Outline of “A History of Philosophy, Volume 1: Greece and Rome” by Frederick Copleston, S.J.

Copleston History of Philosophy, Volume 1: Greece and Rome

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Outline (This is an attempt to present the outline which Copleston gives within this work – feel free to request Word doc version of this outline). The autonumbering is messed up, and I’m not sure how I can fix it without destroying my soul… Here is a link to a PDF copy without the auto number confusion… Copleston, HoP, Vol 1 – Outline

You can use this for whatever purpose you like, though a thank you is always appreciated. I did this for my own sake while reading it, first of all, and share it for whatever benefit anyone may derive for any purpose whatsoever.


Chapter I – Introduction

1)          Why Study the History of Philosophy?

i) Knowledge of history is necessary for ‘education’ – Philosophers are key contributors to European thought and culture.

ii) Knowledge of the History of Philosophy will help us avoid the mistakes of our predecessors

iii)         Studying the history of philosophy will enable us to be attentive to developments within it.

2)          Nature of the History of Philosophy

i) No philosophy can be understood unless it is seen in its historical setting and in light of its connection with other systems.

ii) Observation of logical sequence in development.

iii) Progression points ‘beyond itself’ to Truth.

iv) Copleston adheres to the conviction that there is a philosophia perennis.

3)          How to Study the History of Philosophy

i) See any philosophical system in its historical setting and connections.

ii) Study philosophers ‘sympathetically’.

iii)         Understand words, phrases and shades of meaning.

4)          Ancient Philosophy (this volume)


Chapter II – The Cradle of Western Thought: Ionia

Chapter III – The Pioneers: Early Ionian Philosophers

I) Thales

II) Anaximander

III) Anaximenes

… The fall of Miletus

Chapter IV – The Pythagorean Society

Chapter V – The Word of Heraclitus

Chapter VI – The One of Parmenides and Melissus

Chapter VII – The Dialectic of Zeno

I) Proofs against Pythagorean Pluralism

1) absurdity of the Pythagorean belief that ‘Reality’ is made up of units

2) absurdity of claiming ‘the many’ are both finite and infinite in number.

3) If parts make no sound when they fall, how is it that the whole makes a sound (which is composed of parts)?

II) Arguments against the Pythagorean Doctrine of Space

III) Arguments Concerning Motion

1) impossibility of movement if space is composed of an infinite number of points.

2) Pythagorean notion results in believing the slower moves as fast as the faster.

3) Contradiction of moving objects ‘occupying’ a given position in space.

4) Pythagorean notion results in believing half of a certain time is equal to the whole of that time.

—- Consideration of the arguments of Zeno

—- The Eleatics

—- Note on “Pantheism” in pre-Socratic Greek Philosophy

i) If Pantheism is a subjective religious attitude towards a universe identified with God then one cannot call the pre-Socratics pantheists.

ii) If Pantheism is an equation of the Universe with ‘Thought’ then again one cannot call the pre-Socratics pantheists.

iii) Pre-Socratics are preferably called ‘monists’.

Chapter VIII – Empedocles of Akragas

Chapter IX – The Advance of Anaxagoras

Chapter X – The Atomists

Chapter XI – Pre-Socratic Philosophy

1) The idea of cosmic unity

2) The fact of ‘the Many’

3) Pre-Socratic philosophy centres around the external world, the Object, the not-self.

4) The relationship between sense experience and reason.

5) Action and reaction, or thesis and antithesis.

6) Pre-Socratics are ‘the first stage’ of Greek philosophy.


Chapter XII – The Sophists

Chapter XIII – Some individual Sophists

I) Protagoras

II) Prodicus

III) Hippias

IV) Gorgias

V) Sophism

Chapter XIV – Socrates

I) Early life of Socrates

II) Problem of Socrates

III) Philosophical Activity of Socrates

1) Socrates concerned with universal definitions

2) Socrates’ practical method of ‘dialectic’ or conversation

3) Socrates’ aim was to discover ‘Truth’ with a view to ‘the good life’.

4) Socrates’ ethical and political interests

5) Ethical intellectualism

6) Virtue as teachable.

7) Socrates’ thought and his relationship to Athens.

8) Though there is a tendency in Socrates towards a ‘purer conception of Deity’ he was primarily interested in human conduct.

