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Hellenistic Philosophy

Meet the Stoics, Skeptics, and Epicureans, and learn about the intellectual milieu of the Greco-Roman World into which Christianity was born.

Total classes: 6

Prerequisite: None

Suggested grade level: 9th to 12th grade

Suggested credit: ½ semester credit for Philosophy or Hellenistic Philosophy


What is true wisdom? Is it achieved through resignation to the designs of fate, the rational pursuit of pleasure, or the judicious suspension of all belief? The major schools of Hellenistic philosophy attempted to answer all of these questions and more, proposing philosophical paths to enlightenment and happiness accessible only through the study of philosophy. These schools had a major impact upon the culture and religion of the Greco-Roman World, and the Early Christians grappled with many of their specific claims and proposals as their own theology grew into maturity. In this course, will cover the essential elements of each Hellenistic school, examining clearly how they converge with and diverge from the Catholic understanding of wisdom and happiness.


Class One: Introduction, Socratic Background
Class Two: Stoicism: Enchiridion of Epictetus
Class Three: Stoicism: Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
Class Four: Epicureanism: Epicurus: Principal Doctrines
Class Five: Epicureanism: Epicurus: Principal Doctrines
Class Six: Skepticism: Sextus Empiricus “Outlines of Pyrrhonism”

Materials and Homework

Course Materials: All course materials will be made available from free online resources.

Homework: Homework will involve daily reading assignments from primary and secondary texts. These texts are short but dense and will require the student to read slowly and, in some cases, to go back and re-read. Expect to spend no less than an hour and a half per class reading. There will be three automated quizzes, one mid-term, and one final exam.

Important Dates

Class dates: Tuesdays, January 9 to February 13, 2024

Starting time: 2:30 PM Eastern (1:30 Central; 12:30 Mountain; 11:30 Pacific)

Duration per class: 55 minutes

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