L&S Curricular Connections

L&S Discovery Courses

LS 60A

Psyche: Soul, Mind, and Afterlife from Homer to Christianity

Philosophy & Values

How do people perceive, think, imagine, dream, and feel? What makes them alive? What happens when they die? This course will explore ancient Greek literary, philosophical, medical, and religious texts spanning the period c. 750BCE to the early Christian era, with a view to exploring the changing — and often conflicting — ideas that they reveal as to what might be going on inside, or outside, a person, as perceptions, decisions, dreams, emotions, and other such invisible – but vividly experienced – mental processes take place. We will also look at a number of ancient theories about the possibility of life after death, and the prospects of making one’s soul better and less mortal. The ancient Greek ideas will be examined in relation to those of several neighboring cultures, mainly Indian and Near Eastern (including the Bible), which often show interesting resemblances, influences, or contrasts.

Readings (all in English) will include short excerpts from Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, selected passages from Presocratic philosophers and Hippocratic medical texts, funerary epitaphs, Plato’s Phaedo and selections from other dialogues, Aristotle On the Soul (De Anima), Euripides’ Bacchae and other passages from tragedy and comedy, Lucretius’ (Latin) version of the Democritean/Epicurean materialist theory of the soul (De Rerum Natura Book 3), and a number of passages from Greek (in some cases Jewish and/or Christian) religious texts concerning the afterlife, resurrection, the “kingdom of heaven”, and “everlasting life”. In addition to comparing these views with each other, we will also of course consider some of our own various assumptions and beliefs about the mind, the soul, consciousness, and prospects for an afterlife, and their connections to these ancient texts.

In addition to the weekly readings, a number of visual materials (vase paintings. funeral monuments, etc.) will also be studied where relevant and available.

Mark Griffith faculty profile
Mark Griffith (AGRS and TDPS)

Terms Offered

  • Fall 2006