9) Socrates and Aristophanes

IV) Trial and Death of Socrates

Chapter XV – Minor Socratic Schools

I) The School of Megara

II) The Elean-Eretrian School

III) The Early Cynic School

IV) The Cyrenaic School

Chapters XVI – Democritus of Abdera

1) Mechanical account of sensation (atomism)

2) Democritius theory of conduct dominated by ‘happiness’.

3) The evolution of culture

4) The interest of Democritius’ theories of perception and conduct in life.


Chapter XVII – Life of Plato

Chapter XVIII – Plato’s Works

  1. Genuineness

i) Rejected dialogues

ii) Disputed dialogues

iii) Accepted dialogues

Chronology of Works

1) Importance of chronology

2) Method of determining chronology

i) Language

ii) Testimony of other ancient writers

iii) References within dialogues to other historic persons.

iv) References within dialogues to other dialogues

v) Actual content of dialogue

vi) Differences in artistic construction of dialogue

3) Scholarly difference in results, but agreement upon the general chronological scheme following:

I) Socratic Period

II) Transition Period

III) Period of Maturity

IV) Works of Old Age

Note on Plato’s Works

Chapter XIX – Theory of Knowledge

I) Knowledge is not Sense-perception

i) Some knowledge consists of truths not involving sense-perception

ii) Sense-perception within its own sphere is not knowledge

II) Knowledge is not simply “True Judgement”

III) Knowledge is not True Judgment plus an “Account”

1) Giving an account does not mean mere expression of belief in words

2) Giving an account is not ‘mere analysis’

3) Giving an account is not mere differentiation

a) differentiation must be already contained within a correct notion.

b) differentiation cannot be added to a notion.

N.B. Plato is not speaking of ‘specific differences’.

IV) True Knowledge

1) Knowledge must be (i) infallible and (ii) of the real.

2) Development of the human mind from ‘opinion’ to ‘knowledge’ (see chart in book for this obscure discussion).

3) The allegory of the Cave.

Chapter XX – The Doctrine of Forms

Reasons for the traditional presentation of the doctrine of Plato

i) Plato supposes the forms exist in a sphere apart.

ii) Ideas are separate from sensible things

iii) the World is formed according to the model of the forms


a) Plato duplicates the ‘real’ world

b) no metaphysical ground for the multiple subsistent essences

c) no explanation of relation between sensible things and the Ideas

d) fails to explain the relation of Ideas to one another.

Preliminary observations in connection with the above three reasons.

i) Plato’s way of speaking implies that the forms ‘exist apart’

a) this means they must possess a reality independent of ‘sensible things’

b) we should be careful not to place too much weight on doctrines such as the pre-existence of souls and recollection.

ii) Aristotle must have known what Plato actually taught in the Academy.

iii) Plato does speak as though the Demiurge creates after the pattern of the forms.

  1. Forms in the Phaedo.
  2. Forms in the Symposium.
  3. Forms in the Republic
  4. i) Identification of the Good with the One
  5. ii) If forms proceed from the One, what of particular sensible objects?
  6. Forms in the Phaedrus
  7. Forms in the Parmenides.
  8. Forms in the Sophist.
  9. Forms in the Sophist (pt 2)
  10. Forms in the Timeaus.
  11. Ideas of God, or independent of God?
  12. The mathematical aspect of the Ideal Theory
  13. i) Forms are numbers
  14. ii) Things exist by participation in Numbers.

iii) Numbers are composed of the One and the ‘great-and-small’?

  1. iv) Numbers occupy an intermediate position between Forms and things


  1. i) why did Plato identify Forms with Numbers and what did he mean?
  2. ii) Why did Plato say that things exist by participation in numbers?

iii) What is meant by composition from the One and the great-and-small?


  1. i) to render the forms intelligible (principle of order)
  2. ii) Natural objects exhibit order and design
  3. a) expressed in the Timeaus
  4. b) doctrine of the Epinomis
  5. c) natural bodies are not said ‘to be’ numbers but to participate in numbers.

iii) the partly irrational character of natural objects is the key to understanding ‘the great and the small’.

  1. a) ‘Triplet of numbers’ in the case of the isosceles right-angled triangle expresses contingency.
  2. b) sequence of fractions exhibits ‘flux’ character of natural entities.
  3. Tendency to pan-mathematisation is unfortunate.
  4. How does the mind apprehend the ideas?
  5. Theory of forms constitutes an advance on pre-Socratic philosophy.

