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Learner Reviews & Feedback for Ancient Philosophy: Plato & His Predecessors by University of Pennsylvania

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347 reviews

About the Course

What is philosophy? How does it differ from science, religion, and other modes of human discourse? This course traces the origins of philosophy in the Western tradition in the thinkers of Ancient Greece. We begin with the Presocratic natural philosophers who were active in Ionia in the 6th century BCE and are also credited with being the first scientists. Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximines made bold proposals about the ultimate constituents of reality, while Heraclitus insisted that there is an underlying order to the changing world. Parmenides of Elea formulated a powerful objection to all these proposals, while later Greek theorists (such as Anaxagoras and the atomist Democritus) attempted to answer that objection. In fifth-century Athens, Socrates insisted on the importance of the fundamental ethical question—“How shall I live?”—and his pupil, Plato, and Plato’s pupil, Aristotle, developed elaborate philosophical systems to explain the nature of reality, knowledge, and human happiness. After the death of Aristotle, in the Hellenistic period, Epicureans and Stoics developed and transformed that earlier tradition. We will study the major doctrines of all these thinkers. Part I will cover Plato and his predecessors. Part II will cover Aristotle and his successors....

Top reviews


Apr 19, 2020

Excellent course. This course has opened up ancient philosophy to me and made it accessible. I feel I have finished the course a good understanding of such keys texts as Plato's Republic and Timaeus.


Mar 09, 2016

Good intro to early Greek philosophy. Dr Meyer has a simple and subtly humorous approach to the material. Dr Meyer makes the subject approachable so that the student wants to do further reading.

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1 - 25 of 339 Reviews for Ancient Philosophy: Plato & His Predecessors

By Laurent G

Apr 26, 2019

Excellent course, Pr. Sauvé-Meyer keeps the material very engaging, and makes it very clear and easily accessible. Knowing how difficult the original texts are sometimes, this is very valuable.

By Ruan W C C

Jun 08, 2020

My experience with this course was fantastic. I could learn deeply about Ancient Philosophy and Plato's work, their relation and their vision of the world of that time, the start of what we know today as scientific inquiry and the revolution they made by trying to investigate the principles of the universe. The insights from the professor were interesting and made me gain confidence in what I was studying. I had the feeling of being doing real Philosophy using the "logos" during the discussion on Forums and while working on the final project and reviewing other people's work. I would like to thank the University of Pennsylvania, the professor Meyer and Coursera for this amazing opportunity.

By leslie l

Mar 09, 2016

Good intro to early Greek philosophy. Dr Meyer has a simple and subtly humorous approach to the material. Dr Meyer makes the subject approachable so that the student wants to do further reading.

By Nicolau N S

Apr 15, 2020

This was an extraordinary learning experience. I wanna thank and congratulate coursera and specially teacher Susan Meyer for the clean communication. This will definitely help me in the future.


Feb 05, 2019

Excellent Course guide (Professor Meyer) and Materials.

Very short but effective lectures.Its difficult to provide whole theme in short lectures but Professor has done this job fabulously.

By Catherine C

Apr 22, 2020

What a great class! This was my first foray into the history of philosophy, and this was the perfect introductory class. The professor, Susan Meyer, is exceptional. Her lectures are interesting, intellectual, and clever. I learned a great deal, and while the class was challenging, it was so interesting that I didn't mind doing the work. I even found myself reading non-assigned texts for my own enjoyment. I am grateful I found this class, and look forward to part two.

By Genesis J T S

May 20, 2020

Excellent course. This course has opened up ancient philosophy to me and made it accessible. I feel I have finished the course a good understanding of such keys texts as Plato's Republic. Excellent Course guide (Professor Meyer) and Materials.

Pr. Sauvé-Meyer keeps the material very engaging, and makes it very clear and easily accessible. Knowing how difficult the original texts are sometimes, this is very valuable.

By Dan S

May 06, 2020

This course was wonderful. Dr. Meyer does a wonderful job taking deep topics and making them very understandable and relatable, the mark of a good educator!

For those who have inquiring minds and a love of knowledge, the course offers a great deal. It takes you back to those Naturalist philosophers who preceded Socrates and winds through all the way to the amazing Dialogs of Plato. Highly recommended.

By Alan A

Apr 19, 2020

Excellent course. This course has opened up ancient philosophy to me and made it accessible. I feel I have finished the course a good understanding of such keys texts as Plato's Republic and Timaeus.

