StrangerThere appears to be something like a battle of giants and gods going on among them, because of their dispute with each other about the nature of being.
   TheaetetusHow so?
   StrangerSome of them drag down to earth everything from heaven and the invisible, literally clutching rocks and oaks with their hands. For they lay hold of all such things and insist that being belongs only to what can be handled and offers resistance to the touch, because they define being and body as the same. But should one of the others claim that something without a body has being, they altogether despise him, and won't listen to another word.
   TheaetetusThese certainly are terrible men that you are talking about—for I, too, have met quite a number of them already.
   StrangerIt is for this reason that the people who fight against them are very wary in defending their position from some invisible place above, contending with all their force that true being consists in certain intelligible and bodiless forms. But the bodies of those, and also their so-called truth, they break up into little bits by their arguments, and call them, instead of being, a sort of moving process of coming-to-be. On this issue, Theaetetus, there is an endless battle always raging between the two.
                                       (Plato, Sophist 246A–C)


On successful completion of the course, you will be able to expound and critically assess the central questions animating ancient physics and metaphysics; you will also be cognizant of the degree to which so-called common sense as well as contemporary metaphysics are tributary to this venerable tradition. In short, you will very likely have become a better person…

Summary Program

Weeks 1–2: ‘Presocratics’: Thales, Heraclitus, and Parmenides
Weeks 3–6: Plato’s Republic, Parmenides, Sophist, and Timaeus
Weeks 7–10: Aristotle’s Physics and Metaphysics

For details, see Classes.


Teacher: Andreas Schmidhauser
Office: Dodd Hall 247K
Office Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11–12 (and by appointment)
You may always contact me by email at <>.

Students (pdf)