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Tsinghua University

Plato, Socrates, and the Birth of Western Philosophy | 西方哲学精神探源

Tsinghua University via edX


This philosophy course explores the origins of Western philosophy – a rich tapestry of ideas that began with the most noted ancient Greek and Roman philosophers.

By examining the work of these historic figures, students will attain a strong grasp of Western philosophy’s basic spirit. In doing so, they’ll cultivate deeper thinking abilities, explore noble values, and learn to contemplate the world around them in new ways.



Week 1: Introduction (Part I): Philosophy, Religion and Culture

1. Philosophy

  1. Etymology
  2. Definition
  3. The history of philosophy

2. Religion

  1. Definition
  2. Factors
  3. The relationship with philosophy

3. Culture

  1. Definition
  2. Axial Period
  3. The spirit of philosophy

Week 2: Introduction (Part II): A Sketch of Ancient Greek Philosophy

1. The setting of the birth of Greek Philosophy

  1. Geography and history
  2. Races and language
  3. Religions and society

2. Periods and schools

  1. The early period
  2. The classical period
  3. The late period

3. The termination of Ancient Greek Philosophy

  1. Fading
  2. Sublating
  3. Realistic significance

Week 3: Seeking “ shi ”(是)- The Sprout of Rationality

1. A transition to rational thinking

  1. A primitive thinking
  2. A child-state thinking
  3. A poetic metaphysics

2. Heraclitus’ thinking

  1. A dipolar thinking
  2. The features of Heraclitus’ thinking
  3. An analysis to the fragments of Heraclitus’ texts

3. Parmenides’ thinking

  1. A long poem written by Parmenides(on being or “be”)
  2. Rational argument
  3. Evaluation criteria for the birth of philosophy

Week 4: Seeking “ben”(本)- Ontology & Metaphysics, Synopsis of Lecture IV

1. Seeking the origin: the early philosophers

  1. A lexical meaning
  2. An essential question
  3. What is the essence

2. Seeking the essence: Plato’s theory of Form

  1. The allegory of sun
  2. The divided line
  3. The allegory of the cave

3. Seeking to on : Aristotle’s ontology and metaphysics

  1. A lexical meaning
  2. Metaphysics
  3. The First Philosophy

Week 5: Seeking “ zhi ”(知)- The Ancient Epistemology

1. The lexical meaning

  1. The connotation of Chinese character
  2. A corresponding Greek word
  3. Equivalent to wisdom

2. Epistemology

  1. Plato
  2. Cicero
  3. Augustine

3. The features

  1. The objectification of knowledge
  2. Priori
  3. Knowability

Week 6: Seeking “ zhen ”(真)- Methodology & Logic

1. A lexical meaning

  1. True and truth
  2. Two types of reality
  3. Truth and Logos

2. Plato’s Dialectics(authentic true)

  1. The implication of epistemology
  2. The implication of methodology
  3. The implication of ontology

3. Aristotle’s Logics(judging true)

  1. Establishment
  2. The name of logics
  3. The Chinese translation

Week 7: Seeking “ shi ”(实)- Natural Sciences

1. A lexical meaning

  1. Science
  2. Nature and knowledge
  3. Natural sciences

2. The occurrence and development of the ancient Greek Science

  1. The reason for occurrence
  2. Nature-ology
  3. Practice and theory

3.The technicalization and application of ancient Greek Science

  1. The Hellenization Period
  2. The Roman Empire Period
  3. Some reflections

Week 8: Seeking “mei”(美)- Odes to the Love

1. A Lexical meaning

  1. Beauty
  2. Love
  3. Aesthetics

2. Plato’s theory of Love

  1. The essence and principle of love
  2. A psychological view on love
  3. Platonic Love

3. The high praise to the love god: A reading on Symposi um

  1. A brief introduction
  2. Six viewpoints
  3. Conclusion, philosophy of love

Week 9: Seeking “ shan ”(善)- An Ethical Thought

1. A lexical analysis

  1. Goodness
  2. The ultimate goodness
  3. Ethics

2. The development of the Classic Greek Ethics

  1. The early period
  2. The middle period
  3. The late period

3. From the ultimate goodness to the common goodness

  1. To reach the ultimate goodness
  2. To converge to the common goodness
  3. Some reflection on the goodness

Week 10: Seeking “ ren ”(仁)- A Humanism

1. A lexical meaning

  1. A man with benevolence is a true man
  2. Humanistic
  3. Humanistic spirit

2. Ancient humanistic trend of thoughts

  1. Traditional viewpoints
  2. Social setting
  3. The sophistic movement

3. A theoretical summary

Week 11: Seeking “ yi ”(义)- On Justice

1. A lexical analysis

  1. Justice and righteousness
  2. Chinese words
  3. Justice in Greek

2. The story of Gyges

  1. A synopsis of the story
  2. An explanation
  3. A conclusion

3. The Ancient theory of justice

  1. Plato’s essential justice
  2. Cicero’s natural justice
  3. Augustine’s justice in theodicy

Week 12: Seeking “ li ”(礼)- States and Legislation

1. An explanation to the related words.

  1. Physis
  2. Normos
  3. Politeia

2. A Platonic Republic

  1. The influence from Socrates
  2. Rule the state by virtues
  3. Rule the state by law

3. Cicero’s people’s Republic

  1. Being relevant to Plato’s thoughts
  2. Definition of state
  3. Natural law

Week 13: Seeking “ fu ”(福)——A Spirit of Religions

1. A lexical analysis

  1. Blessings
  2. Fortunate
  3. The true fortunate

2. The religious trends in the late period of ancient Greek philosophy

  1. The fading of the traditional religions
  2. The birth and development of Christianity
  3. The rationalization of Christianity

3. The collision between faith and reason (Tertullian)

Week 14: Seeking “ sheng ”(圣) - Communion with gods

1. An explanation to the related words.

  1. Sacredness
  2. Mystery
  3. Mysticism

2. Communion with gods.

  1. Communion with gods by rituals
  2. Communion with gods by ration
  3. Communion with gods by ecstasy

3. Plotinus’ mystical system of thoughts

Week 15: A General Summary - A Basic Spirit of the Ancient Greek Philosophy, Synopsis of Lecture XV.

1. The local characteristics of the ancient Greek Philosophy.
2. The progressive universalization of the ancient Greek Philosophy.
3. The basic spirits of the ancient Greek Philosophy.

Taught by

Xiaochao Wang



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  • Anonymous

    Anonymous is taking this course right now.

    Wow, first review on this course. I rate it as 2/5 stars for a few reasons, these are the bad ones: - the original voice is Chinese, but is dubbed by a computer (it will get annoying, at some point, when you just mute it) - the text of the video is both...

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