Chapter XXI – The Psychology of Plato

1) The soul is distinct from the body.

2) The soul is tripartite

3) Why did Plato assert the tripartite nature of the soul?

4) The soul is immortal

  1. i) eternal cyclic process
  2. ii) the a priori factor in knowledge

iii) the diaform nature of the soul

  1. iv) theimperishability of the soul.
  2. v) only inherent evil destroys.
  3. vi) soul is self-moving principle.

Chapter XXII – Moral Theory

  1. I) The Summum Bonum
  2. II) Virtue

1) Identification of virtue with knowledge.

2) Good and evil are not to be identified with pleasure and pain.

3) It can never be good to do evil (even to one’s enemies).

Chapter XXIII – The State

  1. I) The Republic

1) The State exists to serve the wants of men.

2) There must exist a special class of guardians of the State.

3) The State must exist of of three great classes – Artisans > Auxiliaries (military) > Guardians

4) The State must uphold justice.

5) Community of wives and children.

6) The philosopher-king.

7) Philosophy of History (devolution of the State).

  1. II) The Statesmen (Politicus)

1) Superiority of the royal science.

2) No superstitious regard for tradition.

3) Government may take different forms.

4) Rejection of dictatorship.

III) The Laws.

1) Plato’s personal experience.

2) The State must be a true polity

3) Rejection of enormous States

4) Appointment of function of magistrates.

5) Committee of women to superintend married couples.

6) Education and its methods

7) Religious festivals.

8) Punishment of atheism

Heresy of gods’ indifference to man


  1. a) The gods have the power to attend to small things
  2. b) The gods are not too indolent to attend to small things
  3. c) Providence does not interfere with the law. Justice will be realized in future lives.

Heresy of gods’ venality and inducement to bribery.

9) Points of Law

  1. a) no professional begging
  2. b) no litigiousness
  3. c) no embezzlement of public funds
  4. d) magistrates will be audited
  5. e) Nocturnal council who are trained to see the One in the Many.
  6. f) No travel abroad without state sanction.

10) The slave is the property of his master.

11) War is to be avoided if at all possible.

12) Formulation of a theory of man’s social relations.

Chapter XXIV –Physics of Plato.

1) in the Timaeus

2) Timaeus regarded as ‘myth’ by Plato?

3) Plato’s account of the generation of the world

4) Motive of the demiurge

5) How are we to regard the figure of the demiurge.

6) What did the demiurge ‘take over’?

7) Demiurge confers geometrical shapes upon the four primary elements.

8) Demiurge creates the World-Soul.

9) Demiurge sought to make universe like its pattern, Being.

10) Formation of the human body and its powers.

Chapter XXV – Art

  1. I) Beauty

1) Plato’s appreciation of natural beauty.

2) Plato’s appreciation of ‘fine art’.

3) Plato’s theory of beauty.

  1. II) Plato’s Theory of Art

1) Origin of art is in the natural instinct of expression

2) Art is imitation

3) Art must primarily serve an educational function, rather than pleasure.

Note on the influence of Plato

1) the sample of Plato’s life of devotion to Truth.

2) Influence upon Aristotle.

3) Neo-Platonism.

4) Modern influences

5) Plato left no ‘system’ of philosophy

Chapter XXVI – The Old Academy




Chapter XXVII – Life and Writings of Aristotle.

The Works of Aristotle

  1. i) First period of adherence to Plato
  2. a) Dialogue of Eudemus
  3. b) The Protrepticus
  4. c) Oldest parts of the Logical Works, the Physics, part of De Anima
  5. ii) Second period of divergence

iii) Third period of activity at the Lyceum

  1. a) Logical Works
  2. b) Metaphysical works.
  3. c) Works on Natural Philosophy, Natural Science, Psychology etc
  4. d) Works on Ethics and Politics
  5. e) Works on Aesthetics, History and Literature

Chapter XXVIII – Logic of Aristotle

1) Division of philosophy

2) Formal logic

3) Categories and Topics

4) Scientific knowledge

5) Analytics

6) Prior Analytics

Definition of the syllogism

7) Premises of deduction

8) Discussion regarding the contribution of Aristotle to Logic

9) Organon

Chapter XXIX – The Metaphysics of Aristotle

1) Metaphysics as Wisdom par excellence.

2) The four causes with which Wisdom or philosophy deals.

