Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module CLAS2641: Creation & Cosmology

Department: Classics and Ancient History

CLAS2641: Creation & Cosmology

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • CLAS1601 or at least one module in Philosophy or the History of Philosophy at Level 1.


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To promote the learning and understanding of ancient philosophy in accordance with the general aims of the relevant Degree Programmes; to introduce students who have studied philosophy at Level 1 to new and more challenging philosophical topics, texts and concepts, and thereby to develop the range of their knowledge, and the depth of their analytical skills.


  • Plato was the first person clearly to address strict materialism with a cosmological argument that established the need for a creative cosmological intelligence. He was followed in the Hellenistic era by the Stoics, who disagreed with him, however, that the creator transcended his creation. At the same time, the Epicureans developed an anti-teleological response, showing that the cosmos could not have come about by intention, and explicating the natural forces by which, they believed, it arose by accident. At the end of the Hellenistic era, thinkers of the Platonist revival reintroduced a transcendent god which would prove an important model for philosophical Christianity.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • the texts which are most important for our understanding of philosophical cosmology from the Classical period to the early centuries of our era, including Plato, the Stoics, Epicurus, and thinkers of the Platonist revival
  • the accounts each movement / thinker gave of the origin and structure of the cosmos
  • relevant ancient theories of causality, materialism, and teleology, and the debates they aroused.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • The ability to use textual evidence to develop plausible accounts of particular theoretical positions in their full historical and polemical context.
  • An ability to engage critically with the full range of evidence, fragments as well as complete texts, partisan as well as polemical reports, in reconstructing individual philosophical positions.
  • confidence in handling and deploying basic philosophical concepts covering the field of cosmology in particular (but including relevant metaphysical concepts).
Key Skills:
  • Capacity for self-motivated work.
  • The ability to present a well-researched, well-articulated, and well-balanced account of the evidence for a particular topic, which takes the views of other commentators into account.
  • The ability to read philosophical texts of a wide range of styles with confidence, and the capacity to identify and engage critically with arguments set out in them.
  • The ability to reconstruct a plausible line of thought from evidence that is imperfect, biased, or indirect.
  • An independence of mind which is strengthened, not compromised, by the sympathetic understanding of alternative points of view.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures form the core of the module, being used to provide factual information and to give models for interpretative procedures in the selection and interpretation of fragments. Corresponding to this core is a 70% examination component.
  • Seminars are used to give students practice in the manipulation of important concepts and the analysis of fragments, an opportunity to talk through areas of difficulty.
  • Tutorials are for feedback on formative and coursework assessments. The assessed essay, which constitutes 30% of the final assessment, correspondingly tests students' ability to locate, exploit and discuss sources available to them.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 22 1 per week 1 hour 22
Tutorials 3 1 hour 3
Seminars 8 1 per fortnight 1 hour 8
Preparation and Reading 167
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 70%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Examination 2 hours 100% Yes
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2,500 words 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

One formative exercise

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University