MA in Ancient Philosophy Modules


Module A: Good, pleasure and happiness

What is required for living well? What should we pursue as our ultimate end, our final good? What is eudaimonia (‘happiness’ or ‘flourishing’), and how may we secure it? How does pleasure relate to happiness, and what contributes to pleasure? How do the virtues contribute to one’s happiness? How do the ‘goods of fortune’ contribute to our happiness? How should we face death and evil?

Module B: Knowledge and desire in virtue

What are the virtues, and how do they contribute to our well-being? The four cardinal virtues of wisdom, bravery, temperance, and justice. The notion of virtue as a special skill, or craft. How what we desire relates to what we believe is good and bad. Rational and non-rational desires. Plato’s division of the soul. Aristotle’s notion of virtue as a mean. Weakness of will.

Module C: The good of others

Justice and our concern for the good of others. How do we benefit from being just? Morality, justice, and self-interest. Justice as a virtue. Friendship. Epicurus on virtue and justice.

Module D: Virtue and happiness

The Stoic notion that virtue is sufficient for happiness. Why the virtuous person can suffer no harm. What counts as benefiting from our goods? Aristotle on the life of virtue. Epicurus and the notion that our happiness must be in our control and independent of external circumstances. Are external goods necessary for happiness? The Stoic notion of living a life in accord with nature. Rational agents, rational choice and the notion of directing our desires rationally. Happiness identified with the life of virtuous action. The Stoic notions of freedom from emotion and the distinction between what is really good and what is merely preferred.


Proceeding from the survey conducted in Part One, in this Part of the programme students will chose to study in depth the texts of two, three, or four of the following key contributors to ancient philosophy.

Module E: Plato

Students taking this Module will study several of Plato’s early dialogues, including the Apology of Socrates. Socrates on virtue and ‘excellence of character’, and his notion of philosophy as ‘care of the soul’. What is the ‘Socratic Method’ of teaching? ‘Socratic irony’. What is good, and what is happiness? Socrates on hedonism. Is virtue sufficient for happiness? Virtue as a craft. Socrates on justice.

Module F: Aristotle

Students taking this Module will study Aristotle’s work, Nicomachean Ethics. The nature of eudaimonia (‘happiness’). What is moral virtue (excellence of character), and how is it acquired? Aristotle’s notion of human function, and his ‘doctrine of the mean’. Voluntary, involuntary and non-voluntary actions. How is intemperance different from incontinence? Aristotle on friendship and contemplation.

Module G: The Philosophy of Epicurus

Students taking this Module will study the extant texts of Epicurus and other Epicurean texts and sources for Epicureanism. Hedonism and the notion that pleasure is the good and constitutive of eudaimonia (‘happiness’). Epicurean philosophy and its aim to free us from fear and anxiety (especially from the fear of death). Ataraxia (tranquillity). Epicurus on desire, how to limit desire, and the notion of ‘natural limits’ to desire.

Module H: The Philosophy of the Stoic Epictetus

Students taking this Module will study Epictetus’ Handbook as well as examine a range of Stoic extracts. How, according to the Stoics, do we secure eudaimonia (‘happiness’)? The Stoic notion of the good. Epictetus on what is ‘in our power’ and ‘making correct use of impressions’. What is truly desirable? Stoics on extirpating ‘the passions’. The role of God in Epictetus’ philosophy. The Stoic notion of ‘living in accord with nature’. Facing adversity as a Stoic.


Candidates will be required to acquire up to six main textbooks (depending on how many Modules they elect to study). Other books will be recommended, and students may wish to acquire some of them. Advice on supplementary reading will be offered for all Modules, which students may pursue as they please. Details will be provided upon acceptance onto the programme.


  1. No research proposal is necessary for this programme. You work through the chosen modules and are assessed on them.
  2. The tuition fee does not include textbooks, communication costs (telephone/fax/Internet access/postage) or other items.
  3. Textbooks will cost between US$100 to US$200. Further reading is actively encouraged.
  4. Accepted students can matriculate on the first of any month.
  5. There are no residency requirements for this programme.
  6. Successful candidates, upon completing all requirements, will be awarded a Master of Arts degree in Ancient Philosophy.
  7. Admission requirements and application details can be found on the How to Apply page.