3) Metaphysics as concerned with ‘being as such’ (being qua being)

4) Aristotle’s objection to Plato’s theory of Forms.

  1. i) Plato’s theory and whether the universal subsists apart from individual things
  2. ii) The doctrine of Ideas or Forms is useless
  3. a) Forms a purposeless doubling of visible things.
  4. b) Forms are useless for our knowledge of things.
  5. c) Forms are useless when it comes to explaining the movement of things.
  6. d) Forms are to explain sensible object, but will themselves be sensible.

iii) The theory of Ideas or Forms is an impossible theory.

  1. a) It is impossible that the substance and that of which it is the substance, should exist apart.
  2. b) All things cannot come from Forms in any of the usual senses of ‘from’.
  3. c) The Forms will be individual objects like those other objects of which they are the Forms, whereas

they should not be individuals but universals.

  1. iv) Against the theory that Forms are numbers
  2. a) Aristotle’s general treatment of number and pertinent questions
  3. b) If Forms are Numbers how can they be causes?
  4. c) How can there be two kinds of numbers?
  5. d) Whether there are two classes of numbers.
  6. i) they cannot then be unique.
  7. ii) they cannot exist separately.
  8. e) If the substance of things is mathematical, what is the source of movement?
  9. v) Aristotle’s crude interpretation of Plato

5) Aristotle’s agreement with Plato regarding the ‘objective reality’ of the universals

6) Aristotle’s refusal to admit that objects of Mathematics or universals are substances.

7) Aristotle’s four principles

8) Concrete sensible substance is an individual being.

9) Potency and act.

10) Hierarchy or scale of existence.

11) How change is initiated.

12) Final cause.

13) First Mover.

14) Other arguments for the existence of “God.”

15 The inadequacy of Aristotle’s notion of “God”.

Chapter XXX – Philosophy of Nature and Psychology.

1) What is Nature?

2) Movement.

3) Place and Time.

4) How bodies are moved.

5) Time.

6) The Infinite

  1. a) An infinite body is impossible.
  2. b) the infinite exists potentially.

7) All natural motion is directed towards an end.

8) The superlunary and sublunary universe.

9) Species and genera are eternal.

Different types of soul – nutritive or vegetative soul; the sensitive soul

10) Human soul

11) Rejection of Platonic dualism.

12) The Active Intellect

Chapters XXXI – Aristotle’s Ethics

1) The teleological nature of Aristotle’s ethics.

2) Goodness of character as a capacity and developed by practice.

3) The relation of virtue to vice.

4) Moral action presupposes Freedom.

5) No distinct concept of will in Aristotle.

6) Common-sense  moderation and clear judgement.

7) Justice in Book Five of the Ethics.

8) The division of the intellectual virtues.

  1. i) Scientific.
  2. ii) Calculative.

9) Pleasures are not ‘bad’ as such.

10) Friendship.

11) The contemplative faculty is the best.

  1. i) Reason is the highest facult of man.
  2. ii) We can reason longer than we can do anything else.

iii) Philosophy is the most pleasurable thing we can do.

  1. iv) The philosopher is more self-sufficient than anyone else.
  2. v) Philosophy is loved for its own sake.
  3. vi) Happiness implies leisure.

Chapter XXXII – Politics.

1) The State exists for the supreme good of man.

2) The master-slave relationship.

3) The two distinct modes of acquiring wealth, and an intermediate mode.

  1. i) Natural mode (hunting, agriculture etc).
  2. ii) Intermediate mode (barter)

iii) Unnatural mode (money).

4) Rejection of Plato’s ideal State.

5) Qualifications of citizenship

6) Types of Constitution.

7) Revolution.

8) Positive views of what a State should be.

  1. i) Self-sufficing.
  2. ii) Proportionate size.

iii) Citizens

  1. iv) Education.

Chapter XXXIII – Aesthetics of Aristotle.

  1. Beauty.

1) Distinguishing between ‘beautiful’ and ‘merely pleasant’.

2) Does Aristotle distinguish between beauty and the good?

  1. a)
  2. b)

3) Symmetry and definiteness as the chief forms of beauty.

4) Comedy is ridiculous and is a species of the ugly.

  1. Fine Art in General

1) Art aims at production.

  1. a) Completion.
  2. b) Imitation of nature.

2) Imitation in Aristotle different (more positive) than it is in Plato.

3) Imitation is natural to man.

4) Poetry is more philosophic and grave than writing history.