By Christine S

Jun 17, 2020

This was my 13th Coursera class and among the best I've taken through this platform. Dr. Susan Sauve Meyer chose the right excerpts and provided the necessary context for students to better understand Plato's meaning and message. She didn't spoon-feed the material but guided students through it, as a good professor does. I actually feel better about the world after taking this course because it made me optimistic about the possibility that good is the central force.

Two suggestions for improvement: Nearly every text reading says it will take 10 minutes to read, but I found that they each took me about 40 minutes because I didn't want to speed read them but pore over them. I think that estimated reading time should be changed on the syllabus to at least 20 minutes.

Also, I was surprised at the lack of discussion that the weekly prompts generated. I made a point to read others' comments on the question and to at least give a thumb's up or say I concurred. But I noticed that nearly all the posts had no comments or reactions, and my posts also generated none. That was disappointing and unlike what I've experienced in other Coursera classes. I'm not sure how to change that, as it wasn't the instructor's fault. But perhaps Dr. Sauve Meyer at the end of each lecture could encourage students to interact in the discussion forums. Another option might be to ask people to comment on at least one. I realize that pondering the weekly question was a mental exercise that benefitted me. But it did feel like I was throwing comments into a void -- to take a cue from the course, it raised the question: Does my opinion exist if no one reads it.

By Nicholas K

Mar 15, 2016

Enjoyed week 1, looking forward to week 2. Believe my review will be five stars by the end of the course. Am interested in taking more MOOC like this in philosophy.

Enjoyed week 2, looking forward to week 3 and starting Ancient Philosophy: Aristotle and His Successors. I like the lecture style and can tell Susan really enjoys teaching the subject.

Enjoyed week 3, looking forward to week 4. So far, Plato and Socrates make much more sense to me than Aristotle but I have only done week 1 of Ari. Perhaps Ari mellows a bit as he gets older, lets hope so. ~(B-)

Just finished week 4, great course. Only sorry that I could't give it six stars. I read that Socrates was married to a bit of a dragon who kicked him out of the house every day, either to get a 'real' job or so he wouldn't get under her feet while she was doing the housework. So, Philosophy could have started as an alternative to drink or hanging 'round the bookies all day? Mind you, the drink still got to him in the end. No wonder his decision to go for the Hemlock was taken so quickly. Wonder why Socrates didn't ask other Athenians why they got married? If he had all other philosophers since may have been singles with no advice for the rest of humanity on the 'what, why, when, who, where, when, and how' of the logic of the process. Perhaps Aristotle may have the answer? See you all on the next stage down the road to discovering the 'Meaning of Life'. T.T.F.N.

By Nazire C

Apr 06, 2017


I've always been interested in philosophy and took a few courses in college. That's was over 10 years and I needed a lot of review and refreshers.

I am so glad I took this course. The reading material is easy to access and could be easily read on the monitor or by print.

The videos were phenomenal. Well organized, the presentation of the videos were excellent and short. Most of the videos are about 7-10 minutes with the exception of the last unit. The instructor has a clear voice and she talks slowly, so it's a lot like being in a class. The videos are short so I was constantly motivated to get through one more video, but you will be doing a lot of pausing, thinking, reviewing and writing important information down. The info is given in bite sizes, so it is easy to absorb.

Quizzes were a bit tough, so they require a review of the material before taking them. But overall, I learned so much, and filled in so many gaps that I had forgotten along the way. I would recommend this course to everyone.

By Vangel V

Jul 10, 2018

The lectures were excellent and very clear. The material was familiar to me but still very interesting. I could not be happier with the instructor's demeanour and competence. My only issue was with some of the questions in the quizzes. Being impatient, it was easy to be misdirected into thinking that the question was about one thing when it was about another. That is not a critique of the course because the problem was with my somewhat cavalier approach. Just keep in mind that if you take the course to pay as much attention as possible and to read every word and punctuation mark as it was intended.

By Anthony T

Mar 12, 2016

I have thoroughly enjoyed this course. I cannot thank Professor Susan Meyer enough. This course has made classics accessible to those who do not have the good fortune of receiving an education in Latin and classical Greek during their school years. She has also demystified Philosophy and sparked my interest in the subject. In truth, I have never thought I am able to do philosophy. I have found this course so good that I have decided to do the sequel. What is more, I might even go on to read for a combined degree in English and Philosophy with the University of London International Programme.

By Wim K

May 31, 2019

The course is well organised and presented in a pleasant and sober way. I especially liked the reconstructions of the arguments in the text. I enjoyed the written test at the end with the option of writing a variation of the dialogue.

