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Phil 6393-B

Instructor: Dr. David Squires
Office and Hours: by appointment

Course Description

This course is composed of two parts, 1) a preparatory part that will focus on close readings of several of Plato’s dialogues that were of great importance to neo-Platonic philosophers, and 2) a main part that will focus on the work of the pagan Neo-Platonists Plotinus and Proclus, as well as the Christian Neo-Platonist Dionysius.

Greek Reading Group(s)

Attached to this course will be an optional Greek reading group in which, once a week, for an hour, we will slowly read a Greek text of Proclus’s Elements of Theology.  If there is sufficient interest, I will also run an optional Greek grammar group, once a week, for an hour, the goal of which will be to introduce students to classical Greek grammar.

Required Texts

Plato: Complete Works, Ed. John M. Cooper, Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company (1997).
ISBN-13: 978-0-87220-349-5

Plotinus: The Enneads, Ed. Lloyd P. Gerson, Trans. George Boys-Stones, John M. Dillon, Lloyd P. Gerson, R. A. H. King, Andrew Smith, and James Wilberding, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2018).
ISBN-13: 978-1-108-71242-2

Plotinus: Porphyry on Plotinus/Ennead 1, Trans. A. H. Armstrong, Cambridge: Harvard University Press (1966).
ISBN-13: 978-0-674-99484-3

Plotinus: Ennead 4, Trans. A. H. Armstrong, Cambridge: Harvard University Press (1984).
ISBN-10: 0-674-99488-4

Plotinus: Ennead 5, Trans. A. H. Armstrong, Cambridge: Harvard University Press (1984).
ISBN-13: 978-0-674-99489-8

Plotinus: Ennead 6, Trans. A. H. Armstrong, Cambridge: Harvard University Press (1988).
ISBN-10: 0-674-99490-6

Proclus: Elements of Theology, Second Edition, Trans. E. R. Dodds, Oxford: Oxford University Press (1963).
ISBN-10: 0-19-814097-5

Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works, Trans. Colm Luibheid, New York: Paulist Press (1987).
ISBN-10: 0-8091-28380-1

*Some works of Plotinus appear in both the Gerson and Armstrong editions of the Enneads, but both editions are required for the course, since comparison of translations is essential for non-Greek-readers, given the obscurity of Plotinus’s Greek.  The Loeb editions (i.e. Armstrong’s translation) of the Enneads can usually be purchased for very reasonable prices, so the number of texts should not run up a fantastic bill for you.


Term Paper (70%): Each student must submit a 15-20 pp. argumentative term paper for this course by xx/xx/2022.  A proposal of your paper must be submitted by xx/xx/2022.  Late proposals will result in a lowered participation score.  Your term paper should engage secondary literature relevant to your prosed paper topic, and your proposal should provide a short bibliography of the secondary literature you intend to use.  You are responsible for tracking down and making proper use of this material, though I will provide a list of some important books and articles relevant to the course.  Late term papers will result in a lowered participation score.

Participation (30%): The first part of this course will be run as a short lecture followed by a directed discussion of various Platonic dialogues.  Students are expected to attend and participate in each class meeting by generating questions about and analysis of the Platonic dialogues under discussion.  The second part of this course will be run as a directed walk-through/discussion of various neo-Platonic texts.  In the first half of each class, I will provide an overview of the week’s reading and then we will walk slowly and meticulously through certain sections–predetermined by me–of the assigned text.  I will ask students to interpret or analyze the text, and I will provide direction and feedback.  If this sounds intimidating to you, don’t mind it.  The discussions will be friendly and the point is to get a very close look each week at key portions of the assigned reading.  The second half of each class will be a more open-ended discussion of the texts, where students have more control over the direction of the conversation, and I field student questions.  Students are expected to attend and participate in each class meeting by facilitating the walk-through and generating questions and analysis during the discussion.  Additionally, each student must post 2-5 substantive questions and/or talking points to a discussion board on Blackboard before midnight the Saturday before each class (during both part 1 and 2 of the course).  The board will not be used for discussion, but only as a place to share your questions/talking points with the instructor and other students in the class before the week’s discussion.  The point of this exercise is manifold.  1) I will get some idea as to the level of student comprehension of the text. 2)  I will have some time to consider student questions before class.  3) Students will see other questions about or analysis of the text that may not have occurred to them during their own reading.  4) Students will get an idea of what others were thinking about while reading, which may facilitate discussion in and outside of class. The instructor may call upon students to further elucidate their posts in class in order to facilitate discussion.

Academic Policies:

Disabilities: If you have a disability that may require special assistance, please contact Counseling Services/Disability Services, which is located on the second floor of Crooker Center.  You may also call Debby Jones or Rose Signorello at (713) 525-6983 or (713) 525-3162.

Academic Integrity: Students are expected to comply with the University of St. Thomas’s Academic Integrity policy (A.02.11).  You are in graduate school.  The penalty for academic dishonesty of any kind is a failing grade for the course, as well as my recommendation to the Chair that you be dismissed from the program.

Classroom Etiquette: Please avoid any distracting activities during class.

Recording Policy: Do not produce audio or video recordings of classroom lectures or discussions, unless you have permission from me.

Tentative Schedule:

Part 1:

Class 1 (x/x) Plato: Alcibiades 1 and Phaedo
Class 2 (x/x) Plato: Phaedrus and Symposium
Class 3 (x/x) Plato: Sophist and Parmenides
Class 4 (x/x) Plato: Timaeus and Philebus

Part 2:

Class 5 (x/x) Plotinus: Introduction to Plotinus (Life of Plotinus, Ennead 1.6 On Beauty and Ennead 5.1 On the Three Primary Hypostases)
Class 6 (x/x) Plotinus: On the One (Ennead 6.9 On the Good or the One and Ennead 5.4 How that Which is after the First Comes from the First, and On the One)
Class 7 (x/x) Plotinus: On Intellect 1 (Ennead 5.3 On the Knowing Hypostasis and That Which is Transcendent and Ennead 5.9 On Intellect, Ideas, and Being)
Class 8 (x/x) Plotinus: On Intellect 2 (Ennead 5.8 On Intelligible Beauty and Ennead 5.5 That the Intelligibles are not Outside of the Intellect, and on the Good)
Class 9 (x/x) Plotinus: On the Presence of the Intelligible to the Sensible (Ennead 6.4 On the Presence of Being, One and the Same, Everywhere, As a Whole Part 1 and Ennead 6.5 Part 2)
Class 10 (x/x) Plotinus: On the Soul (Ennead 4.3 Selections TBD)
Class 11 (x/x) Proclus: Elements of Theology (Propositions 1-24, One and Many, Causes, Grades of Reality)
Class 12 (x/x) Proclus: Elements of Theology(Propositions 25-65, Procession and Reversion, Self-Constitution, Time and Eternity, Grades of Causality)
Class 13 (x/x) Proclus: Elements of Theology (Propositions 66-96 Wholes and Parts, Relation of Causes to Effects, Being/Limit/Infinitude)
Class 14 (x/x) Pseudo-Dionysius: Divine Names and selections from St. Thomas’s In Librum Beati Dionysii De Divinis Nominibus Expositio
Class 15 (x/x) Pseudo-Dionysius: Divine Names Cont. and further selections from St. Thomas’s In Librum Beati Dionysii De Divinis Nominibus Expositio