Invited Speakers

Workshop in Ancient Philosophy - TT 2024

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Eric Brown (Washington University in St Louis) ‘Stoics on Uncertainty

Abstract: This essay argues that uncertainty poses a special problem to the Stoics, and that they have an interesting and complicated response to this problem. I argue that they oppose simply suspending judgment in the face of uncertainty about what to do, that they seek to minimize situations of practical uncertainty by cultivating expertise, and that they nevertheless face uncertainty about what will happen. One might suppose that they have a special strategy to deal with this uncertainty about the future, as an anecdote about Sphaerus and some advice about acting “with reservation” suggest special strategies. But I argue that these strategies fail to solve the problem, and that the Stoic response to uncertainty about the future is to deny that knowledge about what will happen is necessary to decide what to do wisely.

Chair: Marion Durand


Wenjin Liu (Duke) ‘The Root of Political Degeneration

Abstract: This paper explores the root of political degeneration, a process through which a city deviates from its ideal, in Plato’s Republic. Contrary to existing interpretations, which either denies the existence of a single root or regards the neglect of reason as the root, I argue that the root of political degeneration is a corrupt paideia. My argument rests on uncovering a neglected, normative conception of paideia: it consists of an extensive educational system, which helps prepare and select human beings who are suitable for ruling the ideal city, and a sound culture—construed broadly as to include, but not limited to, material, social, and intellectual pursuits and products that embody correct conceptions of evaluative matters. A corrupt paideia, as the first evitable defect in the casual chain of political degeneration, leads to other issues, which, if untreated, give rise to further decline.

Chair: Karen Margrethe Nielsen


Ackrill Lecture. 4.30 in Amersi Lecture Theatre, Brasenose College

James Allen (Toronto) ‘Aristotle, Dialectic, and Philosophy

Abstract: The presentation will tackle the old and much discussed question whether and how, in Aristotle’s view, dialectic can be of service to philosophy. The focus is on the philosopher’s official and programmatic views about dialectic, above all as we know them from the Topics. On the basis of an examination of what Aristotle has to say about the uses of the dialectical method, the nature and varieties of dialectical practice and the materials of which dialectic makes use, I defend the conclusion that dialectic—both the method and the practice—have real if comparatively modest contributions to make to philosophy according to him. The door is left open for the possibility that he may have underestimated the significance of their value for philosophy.

Chair: Simon Shogry


Giulia Bonasio (Durham) ‘The virtues of theoretical thinking in the Eudemian Ethics’

Abstract: In this paper, I focus on the virtues of theoretical thinking—theoretical nous, epistêmê, and sophia—as they are discussed in Aristotle’s Eudemian Ethics. I develop three arguments—the Inclusion Argument, the Cooperation Argument, and the Teleological Argument—to show that the virtues of theoretical thinking must be included in what I call the Functional Unity of the Virtues. According to the Functional Unity of the Virtues, when they are possessed together, all the virtues of Aristotle’s ethics fulfil tasks that are useful for the well functioning of the other virtues. In this sense, all the virtues co-function and benefit one another. According to the Inclusion Argument, in order to achieve happiness, we need not only the virtues of character and the virtues of practical thinking, but also the virtues of theoretical thinking. According to the Cooperation Argument, phronêsis, the character virtues, and the so-called minor virtues of practical thinking accomplish tasks that are fundamental for the virtues of theoretical thinking to fulfil their full potential. That is, when agents have these virtues, their souls are in the best conditions for theoretical activity. According to the Teleological Argument, virtues of theoretical thinking and their activities are the final cause of the activities of all the other virtues and their activities.

Chair: Alex Bown


(Friday) Corpus Christi Classics Centre Lecture. 5pm in Corpus Christi Auditorium

George Boys-Stones, (Toronto) ‘The Limits of Eudaimonism. Theories of Virtue in the Ancient Platonist Tradition

Abstract: It is often assumed that ancient philosophers took it as axiomatic that being good, being virtuous, and being happy all coincided. But it is not so clear that Plato did, and it is quite clear that many of his later followers did not. This talk looks at two of them, Alcinous and Plutarch, and suggests that, in general, the assumption of eudaimonism occludes as much in the landscape of ancient ethics as it illuminates.


