Leeds University Library

PHIL1120
Great Philosophical Thinkers reading list

Great Philosophical Thinkers, 2017/18, Semester 1
Nick Jones
n.o.jones@leeds.ac.uk
Tutor information is taken from the Module Catalogue

General

A good general source book for the issues covered on this module is Adam Morton’s Philosophy in practice : an introduction to the main questions (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), which has readable chapters and useful exercises on many of the topics we’ll cover. There are multiple copies of this book in the library.

For a brief overview of Descartes, Locke, Berkeley and Hume (plus 2 other philosophers) see Richard Francks’ Modern philosophy : the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries(London: Routledge, 2003)

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Plato

The best way of building up an understanding of Plato (and his presentation of Socrates) is to read the primary texts. In this module, we focus particularly on the Meno and the Republic, so it is important to read those in a good edition. But it is valuable to build up your understanding by reading more widely in Plato, by reading the Apology (not an apology, but Socrates’ defence speech at his trial – this is what ‘apologia’ means in Greek), and other dialogues such as Euthyphro, Phaedo, Crito, Protagoras, Gorgias. More difficult, but more relevant to our focus on knowledge and belief, would be the Theaetetus.

Recommended translations, often with explanatory notes:

  • Hackett translations (cheap, excellent): “Five dialogues” (Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo) (transl. Grube, revised Cooper); separately – Protagoras (tr. Lombardo/Bell), Gorgias (tr. Zeyl), Republic (tr. Grube, rev. Reeve), Theaetetus (tr. Levett, revised and with superb explanatory notes by Burnyeat).
    • Plato’s ‘Complete Works’ ed. Cooper includes the above and all the rest. It’s expensive perhaps as a one-off, but a worthy investment.
  • Penguin translations (cheap, mostly pretty good): e.g. Protagoras and Meno (tr. Beresford), Gorgias (tr. Hamilton), Republic (tr. Lee).
  • Cambridge translations (excellent, but sometimes more expensive): Meno (tr. Sedley/Long); Gorgias, Menexenus and Protagoras (tr. Griffith); Republic (tr. Griffith).
  • Clarendon translations with commentaries (more expensive, but very useful): e.g. Meno (Day), Protagoras (Taylor), Gorgias (Irwin), Theaetetus (McDowell).
    • There is also an excellent commentary on the Meno by Dominic Scott (CUP).

Avoid the translations by Waterfield (e.g. Republic published by Oxford University Press). And try to avoid cheap / free online translations that usually are very old and potentially misleading, and usually don’t use the correct referencing system for Plato.

Beyond reading the text, the best next step is to read some of the secondary literature on it. Since our knowledge of Socrates comes primarily through Plato’s works, there is considerable overlap between the literature on Socrates and on Plato.

Socrates

NPlato

  • Annas, J. (1998) An Introduction To Plato’s Republic, Oxford : New York, Oxford University Press, U.S.A.
  • Annas, J. (2003) Plato: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford ; New York, OUP Oxford.
  • Cooper, J.M. (ed.), Plato: Complete works (Indianapolis, Ind.: Hackett Publishing, 1997), Introduction
  • Ferrari, G.R.F. (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Plato's Republic (Cambridge: CUP, 2007)
  • Fine, G. (ed.), Plato 1: Metaphysics and Epistemology (New York: OUP, 1999),
  • Irwin, T., Classical thought (Oxford: OUP, 1989), chapter on Plato
  • Benson, H. H. (2015) Clitophon’s Challenge: Dialectic in Plato’s Meno, Phaedo, and Republic, Oxford, Oxford University Press.
  • Kraut, R. (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Plato (Cambridge: CUP, 1992)
  • Kraut, R. (2017) ‘Plato’, Fall 2017. in Zalta, E. N. (ed), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University [Online]. Available at https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2017/entries/plato/ (Accessed 14 September 2017).
  • Santas, G.X. (ed.), The Blackwell guide to Plato's Republic ISBN: 9781405115643 (pbk. : alk. paper); 1405115637 (hbk. : alk. paper); 1405115645 (pbk. : alk. paper); 9781405115636 (hbk. : alk. paper) (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2006) - Michael Ferejohn’s chapter (“Knowledge, Recollection, and the Forms in Republic VII” appears in the readings coursepack for this module

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Aristotle

As with Plato, the best way to get to know Aristotle’s philosophy is to read his texts. But these are quite difficult for the beginner to navigate. His easiest texts are probably the Nicomachean Ethics (good translations by Ross / Brown (Oxford), Irwin (Hackett), Rowe (Oxford)), or the Eudemian Ethics, and the Politics. His psychological works, e.g. De Anima (‘On the Soul’), are quite accessible too. For our focus on knowledge / understanding in this module, read Metaphysics A (book 1), Topics book 1, and Posterior Analytics book 1. There’s a pretty helpful Penguin translation, with extra explanatory notes, by Hugh Lawson-Tancred, which I recommend.

Secondary Literature (i.e. modern philosophical scholarship on Aristotle):

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Descartes

The basic story of the Meditations is presented in more formal style in Part 1 of the Principles of Philosophy, and is amplified and clarified in the Objections and Replies that were published with the Meditations. To get a grasp of Descartes’ wider views about what the world is really like, and where we fit into it, have a look at the incomplete The World and Treatise of man ISBN: 0674907108 (both of which he abandoned in 1633 when he heard of the church’s condemnation of Galileo for advocating the theory that the earth was not the centre of the universe), or at later parts of the Principles.

Commentaries on Descartes:

I take the view that anything you read on the subject is useful, not necessarily because it feeds directly into your essay, but in the sense that even the act of reading something and deciding it isn’t relevant to your topic helps you to clarify what that topic is, and to see more clearly what is relevant. Here are some good modern commentaries. All are in the libraries, sometimes several copies.

I particularly recommend the following:

Writers on Other Topics Covered

General

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Berkeley

General

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This list was last updated on 19/09/2017