Department of Greek & Latin


UCL Summer School in Ancient Philosophy

Plato Aristotle by Raphael

University College London
Monday 29 July to Friday 02 August 2019

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. The fee is £120. 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.



How did philosophy start in Ancient Greece? What were the Ancients thinking about, 2,500 thousands 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. 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. The course will alternate between general historical and cultural information about the philosophers and the society they lived in, theoretical reflections on the issues they addressed and the solution they proposed, and a close reading and analysis of some of the key texts inherited from Antiquity.


This course aims to give the student a good grounding in Ancient Metaphysical thinking spanning a period of 300 years. We will start by looking at some of the early Pre-Socratic accounts, before moving towards Plato's theory of the Forms. We will then focus on critiques of the Forms, especially those given in Plato's Parmenides and, later, by Aristotle. We will then further our study into Aristotle, before concluding with a day on the cosmological views of the Hellenistic philosophers.


What is happiness? How can it be achieved? Is virtue sufficient for it? Is happiness subject to luck? What is the value of friendship in the happy life? These are some of the questions dealt with by ancient philosophers. In this module we shall consider the answers to these questions given by Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Stoics, and Epicureans with a view to assessing their philosophical merits and reconstructing the underlying debate on ethics in classical antiquity.


What is knowledge? Is it something that we innately possess or a type of inspiration? Or is it like a skill intentionally acquired through training? What are the processes involved in the attainment of knowledge? How does knowledge differ from belief and mere opinion? The ancient philosophers considered these questions to be intimately bound up with the aim of philosophy, namely the seeking of wisdom. Since to be wise is to lead a good life and wisdom is a type of knowledge, unless we understand the nature of knowledge and the means by which it is attained we are unable to lead a good life. The theoretical consideration regarding the nature of knowledge is an urgent practical matter and the ancient philosophers expended massive amounts of energy on answering this challenge in diverse and inventive ways. By pursuing their answers to these questions, this course will provide a clear map of the emergence of rationalism, relativism, empiricism and scepticism in ancient philosophy.


What is Love, and how is it beneficial to humankind? These are the questions that the guests at Plato's Symposium try to answer by providing a series of speeches in praise Eros. This course will give students the opportunity to engage with these answers through a close reading of the dialogue in the original Ancient Greek. Along with the translation of the dialogue, the course will touch on metaphysical, ethical and epistemological issues central to Plato's philosophy. Students will then be able to practice and perfect their translation skills as well as to appreciate the literary quality and philosophical importance of one of the most famous works of Classical antiquity.

  • The programme for the Summer School in Ancient Philosophy
  • The cost of the Summer School is £120 and you can pay via UCL's online store. This includes all tuition, but not accommodation or travel expenses.


Please email the Summer School. Completed application forms should be returned to:
Dr Nicolò Benzi
UCL Summer School in Ancient Philosophy,
c/o Department of Greek and Latin,
University College London,
Gower Street,
London WC1E 6BT

Useful information

  • How to find us

University College London's Bloomsbury campus is located close to Euston station, and a short walk from Kings Cross/St Pancras.

➣ A map of the campus
➣ Information on local bus and tube services

  • Accommodation

The Summer School is non-residential. However, students who require somewhere to stay can (subject to availability) arrange accommodation in a University of London Hall of Residence. Details of prices, availability and information on how to book can be found on the website of the University of London. Places may be also available in a UCL Hall of Residence: for further information see the UCL Residences website.

  • Regulatory Framework

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