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Orcid ID: 0000-0001-8685-6800
- "Was Pyrrho a Pyrrhonian?", Apeiron, 50 (2017): 335-365. Many recent commentators, most notably Richard Bett, have made Pyrrho out to be a metaphysical dogmatist who thinks the world is fundamentally indeterminate. Despite some criticisms of this view by Brennan and others, this metaphysical reading has continued to gain adherents. But there are serious textual and logical problems with these dogmatic interpretations. According to the evidence we have, a better view is that Pyrrho was an agnostic skeptic, i.e. one who refused to make assertions about the world outside of perceptual or intellectual appearances. But this does not mean that the traditional view of Pyrrho is correct either: the kind of skepticism Pyrrho endorsed is not Pyrrhonian, because it is grounded in the nature of our epistemic faculties rather than opposition between equally plausible theories, arguments, beliefs, or appearances. A secondary thesis of this paper is about methodology. Rather than focus on the most ambiguous and contentious passages in isolation, we should base our interpretation on the whole corpus, beginning with the easiest passages. Faulty interpretations of Pyrrho go wrong, I argue, partly by failing to follow this method.
- "Melody and Rhythm at Plato's Symposium 187d2", Classical Philology 110 (2015): 152-158. In Plato’s Symposium Eryximachus provides a metaphysical theory based on the attraction of basic elements which he applies to a variety of domains, including music. In the text of his speech there is a variation in the manuscripts at 187d2 between two readings, “μέλεσί τε καὶ μέτροις” and “μέλεσί τε καὶ ῥυθμοῖς”. Though the former is almost universally followed, I argue that the latter is the correct reading. The manuscript transmission does not support either option over the other, but Plato’s style and diction, and the logic of the passage both suggest that ῥυθμοῖς is the preferable reading.
- "The Underlying Argument of Aristotle's Metaphysics Z.3". Phronesis 59 (2014):321-342. This paper argues that Aristotle’s Metaphysics Z.3 deploys a reductio against the claim that ‘substances underlie by being the subjects of predication’, in order to demonstrate the need for a new explanation of how substances underlie. Z.13 and H.1 corroborate this reading: both allude to an argument originally contained in Z.3, but now lost from our text, that form, matter and compound ‘underlie’ in different ways. This helps explain some of Z’s peculiarities—and it avoids committing Aristotle to self-contradiction about whether matter is substance, a claim denied in the reductio but endorsed elsewhere.
- "Secondary Happiness in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics." Newsletter for the Society of Ancient Greek Philosophy 17 (2017): 20-29. The first lines of NE X.8 are often translated to say that the life of moral virtue is a second kind of happiness, or is happiness is a secondary way. I argue that, minimally this is a mistranslation: Aristotle says only that the moral life "is so secondarily", leaving the predicate unspecified. I argue further that the best way to interpret this line is to understand it as saying the moral life is secondarily human, not secondarily happy. This reading is more plausible than the secondary happiness reading on its own terms, and has the added benefit for inclusivist interpreters of the NE that these lines are consistent with the rest of X.7-8 in arguing that there is exactly one form of eudaimonia.
- "Practical Nous in Aristotle's Ethics". Newsletter for the Society of Ancient Greek Philosophy 16 (2016):11-17. The undisputed books of the Nicomachean Ethics (NE I-IV, VIII-X) make nous a single part of the soul capable of both theoretical and practical reason; several key arguments in the NE rely on this unity of the rational part of the soul. The undisputed books of the Eudemian Ethics (EE I-III, VII-VIII) and the so-called "Common Books" (NE V-VII=EE IV-VI) both attibute theoretical and practical reason to distinct parts of the soul. This suggests that (i) the Common Books belong only with the EE, and (ii) the EE has a more sophisticated psychology than the NE.
- "Self-Love and Self-Sufficiency in the Aristotelian Ethics". Newsletter for the Society of Ancient Greek Philosophy 14 (2014):33-43. The Nicomachean Ethics and the Eudemian Ethics both argue that the self-sufficient person will have friends. But they give different arguments for this conclusion: the NE grounds the value of friendship in the value of self-love, because the friend is 'another self'. This argument fails to secure its conclusion. The EE, by contrast, grounds the value of friendship in the value of shared activity, and this argument is more successful. The best way to make sense of this, I submit, is that the EE book on philia was written to avoid the shortcomings in the earlier NE treatment.
