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Philosophy in Late Antiquity


Admission requirements

Admission to one of the following programmes is required:

  • MA Philosophy 60 EC: specialisation Modern European Philosophy

  • MA Philosophy 60 EC: specialisation Global and Comparative Philosophy

  • MA Philosophy 120 EC: specialisation Philosophy of Humanities

  • MA Philosophy 120 EC: specialisation Philosophy in World Traditions

  • (Res)MA Classics and Ancient Civilizations: Classics

Basic knowledge of ancient philosophy, esp. Aristotle, is required.


The subject of this course is Aristotle’s Metaphysics and the late ancient commentary tradition on that work.

The seminar involves the student in a detailed study of one of Aristotle’s most influential works, the Metaphysics. The student reads large sections of this work together with the state-of-the-art in Aristotelian studies and compares them to parallel passages in late ancient commentaries on the Metaphysics and related works, written by e.g. Alexander of Aphrodisias (c. 200 CE), Syrianus (c 400 CE), and Asclepius (c. 500 CE).

How do the late ancient commentators deal with the concern of modern readers of the same text: the subject matter and scientific method of metaphysics, the concept of being, the relation between metaphysics and theology, the existence of the objects of mathematics, and the metaphysics of the products of the crafts? In the seminar we will see the wheels of philosophical development in motion and we will inspect up close how a different time and age may influence an intelligent reader of one and the same text. And how well do we fare ourselves, while we grapple with the classical questions of being, science, mathematics and theology?

Course objectives

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • metaphysics in Aristotle and late antiquity;

  • factors that influence the reception of a philosophical text and thereby the historical development of philosophy.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • interpret complex primary texts;

  • assess differences and agreements between philosophical positions and arguments;

  • reconstruct ancient debates on the interpretation of Aristotle;

  • critically assess modern secondary literature and recognize its dependence on ancient traditions of interpretation;

  • argue convincingly for his/her own interpretation of ancient philosophical texts.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Class attendance is required.

Assessment method


  • Oral presentation (25%)

  • Final paper (75%)


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of the two subtests (see above).


The resit will consists of a revised final paper (75%). The grade for the presentation will remain in place.
Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination cannot take the resit.

Inspection and feedback

Feedback on oral presentation by class and teacher; written feedback on final paper, with appointment on request.

Reading list

  • Reeve, C.D.C. 2016. Aristotle Metaphysics. Translated, with Introduction and Notes.The New Hackett Aristotle: Hacket Publishing Company.

Further readings to be provided in class.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga


Not applicable.