may reasonably have when starting a course on Ancient Philosophy. The purpose of this course is to give an overview of the central figures and issues of Ancient Philosophy, to those with little familiarity of the subject. Following the Ancient way of doing philosophy, we shall not restrict ourselves to one specific area of study (like metaphysics or epistemology), but tackle philosophical problems in their complex nature, that is, by looking altogether at their ethical, metaphysical, epistemological and political dimensions. In doing this, we will spend Day One in discussing some of the theories held by the Pre-Socratic Philosophers. Days Two and Three will see us move on to Socrates and Plato, before spending Day 4 on Aristotle. We will conclude on Day 5 by learning about some of the theories held by the Ancient Stoics. Being an introductory module, the course is open to anyone with an interest in, but little familiarity of, Ancient Philosophy.

A Week with Plato

When we think of Greek Philosophy, we usually immediately think of Plato. His influence on the history of philosophy can hardly be underestimated - indeed it is this influence that led Alfred North Whitehead to declare that the European philosophical tradition consists entirely in a series of “footnotes to Plato”. What, however, caused Whitehead to make such a claim? Why exactly is Plato so important? What did he actually say? What can his millennia-old theories still teach us? If you find yourself asking these questions, then this is the course for you! The course will introduce you to some of the most important topics of Plato’s philosophy, including metaphysics, ethics, politics, and epistemology. The course is open to anyone with an interest in Plato and, more generally, ancient philosophy. There are no requirements to enrol in this module.

A Week with Aristotle

Virtually all fields of human knowledge have an Aristotelian origin. Not only did Aristotle make substantial contributions to logic, ethics, metaphysics, biology, and other sciences, he often founded these disciplines and reflected on their respective methodology. This week with ‘The Philosopher’, as Aquinas nicknamed Aristotle, will provide the students with the basic tools for entering the Aristotelian corpus in its systematic organization and the opportunity to discuss some of Aristotle’s most famous arguments. We will begin the week with the logical and metaphysical foundations of Aristotle’s philosophy, such as the notion of category and hylomorphic substance, and explore how they are at play in different parts of the system. We will then turn to famous arguments in the practical and aesthetic treatises and discuss Aristotle’s views on important matter such as human happiness, being a good citizen, and cathartic experiences. Classes will involve a range of activities, from lectures, to close reading of the texts, argument analysis, to group discussion. Some prior knowledge of ancient philosophy is advisable, though this need not be of Aristotle’s work specifically.

Are We Bodies Or Souls? - A Journey of Self-Discovery Through Philosophy

This course introduces students to a central debate in Contemporary Philosophy by exploring its roots in Ancient Philosophy: Are we ultimately material bodies or immaterial souls? This question has exercised some of the greatest thinkers in the history of philosophy and remains as relevant today as it was in ancient times. In this course, we will first examine the main positions defended in ancient Indian and Greek Philosophy and then consider how they relate to live debates about personal identity and consciousness in Contemporary Philosophy. Students will gain a grasp of core concepts in metaphysics, ontology, epistemology and logic that will prepare them for further exploration of both Indian and Western philosophical traditions and approaches. No prior knowledge of philosophy is required.

Socrates, Sex, and Subversion: Feminist Approaches to Plato and Aristotle

This introductory course surveys discussions of women, gender, and sexuality in the corpora of Plato and Aristotle, and examines the receptions of these ancient philosophers in modern feminist theory. We will read a range of Platonic and Aristotelian texts, looking specifically at their attention to women, sexual difference, society, and power. Patriarchy is, of course, enduring, and spans well beyond the ancient world into our own. In this course, therefore, we will ask how Platonic and Aristotelian conceptions of women and gender influence or contradict modern patriarchy and, more specifically, how contemporary feminist philosophers receive and reread Plato and Aristotle with their feminist projects in mind. This course includes both rigorous close readings of ancient philosophy and a broader survey of its significance to the present day, and creates space for going back to the ancient world with dissidence and creativity. There are no prerequisites for this course – we will spend some time getting thoroughly acquainted with both feminist theory and ancient philosophy, and we will read the classical texts in translation.

