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

1,486 ratings

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 18, 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 8, 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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By Carol-Lynn L

Apr 12, 2021

I think the course is terrific, I've learned a lot...but to do this with any hope of remembering the content or moving on with a sense of ease there should be more time involved. This should be 6-8 weeks not 4 weeks. There should be a lot of Qs&As attached to the readings once one has enjoyed the lectures.

The Prof is great and her lectures are both engrossing and informative, Just need more time and work on the various pieces.

Much appreciated

You know, my one difficulty was that I didn't find the actual assignment, what they call the "prompt'' until after I had written and submitted the paper...I wrote it based on the instructions in the "guide" piece and I know I could have done a lot better, because I wrote on only one of the topics requested. And I never did see that until I was grading other students...I think the assignments should always be clear from the start of the course, but surely should not be so hidden that you can't find them. But I think that's coursas problem, not hers.

Anyway, bright prof, brings the subject down to a level undergrads should be able to get and made it really enjoyable!

By Benjamin J

Sep 7, 2020

Loved the lectures and the content. Personally I found some of the readings to be too long in one sitting without some guidance. I found myself struggling through long sections, not really understanding until I heard the lecture. Rather than two long readings then 4 or 5 videos in a row, I think it would be more effective to have a shorter reading, then the relevant lecture, then another reading etc. One other issue was the instructions for the assignment initially were quite vague. I read the prompt and then began. It only said to write a letter talking about 2 aspects of the Republic. Only when I finished and went to submit did I go to page two which specified that the two points had to be Plato's view of Justice in a person and why it is always better to be just. As a result, I had to go back and redo the assignment. Other than those two things, loved the course.

By Harry M

Jul 24, 2020

Well organized and I really enjoyed this course; I took both this course and the follow up course on Aristotle. Both were excellent. However, for some unexplained reason, I thought the professor's course on Aristotle was more interesting (hence I cage it five stars) while I thought that this course was slightly confusing in terms of the quizzes and prompts. Having said that, this course is definitely worth your time and effort. My approach was to read the lecture first while taking notes and then listen to the lecture and fill in the blanks. The readings make much more sense AFTER reading/listening to the lecture than before. Just my take on how I 'studied' for the quizzes, etc. Enjoy, it's worth the effort.

By Joe G

Jun 7, 2018

I really enjoyed this course and learned so much from it. However the professor's monotone voice is reminiscent of too many professors I have had over the years that put me to sleep. I found it difficult to pay attention at times because of this even though I was very interested in the subject matter. She seems very knowledgeable about the subject, so perhaps taking a public speaking course would prove beneficial. Other than that I loved the course and am excited to take part two starting in a few days!

By Wajahat R B

Nov 15, 2019

The biggest strength of this course is that it makes one read the ancient texts, thus giving a direct exposure to the ideas of some great thinkers. Alongside, it also gives some idea of Greek history and culture. I think the difficulty level should have been a bit higher. The quizzes are way too simple to assess the interest of the student. Dr. Meyer teaches in a simple and easy-to-understand manner. I'll certainly take the second course in this series. An amazing experience overall!

By Steve M

Oct 30, 2023

Really enjoyed the course, though I could not understand why my final assignment had to be rewritten. I stuck to the Honour Code and worked really hard on it only to be informed that it looked like another learner's work. I could not get any immediate feedback as to what the specifics were. I would politely point out that there are tens of thousands of people on this MOOC, and there are relatively few ways to reframe the Euthyphro.

By Ralph L

Aug 15, 2020

I touch this course because it is outside my comfort zone and throughout I felt challenged. So I feel really good that I was able to complete the course successfully. It opened my eyes to how close these ancient philosophers were compared today's latest theories in physics regarding the reality of the universe.

Well worth it.

By Tamer D

May 5, 2019

I like the course. I thank the professor for simplifying abstract concepts to students with no special knowledge in philosophy like myself. It would have been great if there were slides associated with the course. I hope there would be more courses discussing more recent philosophers like Nietzsche and Kant.

By Thomas H

Nov 26, 2016

The course was good and informative. I did find it somewhat simple and not very challenging (until the final project), but with going to work and with a busy schedule it was perfect and left little excuse for not completing it. Thank you for providing a free opportunity to learn.

By Kurt S

Feb 13, 2017

Liked it a lot: pretty straight forward, nice introduction, although I missed a bit of a timeline (or figure of a timeline - I actually had this image from wikipedia always available:

By Jay L

Mar 17, 2016

I enjoyed every aspect of this course except Timaeus. Not being mathematically inclined I felt all of the discussion of triangles and what this was supposed to have shown was a waste of time. Better to tell us what he is trying to say, show a few examples, and move on.

By antonio S

Jul 20, 2016

very knowledgeable professor. only recommendation for the course is to make single quizzes not two per week. either way you can do them at your own pace. It is an introduction course, but very well presented and it goes through many important texts

By Harry L

Mar 29, 2019

The content of the philosophical texts of ancient Greece are distilled with a great deal of clarity. My only complaint is that it seemed a bit brief. For instance, there are 10 books in the republic, but only a handful of those are explored.

By Nikola T

May 2, 2020

It was a nice course, I successfully completed all the weeks and wrote my graduation assignment, but I did not get the certificate of the course, it is a lot with the money of my country. I wish there was a more reasonable turret.

By Justo G Q

Apr 28, 2022

Muy buen curso desearia que continuen dictando este tipo de capacitacion, cumplen un rol social muy importante, ya que ayudan a promover el conocimiento, desde la enseñanza y el aprendisaje, Gracias Totales!!!!!!

By Orville C

Jun 17, 2020

This is a very nice introduction to the ancient Greek philosophers and their contributions to how we understand the world around us. I recognize that modern religions reflect many of the Ancient Greeks' thoughts.