Contact a Humanities Office or Academic unit.
Find your course outlines.

CLASSICS 3M03 Greek Intellectual Revolution

Academic Year: Winter 2018

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Sean Corner


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 710

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 26546

Office Hours: For appointments, contact Ms. Andrea Perco-Hough at:

Course Objectives:

This is a course not in philosophy, but in the history of ideas.  That is to say, we shall not be assessing in their own right the ideas and arguments of the landmark thinkers whom we shall be reading, but exploring the place of those ideas in the history of Greece during the Archaic and Classical periods.  We shall explore the origins of rationalistic and naturalistic thought and its relationship to mythic and poetic thought.  We shall consider the cultural psychology of the Greeks over time, and the development of Greek ethical and political values. We shall explore that central Greek preoccupation—the relationship between knowledge and language—and consider the invention in this time period of new forms of language, genres of text, and disciplines of knowledge.  We shall examine all of these questions in their context, asking what relationship existed between developments in thought and developments in society and culture.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

The following books are available for purchase at The Campus Store:

Homer, Iliad, trans. R. Fagles, Penguin Classics 1998                                              

Hesiod, Theogony and Works and Days, trans. M.L. West, Oxford World’s Classics 2008                         

Waterfield, R., trans., The First Philosophers, Oxford World’s Classics 2009

Herodotus, The Histories, trans. A. de Selincourt, Penguin, 2003

Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, trans. S. Lattimore, Hackett, 1998

Plato, Five Dialogues, trans. G.M.A. Grube and J.M. Cooper, Hackett 2002                       

Plato, Republic, trans. C.D.C. Reeve, Hackett 2004


A further title is also available at The Campus Store, but is not required for the course: J.-P. Vernant The Origins of Greek Thought.  We shall not be reading this in class, but it provides a good, accessible overview of many of the themes we shall be discussing.

Method of Assessment:

Midterm 1                                           25%    

Midterm 2                                           25%

Final Exam                                          50%

The format of the midterms and the final exam will be discussed in class.

The final exam, which the registrar will schedule during the examination period, will be based on the material covered throughout the course.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Readings marked with an asterisk are from the required texts for the course.  All other readings may be found on the course Avenue site.


Week of Jan. 8th          Supernatural Causation, Divine Inspiration, and the Authority of Tradition

Read:   *Homer, Iliad, books 1 and 22

Buxton, R., ‘Introduction’ in From Myth to Reason

Snell, B., ‘The Olympian Gods’ in The Discovery of the Mind


Week of Jan. 15th         The Order of the Zeus and Mythopoetic Thought

Read:   *Hesiod, Theogony

Detienne, M., ‘Truth and Society’ and ‘The Memory of the Poet’ in The Masters of Truth in Archaic Greece


Week of Jan. 22nd        The Order of the Zeus and Mythopoetic Thought (continued)

Read:   *Hesiod, Works and Days

Vernant, J-P., ‘The Society of the Gods’ and ‘The Reason of Myth’ in Myth and Society in Ancient Greece


Week of Jan. 29th        The Reason of Myth


Week of Feb. 5th          The Origins of Naturalistic Thought

Read:   Vernant, J-P., ‘The Formation of Positivist Thought in Archaic Greece’ in Myth and Thought among the Greeks

Detienne, M., ‘The Process of Secularization’ in The Masters of Truth in Archaic Greece

Fri. Feb. 9th: First midterm test (in class, regular room)


Week of Feb. 12th        The First Philosophers

Read: *‘The Milesians’, ‘Xenophanes of Colophon’ and ‘Heraclitus of Ephesus’ in The First Philosophers

Irwin, T., ‘The Naturalist Movement’ in Classical Thought


Week of Feb. 19th        No class: Midterm Recess


Week of Feb. 26th        The Birth of History: Hecataeus & Herodotus

Read:   *Herodotus 1.1-1.94, 1.131-1.140, 2.1-2.36, 7.1-21

Luce, T.J., ‘Before History’, ‘Herodotus and Historia’, and ‘Father of History’ in The Greek Historians


Week of Mar. 5th         Language, Truth, and Power: Athens & Sophism

Read:   *‘Protagoras of Abdera’ and ‘Gorgias of Leontini’ in The First Philosophers

Irwin, T., ‘Doubts about Naturalism’ in Classical Thought

Dodds, E.R., ‘Rationalism and Reaction in the Classical Age’ in The Greeks and the Irrational 


Week of Mar. 12th        Democracy, War, and Scientific History: Thucydides

Read:   *Thucydides 1.1-1.23, 1.139-1.146, 2.34-2.65, 3.25-3.49, 3.69-3.84, 6.1-6.24

Luce, T.J., ‘Thucydides: Subject and Methods’ and ‘Thucydides: Science and Tragedy’ in The Greek Historians


Week of Mar. 19th        The Examined Life: Socrates

Read:   *Plato, Apology in ‘Five Dialogues’

Ober, J., ‘4.A. Plato and Socrates in Athens’ and ‘4.B. Gadflly Ethics’ in Political Dissent in Democratic Athens Irwin, T., ‘Socrates’ in Classical Thought

Tue Mar. 20th: Second midterm test (in class, regular room)


Week of Mar 26th        The Examined Life: Socrates (continued)

[No class on the 30th: Good Friday]


Week of Apr. 2nd         Creating the Philosopher and Recreating the City: Plato

Read:   *Plato, Republic, books 2-5  

Ober, ‘4.D. A Polis Founded in Speech: Republic’ in Political Dissent in Democratic Athens