Intellectual Heritage A (Spring 2008) - Syllabus


The goal of this course is to introduce students to profoundly influential works of poetry, drama, philosophy, religion, and literature that serve as the foundation of modern civilization. Our focus will be more philosophical than historical. Students will gain familiarly with key texts that challenge them to evaluate some of their most fundamental beliefs. Along the way, we will explore numerous philosophical questions, including the following: Can we rationally justify our love for another person? Do we have free will? Can morality be grounded in religion? Is evil compatible with the existence of God? Do we have reason to act morally? What makes something worthy of worship? Is democracy a stable form of government? Is it rational to fear death? Is any conceivable form of immortality desirable? Is it just for God to punish non-believers with eternal hell fire? Can we make sense of the very idea of re-incarnation? What's the difference between power and authority?


There are eleven required texts for this course:

    1. Temple University Intellectual Heritage 51, 4th edition. (IH51)
    2. Sappho, Poems and Fragments (Penguin)
    3. Sophocles, Thebian Plays, trans. Peter Meineck and Paul Woodruff (Hackett, 2003).
    4. Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War (Hackett)
    5. Plato, The Trial and Death of Socrates, trans. G. M. A. Grube (Hackett, 2000).
    6. Plato, Republic, trans. C. D. C. Reeve (Hackett, 2004).
    7. Holy Bible (New Revised Standard Version).
    8. The Koran, trans. N. J. Dawood (Penguin, 2003).
    9. The Bhagavad-Gita, trans. Barbara Stoler Miller (Bantam, 2004).
    10. William Shakespeare, Othello (Washington Square Press, 1993).
    11. Machiavelli, Selected Political Writings, trans. David Wootton (Hackett, 1994).


There will be three forms of coursework: (best 20 out of 25) daily quizzes, two papers, and two examinations. I will give a short quiz at the beginning of each class that will require one or two sentence answers. There will be two papers of 3-4 pages on assigned topics. There will also be a mid-term and a final examination.

Quizzes (10%) + Paper 1 (20%) + Paper 2 (25%) + midterm (20%) + final (25%).

Attendance Policy

If you miss 6 or more classes, you will receive a 0 for your quiz grade. If you miss 12 or more classes, you will receive an F for the course.

Academic Honesty

Plagiarism--claiming someone else’s ideas or written work as your own--will not be tolerated. Anyone caught cheating will be given a failing grade in the course. I may also write a letter will to the dean requesting that you be expelled from the the university.


Section I (The Ancient World)

    • Week 1 Love
    • t (1/22): Introduction; The Liberal Arts
      • r (1/24): Sappho (IH51 pp. 1-10; complete Poems and Fragments; alternate translations on Blackboard.)
    • Week 2 Free Will
    • t (1/29): Thucydides, The Plague; Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus, Beginning up to 3rd chorus (pp. 62-97)
      • r (1/31): Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus, 3rd chorus to end (pp. 97-124)
    • Week 3 Moral Luck
    • t (2/05): Sophocles, Antigone, Beginning to second stasimon (pp. 1-28)
      • r (2/07): Sophocles, Antigone (pp. 28-60)
    • Week 4 Democracy
    • t (2/12): Thucydides, Pericles' Funeral Oration
      • r (2/14): Thucydides, The Mytilenian Debate
      • Paper I Due
    • Week 5 Religion and Morality
    • t (2/26): Plato, Republic, book 2 (sec 357a-367e; pp.36-45)
      • r (2/28): Plato, Euthyphro (in The Trial and Death of Socrates)
    • Week 6 Fear of Death
    • t (3/04): Plato, Apology (in The Trial and Death of Socrates); Epicurus, "Letter to Menoeceus" (Blackboard)
      • r (3/06): Plato, Crito and Phaedo (in The Trial and Death of Socrates)
    • Week 7
    • t (3/11) Spring Break
      • r (3/13) Spring Break

Section II (Religious Traditions)

    • Week 8 Worship
    • t (3/18): Holy Bible, Old Testament, Genesis, Ch. 1-23
      • r (3/20): Holy Bible, Old Testament, Exodus, Ch. 1-35
      • Midterm Due
    • Week 9 The Problem of Evil
    • t (3/25): Holy Bible, Old Testament, Job
      • r (3/27): Saint Augustine, Confessions, Book VII (IH pp. 67-87)
    • Week 10 Immortality, Faith, and Hell
    • t (4/01): Holy Bible, New Testament, Matthew
      • r (4/03): Koran (surahs 1, 2 and 77-114)
    • Week 11 Personal Identity and Reincarnation
    • t (4/08): Bhagavad-Gita, 1st-9th Teaching (pp. 23-90)
      • r (4/10): Bhagavad-Gita, 10th-18th Teaching (pp. 91-146)

Section III (The Renaissance)

    • Week 12 Jealousy
    • t (4/15): Shakespeare, Othello, Act I (pp. 1-55)
      • r (4/17): Shakespeare, Othello, Act II (pp. 57-107)
    • Week 13 Self Knowledge
    • t (4/22): Shakespeare, Othello, Acts III (pp. 109-167)
      • r (4/24): Shakespeare, Othello, Act IV and V (pp. 169-265)
      • Paper II due
    • Week 14 Power and Authority
    • t (4/29): Machiavelli, The Prince, ch. 1-12
      • r (5/01): Machiavelli, The Prince, ch. 12-26
    • Week 15
    • t (5/06): (NO CLASS: Last day of classes M 5/05)

End of Classes

    • Week 16 5/08-5/14 (Final exam week)