5) Poetic statements are of the nature rather of universals.

6) Epic, Tragedy, Comedy and Music

7) Drawing.

III. Tragedy

1) Aristotle’s definition of ‘tragedy’.

2) Aristotle’s six formative elements of Tragedy.

  1. i) Plot.
  2. ii) Character delineation.

iii) Thought.

  1. iv) Diction.
  2. v) Melody.
  3. vi) The

3) Unity of Plot

4) Peripety or Discovery or both

5) Three forms of plot to be avoided in Tragedy.

6) Pity and fear must be aroused by the plot itself and not extraneous elements.

7) The psychological aim of tragedy.

  1. Origins of Tragedy and Comedy.

1) Tragedy began with improvisation.

2) Comedy began with the phallic songs.

3) The importance of the actor.

4) iambic metre as “the most speakable of metres.”

Note on the Older Peripatetics




Chapter XXXIV – Plato and Aristotle




Chapter XXXV – Introductory

1) The passing away of the Greek City-State with Alexander the Great.

2) Periods of Hellenistic-Roman philosophy

  1. i) First period – Stoic and Epicurean philosophy
  2. ii) Second period – Eclecticism and Scepticism

iii) Third period – Neo-Platonism

3) Increased cultivation of the special sciences.

Chapter XXXVI – The Early Stoa

  1. I) The founder – Zeno
  2. II) Logic of the Stoa

III) Cosmology of the Stoa

  1. IV) The Stoic Ethic

Chapter XXXVII – Epicureanism

  1. I) The founder – Epicurus
  2. II) The Canonic

III) The Physics

  1. IV) The Epicurean Ethic

Note on Cynicism in the First Period of the Hellenistic Epoch

The new literary genre of Satire

Menippus of Gadara

                                    Cercides of Megalopolis

Chapter XXXVIII – The Older Sceptics, the Middle and New Academies

  1. I) The Older Sceptics
  2. II) The Middle Academy

III) The New Academy

1) Founder of the New Academy – Carneades of Cyrene.

2) The Academy’s return to dogmatism under Antiochus of Ascalon.

3) The Roman Eclectic Varro.

4) The Roman eclectic, Cicero.

Chapter XXXIX – The Middle Stoa

1) Panaetius of Rhodes

2) Poseidonius (and his greatness).

Note on the Peripatetic School in the Hellenistic-Roman Period.

1) Strato of Lampsacus

2) Strato’s successors.

3) Andronicus of Rhodes

4) Alexander of Aphrodisias’ defence of logic.

5) Qualification of the term ‘Peripatetics’ during this period.

Chapter XL – The Later Stoa

1) L. Annaeus Seneca of Cordoba

2) Epictetus of Hierapolis

3) Marcus Aurelius.

Chapter XLI – Cynics, Eclectics, Sceptics.

  1. I) Cynics
  2. II) Eclectics

III) Sceptics

Chapter XLII – Neo-Pythagoreanism

Note on Apollinius of Tyana

Chapter XLIII – Middle Platonism

1) The eclectic and orthodox tendency of Eurdorus of Alexandria.

2) Plutarch of Chaeronea.

3) Albinus.

4) Apuleius, Atticus, Celsus, and Maxums of Tyre.

Chapter XLIV – Jewish-Hellenistic Philosophy

Chapter XLV – Plotinian Neo-Platonism

  1. I) Life of Plotinus
  2. II) Doctrine of Plotinus

III) School of Plotinus

Chapter XLVI – Other Neo-Platonic Schools

  1. I) The Syrian School.

1) Tendency to multiply the hierarch of being with Iamblichus

2) The Religious interest of Iamblichus

  1. II) The School of Pergamon

III) The Athenian School

  1. IV) The Alexandrian School

1) Focus upon the special sciences and commenting on the works of Plato and Aristotle.

2) Alexandrian Neo-Platonism and its relation to Christianity and the celebrated Catechetical School.

3) The influence of Christianity upon Neo-Platonism.

  1. V) Neo-Platonists of the Latin West.

Chapter XLVII – Concluding Review (general themes in Greek philosophy as a whole)

1) The One and the Many and the relation between the One and the Many

2) Attempt to discover the cause or causes of the world.

3) Man

4) Epistemology

5) Psychology

6) Ethics

7) Greek philosophy viewed as a preparatory intellectual instrument for Christianity.

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