Hannah Laurens (Oxford): 'Aristotle’s Prime Mover: Paradigm of Life and Self-Love'


For Aristotle, love makes the world go round (Kahn, 1985): the heavenly spheres (themselves alive for Aristotle) desire the Prime Mover, a being that is alive to the highest extent, and their desire is expressed in eternal circular locomotion. The Prime Mover as the highest object of desire is Aristotle’s explanation for the motion of the cosmos. But how does mortal life relate to the Prime Mover? Do plants, animals, and human beings desire the Prime Mover’s state as well? Although this is often denied (e.g., Judson 2019), I argue that there is striking textual evidence for an intimate connection between mortal life and the Prime Mover: mortal living beings don’t merely imitate the Prime Mover’s state of being, they participate in it – even if only to some limited degree. Such a view explains why all life loves living and why the highest happiness for human beings consists in a self-loving awareness of our own being alive.

Chair: Janine Gühler


Fiona Leigh (UCL) ‘Elenchus, Dialectic, and Epistemic Virtue in the Republic’

Abstract: TBC

Chair: Teddy Jennings

  • This is a speaker series devoted to discussing work in progress by speakers within and outside Oxford pertaining to the field
  • Seminars take place on Thursdays at 4pm-6pm, in the Radcliffe Humanities Building, Ryle Room (2nd floor)
  • Convenors: Prof. Ursula Coope, Prof. Simon Shogry, Prof. Alexander Bown
  • Members of the Faculty, students, and visitors are welcome
  • If you would like to go out to dinner with the speaker, then please contact the chair of the meeting before Tuesday of that week




Greco-Roman and Classical Chinese Translation: Theory and Practice – TT24

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Benjamin Sharkey (Oxford) “Christian scriptural and classical translation and transmission in Asia before the Jesuits.”

Ross Moncrief (Oxford) “The Jesuits and Neo-Confucianism: A Comparative Philosophical Approach to Confucius Sinarum Philosophus.”

Lea Cantor (Cambridge) “Plato’s and Zhuangzi’s shared argument against the view that only one thing exists.”

Kai Chen (Oxford) “Greece as Mirror: Reassessing China’s Cultural Identity through Classical Scholarship in the Early 20th Century.”

Simone Mollea and Elisa della Calce (Università di Torino) “The Latin Confucius. The Translation techniques of the Confucius Sinarum Philosophus (1687).”

Justine Potts (Oxford) “Daring translation and mistranslation: Stephen Weston and the Qianlong emperor’s poetry on chicken cups (with a note on Keats’s reception of Eastern and Western Classics).”

Cynthia Liu (Oxford) and Xiaojing Miao (Oxford, Pembroke) “Latinizing Chinese and Sinicizing Latin: a joint examination of Angelo Zottoli’s translations of Tang poetry.”

  • The Janus Project will be running a seminar on “Greco-Roman and Classical Chinese Translation: Theory and Practice” this term. This seminar series is intended to look more broadly at Latin translations of Chinese texts, Chinese translations of Greco-Roman texts, and translation as theory and practice within and between both traditions. The seminar is aimed at a general audience with no assumption of language expertise in either Latin or Chinese.

  • All seminars will take place on Fridays, 2pm–3:30pm during term time in the Outreach Room, Ioannou Centre (in the Oxford Classics Faculty)

  • To join online please email

Corpus Christi College Centre for the Study of Greek and Roman Antiquity Seminar: Ancient Grammar(s) – TT 2024

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Eleanor Dickey (Reading): 'Introduction to the Greek and Latin grammarians'

Cynthia Liu (University of Oxford): 'Reformare and 化 in Angelo Zottoli’s Cursus Litteraturae Sinicae vol. 3'

Althea Sovani (University of Oxford): 'Do all words have a meaning? Indian grammarians and the semantics of indeclinable words'

Lionel Dumarty (CNRS): 'The naming of the pronoun in Alexandrian grammar. Critical study of the different traditions
at work in the development of a grammatical category (Apollonius Dyscolus,
On pronouns, 3.9-9.10)'

Lukas Spielhofer (Heidelberg): 'The Poetics of Grammar: (Paratextual) Poetry in Early Modern Textbooks'

Philomen Probert (University of Oxford): 'Ordered rules in Greek and Latin grammarians'

Ugo Mondini (University of Oxford): 'Using ancient grammatical texts in the Greek Middle Ages'