Workshop in Ancient Philosophy (HT 2024)

For up-to-date information, see the invited speakers page.


  • Week 1 (18 January): Samuel Meister (Tübingen): ‘What Does Aristotle Try to Show in Metaphysics Λ.6–7?' Chair: Simon Shogry
    • Abstract: In Metaphysics Λ, Aristotle gives his famous account of the prime mover: a divine unmoved mover that moves the first heaven, and everything else, as an object of love. Elsewhere, he calls the science concerning this prime mover θεολογική or ‘theology’ (Meta. E.1, 1026a19; K.2, 1064b3). But what is the point of Aristotle’s theology? According to a common answer, the purpose of Aristotle’s theology is to establish the existence of the prime mover (or unmoved movers in general). In this talk, I will look at two key arguments in Λ.6–7 that are often read as such existence proofs and argue that their purpose is rather to explain facts about the perceptible world. On this reading, the introduction of unmoved movers, including the prime mover, is not the ultimate goal of Aristotle’s theology but serves a further purpose: the explanation of the perceptible world. I will also sketch how my reading can accommodate later passages in Λ that seem dedicated to characterizing the prime mover for its own sake.

  • Week 2 (25 January): Francesco Ademollo (Florence): ‘Aristotle, De interpretatione 9: A Fresh Look’. Chair: Demosthenes Patramanis
    • Abstract: This paper has three aims. (i) I defend the traditional (but not uncontroversial) interpretation according to which the first argument of ch. 9 of Aristotle's De interpretatione derives the absurd consequence that every event is necessary from the premiss that every future-tense assertion is either true or false. (ii) I provide a very detailed analysis of the text and logic of the argument, showing how we can improve on the existing editions. (iii) I provide a new interpretation of Aristotle’s formulation of his conclusions at the end of the chapter.
  • Week 4 (8 February): Masaru Yasuda (Kyoto): 'Academics' Error of Non-Assent and the Vice of Scepticism'. Chair: Emily Daly
    • Abstract: Suspension of assent is the greatest action (maxima actio), which only the sage can perform. This view on the New Academy is put forward in Augustine's critique in Contra Academicos and it originates from Cicero's picture of the Academic sage in his Academica. I demonstrate that Augustine shares, along with it, Cicero's presupposition concerning assent and it is this presupposition that makes possible Augustine's crucial criticism against non-assent. In demonstrating the above, I point to an important characteristic of the vice of scepticism. 

      First, I argue that Cicero has a presupposition (inherited from Antiochus) which enables him to justify the duty of non-assent as the means of maintaining the sage's intellectual integrity: a presupposition that assent constitutes natural yielding to the impressions, in clear contrast to the voluntary suspension of assent. Second, I demonstrate that Augustine shares with Cicero the basic idea that one can achieve (perfect) self-control by suspending assent, when Augustine condemns such suspension, as it constitutes a refusal to commit oneself to the supreme being. The nature of the vice of scepticism derives from the innovative idea that perfect self-control is vicious––an idea that Cicero and other proponents in the New Academy cannot possibly conceive.

  • Week 5 (15 February): Pierre-Marie Morel (Paris): 'Epicurean akribeia: heritage and innovation'. Chair: Cole Phelps
    • Abstract: The notion of akribeia plays an essential role in Epicurus' Letter to Herodotus, and thus in natural philosophy (phusiologia) as he defines it. However, the notion has a long history before Epicurus, particularly in Plato and Aristotle. We will try to assess the inheritance and the innovation in the Epicurean conception of akribeia (particularly in relation to Aristotle), by looking at it from three angles: as a requirement for clarity, as an indication of certain knowledge, and as a means of unifying the different levels of generality of knowledge.


  • Week 6 (22 February): Guus Eelink (Tübingen) and Pieter Sjoerd Hasper (Hamburg): 'When Nous makes all the Difference: Aristotle's Account of Epistêmê and Doxa in Posterior Analytics 1.33'. Chair: Hannah Laurens
    • Abstract: What distinguishes, according to Aristotle in Posterior Analytics 1.33, the cognition of epistêmê from that of doxa? It is commonly assumed that doxa fails to be epistêmê because it gets things wrong, in one way or another. We want to dispel the appearance that Aristotle endorses such an error account of doxa. Instead, we argue that epistêmê and doxa need not differ with regard to the facts known, but that epistêmê presupposes knowledge of the definitions underlying the facts, whereas doxa does not have access to these definitions. On the basis of our interpretation of this chapter we also argue that Aristotle distinguishes between epistêmê anapodeiktos of basic scientific facts and nous of the underlying definitions, and that Aristotle’s account of epistêmê haplôs in Posterior Analytics 1.2 is also meant to apply to epistêmê anapodeiktos. It is thus nous of definitions which makes the difference between epistêmê and doxa.


  • Week 8 (7 March): Sosseh Assaturian (Washington-Seattle): 'What Are Stoic Cases (ptōseis)?'. Chair: Kassandra Dugi
    • Abstract: Reconstructing the Stoic account of case (ptōsis) is a notoriously difficult problem in the study of Stoic philosophy of language. Situated in the subject position of complete lekta, it is well-attested that cases are arranged or combined with predicates as components of assertibles (axiōmata), so that in the assertible expressed by the sentence “Socrates is walking,” the case corresponds to ‘Socrates’. Unfortunately, not much else can be said about cases that is uncontroversial. The basic features of these peculiar entities are shrouded in mystery owing to conflicting reports in our small pool of surviving evidence. For instance, it is implied at SE M 8.12 that names correspond to a type of lekton, and it is stated by Clement at Misc that cases are incorporeals. At the same time, a handful of reports from Plutarch, Stobaeus, and Galen all suggest that cases are inflected word forms, which are bodies on the Stoic analysis, and hence not lekta or incorporeals at all. That cases are word forms is denied in a Stoic-influenced report at ΣDT 231, 24-8, while at DL 7.57-58, names and appellatives correspond to qualities. Commentators have thus interpreted the evidence on cases in a variety of ways. Some, for example, have argued that cases are indeed incorporeals. Others propose that they are quality instances. Still others maintain that they are, after all, word forms. I reject these interpretations and argue that the Stoics endorse two accounts of cases, and that this helps explain the inconsistencies in our extant source texts without requiring us to discard any precious evidence. One account of cases, I argue, finds its home in Stoic grammatical theory, as an account of declined word forms. In addition to this, I rehabilitate a new account of ‘metaphysical’ cases, on which cases are part of an explanatory framework that helps the Stoics taxonomize the world at varying levels of particularity in relation to concepts without resorting to the hypostatization of generic items.