Introduction to the course. Every day, every moment, things are happening all over the world and the universe. In history, we ask both what happened and WHY it happened. Two opposite possibilities are (1) It is all an accident and (2) It is all predetermined. Then there are all the “in between” possibilities. Those are what make interesting historical puzzles. The two most common influences proposed to explain changes are (1) the Zeitgeist [spirit of the times] and (2) the great person. In a Zeitgeist explanation, the individual people are regarded as not so important and it is asserted that the momentum toward a certain change was so consistent, that it would have occurred no matter who the people were. A great person explanation would say that a change only occurred because a certain important person did what he or she did, and that history would have been very different without that person.
A major emphasis of this course is that core issues and stances on those issues, once noticed, rarely go away. What we look at in Plato and Aristotle were first discussed several thousand years ago, but the topics continue to be alive today, as you will see.