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CLASSICS 35: The Good Life: An Introduction to Ancient Greek Ethical Philosophy

The ancient Greeks longed for happiness, but life often led to suffering and anxiety. In ancient Greece, the traditional value system focused on gaining honor, wealth, power, and success¿external goods that could be taken away at any time. The Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle set forth ethical theories designed to alleviate suffering and anxiety. They rejected the traditional Greek value system, focusing on inner goodness rather than on external rewards. Developing inner goodness was the only way to live a happy and fulfilled life. In this class, we read Greek tragedies by Sophocles and Euripides that represent traditional Greek values. We examine the values, motivation, and choices of tragic characters who faced difficult ethical dilemmas¿choices that led to misery and ruin. What were their tragic flaws? Could they have avoided their fates by adopting a different value system? We also examine the ethical theories of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. We analyze their discussions of justice, courage, friendship, love, and self-knowledge. Do these philosophical theories offer a valid way to live a happy life? Can we develop these virtues? If so, how do we do this? Do we need to have these virtues to live a happy life? Do the ancient philosophers offer useful solutions to ethical questions in our own day? Can their philosophies help us to become better and happier people?
Terms: not given this year, last offered Spring 2019 | Units: 3-5 | UG Reqs: GER:DB-Hum, GER:EC-EthicReas, WAY-ER | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)
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