Study Questions for Annas, Voices of Ancient Philosophy

Instructor: Dr. Garrett

October 20, 2006


Plato, Republic 4.436a-444a

1. What are the conversation partners discussing at the beginning of this passage? (436a-c)

2. What lesson does Socrates draw from the study of the example of the spinning top (436c-e)? Why is this principle (436e-437a) important for Plato's theory of the soul? (439b, d)

437d-438d develops the point that every mental state is defined in part by its correlated object, e.g., thirst is of drink, medical knowledge is of medical issues, such as health and disease.
3. How can one person be many? (439c-d)

4. Is the passionate part (sometimes "spirited" part) included in the desirous (appetitive) part? What evidence is given? What grounds are there for distinguishing it from the rational part? (439e-441c)

5. When is a person wise? courageous? self-disciplined (sometimes "moderate," "temperate")? moral (usually translated "just")? (441c-442d, 443c-444a)

6. What "ordinary cases" does Socrates discuss? (442e-443a) Why does he do this?

Republic 9.588b-590d

7. Discuss the image now described. What does the man represent? the lion? the many-headed beast? Why is the beast many-headed?

8. How does the image (and what Plato says about it) illustrate Plato's claims about the happiness of the moral soul and the increasing misery of the immoral soul?

9. When, according to Plato, might slavery be the best thing for a person? (390c-d)


1. How does Aristotle understand emotions? (86)

2. What is anger? Slighting? What kind of expectations play an important role in generating anger? (87)

3. How is pain related to anger? (87)

4. List a few distinct types of people with which we become angry. (87-88)

ARISTOTLE, Nicomachean Ethics

1. How many [main] kinds of virtue are there? Of what is intellectual virtue a result? (92)

2. Of what is virtue of character a result?

3. Can moral virtues arise in us naturally? (92-93) Is nature wholly irrelevant to virtue? (93)

4. How do we acquire moral virtues? To what is Aristotle comparing moral virtue here? (93)

5. What must the right sort of habituation avoid? (93) With what two opposites are virtues of character concerned? (94 middle.) What evidence does Aristotle give supporting this claim?

6. What does Aristotle called the mean with respect to anger? What is the vice related to excessive amounts of anger? (94)

7. When do we praise a man who feels anger? (94)

8. What does A. understand by a sort of "unirascibility"? What is thought to be wrong with people who exhibit this vice? (94-95)

9. How do unirascible people differ from choleric people? (94-95)

10. What are sulky people like? The bad-tempered? (95)

11. Which extreme is more opposed to good temper? Why? (95)

12. Is it easy to state in words when a person is too angry or insufficiently so? Explain. (95)

The Early Stoics on Emotion

1. What in general is an impulse (hormę)? Counterimpulse (aphormę)? Rational impulse, i.e., impulse as it is found in humans (not necessarily correct impulse, or impulse in accord with reason)? [1]

2. How are assents relate to impulses? (An assent plus a statement or an appearance produces a judgment or belief.) [2]

3. How do the Stoics define emotion (pathos)? [2, 2nd para.] What four classes of emotion occur in the larger class ("genus") designated by "emotion"? How are pleasure (as a pathos) and pain (as a pathos) related to desire and fear? What do the Stoics call the emotions? (Last sentence in [2], VAP 97)

4. Do the Stoics admit multiple parts of soul as, e.g., Plato does? How do the Stoics explain the appearance of akrasia (lack of self-control), that for example, occurs when a person vacillates between doing what she knows is wrong and not doing it.

From Seneca, On Anger

1. What defense of anger does Seneca consider at VAP 100? (This position is close to the Aristotelian position.)

2. What two points against this objection does Seneca make?

3. What, according to Seneca, is "best"? (101)

4. For Seneca, is mind something distinct from the passions (or emotions) when they are present? (101)

5. If anger is more powerful than reason, then how can reason put a limit on it; if reason is stronger than anger, then surely reason has enough power to accomplish its own tasks and does not need the help of a rather wild ally like anger. (101) What is Seneca's point?

6. How does Seneca explain occasions when persons in the midst of anger allow those whom they hate to get off safe and sound? (101, near bottom)

7. What argument does Seneca attribute to Aristotle on p. 101 (bottom)? How does he respond to this argument?

8. What objection is considered at VAP 102, section 2, first line? How does Seneca answer it?

9. What view does Seneca attribute to (Aristotle's follower) Theophrastus? (103) How does Seneca answer him?

10. What argument does Seneca attribute to Aristotle on VAP 103, section 3? How does he answer Aristotle?

11. Compare the relation of reason and judgment to the relation of anger and judgment.

12. What question is posed at Section 4 (VAP 104)? How does Seneca respond?

13. Are all our sensations in our control? How about "the mental jolt that affects us when we think ourselves wronged" even when reading about events of long ago? (105) How about anger? (105)

14. In what does emotion consist? (105)

15. How does Seneca support his view that anger is an active impulse? (105-6)

16. What three stages in the development of anger does Seneca distinguish? (106)

17. Does Seneca think that " virtue ought to look with anger upon things shameful"? What is the "natural property of virtue"? What is the companion of irascibility? (106)

18 From this point through the end of Section 5, Seneca argues against the view that the wise person will be angry at transgressions (moral error). State the essence of his argument here.

19. What would be better to hold? (Last para., p. 107)

20. What point is he making in section 6?

Epictetus and Galen on Medea

1. How is the mind naturally related to things that seem true, things that seem false, and things that are unclear? In the arena of action, what are the parallels? What is Epictetus' point? Why did Medea act as she did? Is she being swept away by emotion? (Section 1, VAP 114)

2. What makes us miserable? What specific ignorance made Medea miserable? How could Medea have avoided such misery? (Section 2, VAP 115)

3. How does Galen analyze the psychological condition of Medea in Euripides' play? (VAP 117)

Further Reading

An Introduction to Stoic Ethics
A Dialogue on Ethics Between a Stoic and an Aristotelian
The Passions According to the Classical Stoa
Keith Seddon's "The Stoics on Why We Should Strive to Be Free of the Passions"

All four are on The Stoic Place website, under Historical Materials (look for the button at the left). Dr. Seddon's article contains a bibliography useful for further research.