Course Code
PHIL 0015 / RELI 0015
Course Type
Subject Credit
Course Availability

This course introduces students to some of the most important thinkers and debates of Late Antiquity (roughly 200 to 800 A.D.), which is regarded as the watershed between the Ancient World and the European Middle Ages. In philosophy one of the most important developments since the time of Plato and Aristotle took place with the rise of Neo-Platonism. In the religious/social sphere the growth of Christianity and its institution as the religion of the Empire coincided with the disappearance of the religion of pre-Christian Rome and the political decline of the Empire. These events helped to generate wide-ranging debates, among Christians and between Christians and non-Christians. With the disintegration of ancient culture, the writings of thinkers such as Augustine, Basil, Boethius, Cassiodorus and Isidore were to play in important part in the preservation of ancient learning, as was the development of monasticism.

Set texts:

Plotinus, Enneads

Porphyry, Isagoge

Creed, Canons and Synodal Letter of the First Council of Nicaea

Athanasius, Life of Antony, Discourses against the Arians

Basil the Great , Address to young men on reading Greek literature

Ambrose, Epistles 17, 18 & 57

Augustine, City of God

Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy

Isidore of Seville, Etymologies

Pseudo-Dionysius, The Divine Names

Sample topics:

1.    Church fathers, heresiarchs and the development of conciliar thought

2.    The christian/pagan debate: Ambrose, Symmachus and the Altar of Victory

3.    The development of neo-platonism: Plotinus and Porphyry

4.    Athanasius, Arius and the Council of Nicaea

5.    Augustine and the two cities

6.    Predestination and freedom: Augustine and Pelagius

7.    ‘Despoiling the Egyptians’: Augustine, Boethius and the ‘christianising’ of ancient thought

8.    Cassiodorus, Isidore of Seville and the preservation of ancient learning

9.    Pseudo-Dionysius and the development of apophatic/negative theology