Departments of Classics and Philosophy

University of Toronto

Jackman Humanities Building

170 St. George St.

Toronto ON




I teach in the Departments of Philosophy and Classics at the University of Toronto, and participate in our Collaborative Programme in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy (CSAMP). If you are interested in doing a PhD in ancient (or medieval) philosophy, check us out!

My research is on ancient philosophy, for the most part on issues of ethics and moral psychology, epistemology, and philosophical method. I’m particularly interested in the questions that arise where several of these topics intersect – and, above all, their interplay in Plato. Thus I’ve written several articles related in various ways to Plato’s conception of the Good: one on its status as the object of our desire, one on the closely related concept of the kalon, one on Aristotle’s attacks on the Form of the Good, one on the ranking of goods in the Philebus, and another on how Plato’s theory of the good seems to be intertwined with his critique of rhetoric. I’m also fascinated by the concepts of technê and craft in ancient ethics; in addition to a paper on Plato's uses of it, I’ve written one working out the role of technê in Aristotle’s function argument, and another discussing the role of technê in the argument between Socrates and Thrasymachus. I also think it’s important to discuss Plato with due attention to his complicated strategies as a writer: this was a focus of my thesis and my resultant papers and book on the Cratylus. I’ve also written on ring-composition in the Republic, and ambiguity in the allegory of the Cave.

I’m also intrigued by commentary, history, doxography and other interpretive forms as (under-appreciated) ways of doing philosophy: hence a paper on Aristotle's methods as a historian of philosophy and a somewhat boosterish paper on the Neoplatonist commentator Simplicius. Some general (and far from finished) thoughts on the history of philosophy, and its uses for contemporary philosophy, are here. Otherwise I don't work much on Aristotle; but a paper on his conception of moral badness is here, and also my translation of his (or somebody's) long-lost opusculum On Trolling.

Another ongoing interest is in the ancient sophists. A general study is here, a paper on Gorgias' Helen here. The sophists have been unfairly marginalized and deprecated by historians of ancient philosophy, I believe, not least because their philosophical and literary practices were so different from what later became standard. My principal current project is a book on the thought of Protagoras, making the case for him as one of the inventors of what becomes Western philosophy. In the mean time, as a promissory note, here is an old draft paper ('Twenty Questions About Protagorean Wisdom') which briefly sketches some of the ideas to be argued for in the book. If you are working on/thinking about/interested in Protagoras (or the Anonymous Iamblichi, or the Dissoi Logoi), feel free to get in touch to exchange ideas.

My other major current projects include a revised and expanded version of the Nellie Wallace Lectures at Oxford, on the political philosophy of Plato's Republic; and my upcoming Tanner Lectures at Berkeley, on the relation (once more) of ethics to craft. Neither of these is ready for public consumption as yet, but some other draft papers are posted in the Works in Progress: comments welcome. Feel free to email me if we have interests in common.