Love and Friendship in Plato and Aristotle 

NB: Online course

Philosophers in antiquity devoted significant attention to the nature of the affective relations that draw human beings together. Why do people establish interpersonal bonds in the first place? What is distinctive of love (erôs) as opposed to friendship (philia)? What makes these attachments long-lasting or otherwise short-lived? Plato’s and Aristotle’s views on these issues has remained the starting point for any philosophical enquiry into the the nature of love and friendship. As is often the case, Plato and Aristotle come out with interestingly different answers to a set of shared questions, which makes it all the more interesting to compare and contrast their respective views. Most notably, Plato assigns a fundamental role to love, while Aristotle confines himself to a few pronouncements on that theme and, by contrast, has a lot to say about friendship. 
In this module we will look at the main texts on love and friendship by Plato and Aristotle. First, we will start with Plato’s Symposium: in this most famous work by Plato, participants in a drinking party deliver a series of speeches in praise of love. The apex of the dialogue is reached with Socrates’ own speech (201d-212c), which is based in large part on the teachings of a mysterious priestess called Diotima. Second, we will move on to Plato’s other great dialogue on love, the Phaedrus: here, too, the apex of the dialogue is reached when Socrates offers a speech in praise of love. Next, we shall look at Plato’s dialogue on friendship, the Lysis, together with a selection of passages from other works (e. g. Republic, Giorgias, Laws). The second part of the module will be devoted to Aristotle’s examination of friendship: this occurs in books VIII and IX of his Nicomachean Ethics as well as in book VII of his lesser-known ethical work, the Eudemian Ethics. Roughly speaking, one fifth of Aristotle’s ethical reflection in either ethical work is taken up by his examination of friendship, which speaks to the importance he attaches to this theme. We shall look in detail at how Aristotle goes about investigating this topic. Particular attention will be paid to some of the tenets he advocates, e.g. that friends wish one another well for their own sakes; that there are three species of friendship, but primary friendship is based on the other’s virtuous character; and that a friend is another self (allos autos). 
There are no requirements for enrolment in this module. All the texts will be read in English translation with occasional references to, and explanations of, key Greek terms. Here and there we will draw on literature (ranging from Shakespeare to Bob Dylan) and movies bearing on love and friendship. Select podcasts will be used as teaching aids. 

Beginner’s Greek with Plato

This course has been designed to enable students without any knowledge of Greek to begin to read and write the language in the original using Plato's Meno. We will use Frank Beetham's book Learning Greek with Plato - A beginner's course in Classical Greek, Liverpool University Press, 2014 and we expect to cover at least up to section 12 (p. 147) of this book.

We will start with the alphabet and accentuation and move on to examine basic rules of grammar and syntax concerning cases, the declension of nouns and the fundamental system of verb endings as well as the content of some selected passages from Plato's Meno. In our classes we will also discuss new vocabulary and we will aim to practice through exercises.

By the end if the course the student will be able to:
- understand the main rules of Greek grammar and syntax
- appreciate Plato's style and language
- begin to read Classical philosophy in Greek
- relate a translation of the text and follow a commentary on the basic ideas

The course is open to anyone interested in Platonic ideas and ancient philosophy in the original Greek. No prior knowledge of Greek is required for this course.

  • The full programme for the Summer School in Ancient Philosophy is currently under construction and will be available on this page as soon as possible
  • The cost of the Summer School is £160 and you can pay via UCL's online store. This includes all tuition.
  • Please note that for cancellations after 8 June 2024, there will be a cancellation fee of £50.


Please email the Summer School. Completed application forms should be emailed to the Director, Dr Nicolò Benzi.

Useful information

  • Regulatory Framework

The UCL regulatory framework for life learning applies to this Summer School.