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

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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


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Good, interesting introduction to the cosmology and ethics of Plato and presocratic thinkers. The reading material is good and the lectures are pleasant and interesting!


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Highly recommended. This course was a great guide to understand to pre socratic philosophers. Professor Susan Sauvé Meyer is very clear in her explanations. Thanks a lot. I enjoy the course.

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1 - 25 of 445 Reviews for Ancient Philosophy: Plato & His Predecessors

By leslie l

Mar 9, 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 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 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.

By Ruan W

Jun 8, 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 Michael D

Jan 16, 2021

This was my first online course. In a crazy year, the flexibiilty to reset deadlines was much appreciated. I enjoyed the grading system, especially when your peers are from all around the world.

By Deleted A

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 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.


Feb 5, 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 Lionel P

Jan 9, 2022

The amount of study time required to do this enormous subject justice far exceeds the estimates. I spent a total of 82 hours on this subject, and average of nearly 21 hours per week.

I am not a great fan of "talking heads" teaching, so this subject could be a bit dry for those who, like me, appreciate a variety of delivery methods.

However, I completed, with a good grade (nearly 95%) but I am not sure I shall sign uo for its companion course, and if I do, I shall allow 2 weeks to study each teaching week.

By Cat 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 Deleted A

Apr 6, 2021

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 6, 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 Tomas M

Jun 19, 2021

Great course. Thank you.

By GiGi H

Aug 30, 2016

It's ok; worth your time if you are trying to get into philosophy and want part of the proper foundation. Overall I enjoyed it and it was good as a hand-hold through the pre-Socratics and some of the most essential Platonic writings.

Pros: the videos are pretty easy to understand, and the material chosen/covered is good to know.

Cons: the video quiz questions are really...dull...and there are too many. A downside of the ease of the videos/lectures is that they don't really go that in depth, and they're nowhere near the quality I've seen in other Coursera courses (like the Kierkegaard course from UCopenhagen).

By Duarte M

Apr 12, 2020

I liked the content, but the valuation system is flawed, first is very very very easy; second the peer system is bad.

I would like to have a more challenging quizes and actually exams, and a more demanding essay.

I really liked the teacher, but despite the fact you cover a lot of subjects, you can go more deep, although was not mere superficial knowledge.

By Nazire C

Apr 6, 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 Grace P

Aug 10, 2021

I'm super excited to complete this philosophy course ! This has been one of the best readings and learning experiences I ever did.  Thank you! I always had interest in philosophy.  It is our way of life and definitely a better path to higher knowledge and the importance of virtue. I appreciate the experience of learning so deeply about history of philosophers who had a very deep understanding of human soul and the life above and beyond which only opened up others to follow their path.  The more virtue is taught the more good follows in others who want to learn. 

Professor Susan Sauve Meyer did an amazing job teaching throughout the course ⭐️

By Vangel V

Jul 9, 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!