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Philosophy of Nature

Philosophy of Nature
Phil 5317

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

Course Description

This course will consist primarily of a close reading of the first five books of Aristotle’s Physics, as well as the Commentary on these five books by St. Thomas Aquinas, whose work inspired Pico de Mirandola to remark that “without Thomas, Aristotle would be mute.”  We will also read the fragments of several of the most important pre-Socratic philosophers engaged by Aristotle in the Physics.

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 Aristotle’s Physics.  If there is sufficient interest, I will also run a Greek grammar group, once a week, for an hour, the goal of which will be to introduce students to classical Greek grammar.

Required Texts

1) Unless you read Greek quickly and accurately, you will need a trustworthy translation of Aristotle’s Physics.  There are several.  I recommend the Hardie and Gaye translation, which has been helpfully amended in:

The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation, Volume One.  Edited by Jonathan Barnes, Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1995.
ISBN13: 978-0-691-01650-4

This translation is readable and does not obscure Aristotle’s technical vocabulary.  It also does a decent job of highlighting some of the structure of the text with well-chosen paragraphing.   Please do not use the translations of the Greek text of Aristotle’s Physics which are found in the Blackwell/Spath/Thirlkel/Conway edition of St. Thomas’s Commentary on the Physics, as parts of these are misleading.

2) Unless you read Latin very quickly and accurately, you will need a trustworthy translation of St. Thomas’s Commentary on the Physics.  Luckily, an excellent one can be found at this link.  We, however, will use the Blackwell/Spath/Thirlkel/Conway edition, which can be found at:, or in hardback or paperback from an online bookseller.  When you read this English translation, you should look often to the Latin, as the translators frequently enough obscure St. Thomas’s techical vocabulary or make mistakes in translation, some of which are not minor.  The online text of this translation also contains annoying spelling errors (e.g. “motion” for “notion” i.e. “ratio” in a chapter whose entire point is to discuss two notions of one motion!), so you’ll need to be on the look out for those.  Pdfs. of this translation of the Commentary (with the Latin facing) are available in the “Course Texts” tab, in case you wish to download them for the sake of making annotations in the margins with your favorite .pdf annotation program (what is a good .pdf annotation program?  Have a look at iAnnotate.)   “Why use this translation?” you ask.  The only alternative is the abovementioned excellent one, which–of course–can be found at this link.

3) You will need a copy of:

A Presocratics Reader.  Edited by Patricia Curd, Translations by Richard D. McKirahan and Patricia Curd, Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.: Indianapolis/Cambridge, 2011.
ISBN13: 978-1-60384-598-4.

The University of Zagreb has a .pdf of this book posted online, the legality of which I am unsure of.


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.  Failure to submit your proposal by the deadline 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.

Participation (30%): This class will be run as a short lecture followed by a directed discussion of Aristotle’s Physics, St. Thomas’s Commentary on the Physics, and other texts.  Students are expected to attend and participate in each class meeting by generating questions about and analysis of both the Aristotle’s Physics and St. Thomas’s Commentary on the Physics.  Additionally, each student must post 2-5 substantive questions and/or talking points to the discussion board on Blackboard before 5pm the day before each class.  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 next day’s discussion.  Your questions/talking points may pertain to Aristotle’s Physics or St. Thomas’s Commentary on the Physics, or other texts provided.  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:

Class 1 (1/19) The Fragments of Parmenides, Anaxagoras, Empedocles, and Democritus
Class 2 (1/24) Physics, 1.1-1.2, Commentary, Lectio 1-4 (48)
Class 3 (1/26) Physics, 1.3-1.4, Commentary, Lectio 5-9 (55)
Class 4 (1/31) Physics, 1.5-1.6, Commentary, Lectio 10-11 (35)
Class 5 (2/2) Physics, 1.7, Commentary, Lectio 12-13 (27)
Class 6 (2/7 ) Physics, 1.8-1.9, Commentary, Lectio 14-15 (30)
Class 7 (2/9) Physics 2.1, Commentary, Lectio 1-2 (23)
Class 8 (14/16) Physics, 2.2-2.3, Commentary, Lectio 3-6 (46)
Class 9 (2/21) Physics, 2.4-2.5, Commentary, Lectio 7-9 (26)
Class 10 (2/23) Physics, 2.6-2.7, Commentary, Lectio 10-11 (26)
Class 11 (2/28) Physics, 2.8-2.9, Commentary, Lectio 12-15 (35)
Class 12 (3/2) Physics, 3.1, Commentary, Lectio 1-3 (26)
Class 13 (3/7) Phyiscs 3.2-3.4, Commentary, Lectio 4-7 (48)
Class 14 (3/9) Physics, 3.5, Commentary, Lectio 8-10 (31)
Spring Break (3/14-3/18)
Class 15 (3/21) Physics, 3.6-3.8 Commentary, Lectio 11-13 (21)
Class 16 (3/23) Physics, 4.1-4.3 Commentary, Lectio 1-4 (36)
Class 17 (3/28) Physics, 4.4-4.5 Commentary, Lectio 5-8 (45)
Class 18 (3/30) Physics, 4.6-4.8 Commentary, Lectio 9-11 (21)
Class 19 (4/4) Physics, 4.8-4.9 Commentary, Lectio 12-14 (39)
Class 20 (4/6) Physics, 4.9-4.11 Commentary, Lectio 15-19 (40)
Class 21 (4/11) Physics, 4.12-4.14 Commentary, Lectio 20-23 (44)
Class 22 (4/13) Physics, 5.1-5.2 Commentary, Lectio 1-4 (47)
Easter Break (4/14-4/18)
Class 22 (4/20) Physics, 5.3-5.4 Commentary, Lectio 5-7 (39)
Class 23 (4/25) Physics, 5.5-5.6 Commentary, Lectio 8-10 (36)
Class 24 (4/27) TBD
Class 25 (5/2) TBD
Class 26 (5/4) TBD