A common criticism of ancient ethical theories is that they are not sufficiently action-guiding. My dissertation vindicates the Stoics from this charge. Despite the abstract and technical appearance of Stoic ethics, our evidence suggests that the Stoics aimed to provide concrete guidance on how to live virtuously and in conformity with nature. Scholars have failed to appreciate how Stoic ethical theory can provide deliberative guidance because they have overlooked the central role of the metaphysics of value in their thinking about action. By foregrounding issues in Stoic axiology I am able to provide a novel account of Stoic practical reasoning that links up with all aspects of their philosophy, including their providential and physicalist picture of the world. My view also has implications for our understanding of Stoicism’s place in the development of western moral philosophy. While the Stoics are thoroughgoing eudaimonists (contrary to some characterizations of their view as ‘modern’ and ‘legalistic’), their conception of happiness in relation to natural law paves the way for later developments in the tradition.
A more detailed summary of my dissertation is available upon request.
1. I was awarded the inaugural Provost’s Graduate Academic Engagement Fellowship to design the first ever graduate taught Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) course. I am also conducting collaborative research on topics ranging from the history of philosophical practice to moral issues surrounding community engagement by philosophers.
2. As a historian of Greek philosophy I am interested in the genealogy of supposedly perennial ethical notions like natural law, morality, and duty. In a paper in progress, I trace the reception of the Stoic doctrine of the ‘καθῆκον’ (appropriate action or duty) in Roman philosophy (as ‘officium’) and in modernity as ‘Pflicht’ and ‘duty’. One upshot is that Cicero’s anti-Epicurean polemics set the stage for later deontological translations of this Stoic notion. Another upshot is that the essential core of the Stoic way of talking about the fitness or appropriateness of human action in purely extensional or behavioral terms persists throughout its transmission history.
3. I am collaborating with Scott Weinstein and Brian Reese on a paper centered around Zeno’s Paradox of Measure. In a paper entitled “How can a line segment with extension be composed of extensionless points? From Aristotle to Borel, and Beyond,” we provide a novel exposition of the modern mathematical resolution of Zeno’s paradox, and consider the extent to which this answer was accessible to the ancient mathematical understanding of the nature of the linear continuum. We also show that the modern resolution of the paradox has nothing to do with Cantor’s proof that the linear continuum is uncountably infinite, as is widely believed.