- "Self-Love in the Aristotelian Ethics". Newsletter for the Society of Ancient Greek Philosophy 11 (2010):12-18. In the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle makes self-love the foundation of the friendship relation: in short, we love our self, and friends are other selves. But, I argue, the way we are related to ourselves on Aristotle's view means that self-love fails to meet the criteria for friendship Aristotle proposes, and hence self-love cannot play this foundational role. The treatment of friendship in the Eudemian Ethics is very simliar to the NE in many respects, but it secures its conclusions without appeal to self-love. This suggests both that the EE does a better job in discussing friendship, and that the EE book on philia was written to avoid the shortcomings in the earlier NE treatment.
- "Protagoras was Not a Relativist to Me". Newsletter for the Society of Ancient Greek Philosophy 10 (2009):8-14. In the Theaetetus and elsewhere, Plato associates Protagoras with the view of epistemic relativism. But based on our evidence of the historical Protagoras, he could not have been a relativist. I argue that a close reading of the Theaetetus shows that Plato is careful not to attribute relativism to Protagoras directly. Hence we should conclude both that the historical Protagoras was not a relativist, and that Plato was well aware of this fact.
Current Projects [Vague and title-less to protect blind-review]:
- Based on the extant fragments and on his treatment in the Theaetetus and Protagoras, Protagoras wasn't an epistemological relativist, and Plato didn't want us to think he was.
- In Book II of Plato's Republic, Socrates describes the simple city (what Glaucon calls the 'city of pigs') as a "true, healthy city". I argue that we must take this description of the simple city literally, and show how the simple city qualifies as a just city in the same way that Kallipolis does. I then explore what this means for the soul, suggesting that the simple city corresponds to a simple (i.e. non-composite) soul, a view suggested in earlier dialogues but rejected by Plato in the Republic in favor of the tripartite soul. I suggest that Plato uses Socrates's praise of the simple city as a way of marking rhetorically his own respect for his mentor's view, despite their disagreement.
- In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle says that self-love is the paradigm form of friendship, and draws many important conclusions from this status, e.g. about the intrinsic value of friendship. In the Eudemian Ethics, self-love is seriously demoted, and the relevant conclusions are supported by other means. I want to make sense of this change in doctrine. The best explanation is that the NE came first, Aristotle realized it had problems, and so wrote the EE to fix them.
- My dissertation argued that the so-called ‘Common Books’ printed in both the Nicomachean Ethics and the Eudemian Ethics (NE V-VII = EE IV-VI) are inconsistent with the NE on fundamental points of doctrine, and so should be regarded only as part of the EE; this has some interesting results for how we interpret the resulting seven-book NE. I begin by isolating the seven undisputed NE Books (I-IV, VIII-X), arguing that there is a consistent theory running throughout them, a rather strict version of intellectualism. On particular importance are the following claims: (i) divinity is a foundational concept for Aristotle’s understanding of eudaimonia, both in the formal properties eudaimonia has and in the specific conception of the best life he defends; (ii) the person or self is identified with nous, which Aristotle argues is the divine part of the soul; (iii) nous in the NE is a single part of the soul with both theoretical and practical powers. The Common Books, I argue, are inconsistent with these points: (i) Aristotle rejects thinking of humans in divine the way the NE requires; (ii) the self is never reduced to a single part of the soul, but rather the whole psychic composite; (iii) theoretical and practical reason are split between two parts. The Eudemian Ethics agrees with the Common Books against the NE on all three of these points. I then argue that the EE and Common Books refer to one another repeatedly, while there is not a single reference that compels us to take the Common Books and NE as a unit (there are only two possible exceptions, and both are better read in another way). This suggests that the Common Books do not belong in the NE. I conclude by rejecting the view that NE X.6-8 is the outlier causes the problems with the Common Books, and argue that the seven remaining NE books form a complete, coherent treatise without the Common Books or posited equivalents.
Classics MA thesis:
- Eryximachus' speech in Plato's Symposium is thoroughly Hippocratic in both style and substance. It also expresses a number of views which Plato endorses in his own work, especially the later dialogues like the Statesman, Timaeus, and Laws. This suggests that, contrary to the received view, Plato himself took the content of Eryximachus's speech very seriously.