I think reading the texts yourself (obviously in translation) brings a lot of value added. I tried to do it before listening to the lectures. That got more and more difficult, as actually reading the texts was too much and the texts also got gradually a bit more difficult to read. The indicated time for reading (usually 10 minutes) is not even close to correct.

By Damhan S

Jul 30, 2019

I loved all the reading. We had to read a fair bit for such a short course, and the videos were very on point and helpful. I feel that I better understand, not only Plato and his predecessors, but also Christian theology which was heavily based on Plato. I especially appreciated the study on Republic, which I had considered to be a political treatise when I first read it. I found out later I was wrong about this, but could not understand until I had this instruction. I'm always working to build a bigger understanding of my world, and this course has helped me do this thing.

By Andy T

Oct 26, 2017

This is my first study of an Arts subject since 1972. I studied sciences at school and medicine for a career. Now nearly retired I was looking for something different and I enjoyed the new experience. The video lectures were clear and well paced. It was helpful to be able to watch a bit, stop the video, and then read the transcript when the message was complicated. I found writing my first essay for more than 40 years a bit scary, but enjoyed it once I got started. I'd recommend this course as a gentle introduction to early Greek Philosophy.

By Allison B

May 14, 2020

I had lots of fun learning about the earliest Greek philosophers as well as studying Socratic dialogues further in depth. While not all of Plato's ideas will seem meaningful to us today, Susan does an excellent job of explaining their ultimate significance. Her lectures were clear and interesting (with the possible of exception of the Timaeus lesson which features denser-than-usual Platonic ideas). I highly recommend this course to anyone who would like to increase their knowledge of Greek philosophy!

By Jaclyn

Nov 29, 2018

Fantastic course. I know the English translation of the text is hard to follow sometime, but Professor Meyer breaks it down wonderfully. The best part about this philosophy course is that it's strictly about the Plato, Socrates, and the written material. The past philosophy lectures I've heard from professors but their personal opinion and interpretation of the text. I don't care about your personal philosophy I care about Plato and Socrates! Again take this course, Professor Meyer is fantastic!

By Helena S

Jul 31, 2020

My first class on coursera and it was a perfect choice! I really benefited from the structured learning that the course has to offer. The combination effect of reading, receiving lectures, quizzes, peer reviews and essay writing made the learning of more abstract ancient philosophy more substantial and sustainable in my mind. This is best discovery during the pandemic. And since professor Meyer is such a knowledgeable, cool and brilliant lecturer on these topics, I’m taking her next class!

By Renee K

Jun 01, 2020

I've enjoyed this course thoroughly and learned much more about the ancient philosophers that lived decades ago and my reasoning skills have improved and furthermore the lecture reading and lessons were informational and the knowledge I've acquired from this lecture is quite much.

I would highly recommend this course to any particular individual interested in ancient philosophy. I wouldn't say I wasted my time on this course instead I would actually want more lessons and lecture readings.

By Nicolas L C

Apr 11, 2017

This is a great introduction to Ancient philosophy for all of those who want to obtain more knowledge about the invaluable legacy of the Greek miracle !

I deeply recommend this course, which brought be excellent additional material in Ancient philosophy useful to every philosophy student but also to anyone who wants to acquire in depth general knowledge of the roots of our civilisation, the whole brilliantly taught in a rigorous and entertaining fashion !

Thank you Professor Meyer !

By Susan F

Aug 17, 2017

I found this course excellent, the lectures were interesting and inspiring and very helpful to get into the philosophy. The reading was challenging and thought provoking. The quizzes were very good and necessary in helping to absorb the knowledge. Long ago when I was a college student I studied languages, literature and history. I have had some very good professors and professor Mayer lives up to the excellence one hopes for in a course. Thank you. Sincerely, Susan Farranto

By Robin I

Sep 23, 2020

Even though I found the original readings hard, the instructor explained clearly what Plato's messages were and she delivered her lectures in an extremely interesting and lively manner. Her love for the subject she teaches comes through in all her lectures. Enjoyed the course immensely and recommend it highly to anyone interested in learning Ancient Greek Philosophy. Am now going to take the second part of this course which is also given by this Professor.

By Matthew V

Jul 26, 2020

This class was great! I wasn't sure how the online format would work, but I see now that the whole thing is catered so the learner won't fail. It is truly a course for learners to take for the sake of learning and I've done just that! I know so much about the perspectives and ideas of ancient philosophers. Grappling with some of their work was so difficult at times, I think I even argue better than I did going in! I will certainly be taking part 2.