University of Witwatersrand
Department of Philosophy
PhD, 1993
East Lansing, Michigan, United States of America
Areas of Interest
Metaphysics
  •  311
    Bad Luck to Take a Woman Aboard
    In Debra Nails & Harold Tarrant (eds.), Second Sailing: Alternative Perspectives on Plato, Societas Scientiarum Fennica. pp. 73-90. 2015.
    Despite Diotima’s irresistible virtues and attractiveness across the millennia, she spells trouble for philosophy. It is not her fault that she has been misunderstood, nor is it Plato’s. Rather, I suspect, each era has made of Diotima what it desired her to be. Her malleability is related to the assumption that Plato invented her, that she is a mere literary fiction, licensing the imagination to do what it will. In the first part of my paper, I argue against three contemporary ‘majority views’ a…Read more
  •  259
    Plato's Republic in Its Athenian Context
    History of Political Thought 33 (1): 1-23. 2012.
    Plato's Republic critiques Athenian democracy as practised during the Peloponnesian War years. The diseased city Socrates attempts to purge mirrors Athens in crucial particulars, and his proposals should be evaluated as counter-weights to existing institutions and practices, not as absolutes to be instantiated. Plato's assessment of the Athenian polity incorporates two strategies -- one rhetorical, the other argumentative -- both of which I address. Failure to consider Athens a catalyst for Socr…Read more
  •  251
    Social-Scientific Sexism: Gilligan's Mismeasure of Man
    Social Research: An International Quarterly 50. 1983.
    I argue that Carol Gilligan's claims about female moral development reproduce and encourage the oppression of women. A comparison of her descriptions of abortion-decision study cases with those of Mary F. Belenky (whose dissertation recorded more data from the same interviews than did Gilligan's book), show troubling discrepancies. Gilligan's book is more literature than science, retelling women's stories in compelling--but misleading--ways.
  •  244
    Two Dogmas of Platonism
    Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium of Ancient Philosophy 28 (1): 77-112. 2013.
    Contemporary platonism has been conditioned in large part by two dogmas. One is the belief in a fundamental cleavage between intelligible but invisible Platonic forms that are real and eternal, and perceptible objects whose confinement to spacetime constitutes an inferior existence and about which knowledge is impossible. The other dogma involves a kind of reductionism: the belief that Plato’s unhypothetical first principle of the all is identical to the form of the good. Both dogmas, I argu…Read more
  •  171
    Tragedy off-stage
    In J. H. Lesher, Debra Nails & Frisbee C. C. Sheffield (eds.), Plato's Symposium: Issues in Interpretation and Reception, Harvard University Press. 2006.
    I argue that the tragedies envisioned by the Symposium are two, both of which are introduced in the dialogue: (i) within months of Agathon's victory, half the characters who celebrated with him suffer death or exile on charges of impiety; (ii) Socrates is executed weeks after the dramatic date of the frame. Thus the most defensible notion of tragedy across Plato's dialogues is a fundamentally epistemological one: if we do not know the good, we increase our risk of making mistakes and of suffe…Read more
  •  105
    Plato's Housing Policy: Then and Now
    with Soula Proxenos
    The Proceedings of the Twenty-First World Congress of Philosophy 10 73-78. 2007.
    Plato put housing second only to a secure food supply in the order of business of an emerging polis [Republic 2.369d); we argue, without quibbling over rank, that adequate housing ought to have fundamental priority, with health and education, in civil societies' planning, budgets, and legislative agendas. Something made explicit in the Platonic Laws, and often reiterated by today's poor — but as often forgotten by bureaucrats— is that human wellbeing, eudaimonia, is impossible for the homeless. …Read more
  •  78
    Five Platonic Characters
    In Gabriele Cornelli (ed.), Plato's Styles and Characters: Between Literature and Philosophy, De Gruyter. pp. 297-316. 2015.
    As a way of arguing that Platonic characters' individual roles within familial, social, and religious structures could deepen our understanding of some philosophical issues--human nature, epistemology, justice and education in the polis, virtue--I present information about the characters Meno of Thessaly, Theaetetus of Sunium, Diotima of Mantinea, Phaenarete (wife of Sophroniscus and Chaeredemus), and [unnamed] of Athens (wife of Pericles and Hipponicus).
  •  59
    On Wittgenstein: The Language-Game and Linguistics
    Auslegung 3 (2): 75-82. 1976.
    Wittgenstein was not the "anti-philosopher" he is so often characterized as having been. this short paper points out inadequacies in some of the traditional views of wittgenstein's philosophy. it then suggests a more positive view of what wittgenstein believed the object of philosophy ought to be: in short, the language-game conceived as human activity, object and linguistic sign, mediated by the rules of grammar. finally, to provide an example of one of the ways in which philosophy might procee…Read more
  •  50
    Plato's Housing Policy
    with Soula Proxenos
    The Proceedings of the Twenty-First World Congress of Philosophy 10 73-78. 2007.
    Plato put housing second only to a secure food supply in the order of business of an emerging polis [Republic 2.369d); we argue, without quibbling over rank, that adequate housing ought to have fundamental priority, with health and education, in civil societies' planning, budgets, and legislative agendas. Somethingmade explicit in the Platonic Laws, and often reiterated by today's poor — but as often forgotten by bureaucrats— is that human wellbeing, eudaimonia, is impossible for the homeless. T…Read more
  •  43
    Spinoza And The Sciences
    with Marjorie G. Grene
    Kluwer Academic Publishers. 1986.
    The chapters of the book do not situate Spinoza among the natural philosophical giants who opened the way to modern science. Rather they explore Spinoza's relation to the sciences in a variety of ways. Contributors: Joseph Agassi, Thomas Cook, Marjorie Grene, Hans Jonas, André Lecrivain, Genevieve Lloyd, Alexandre Matheron, Nancy Maull, Debra Nails, Michel Paty, Richard H. Popkin, David Savan, Heine Siebrand, and Joe D. Van Zandt.
  •  36
    Ousia in the Platonic Dialogues
    Southwestern Journal of Philosophy 10 (1): 71-77. 1979.
  •  33
    Tidying the socratic mess of a method
    Southwest Philosophy Review 13 (2): 1-14. 1997.
  •  32
    "Of Children, Fools, and Madmen: Spinoza's Scientific Method and the Constraints of Fact" Spinoza has been largely ignored in the history of the scientific method in the seventeenth century. Such neglect is unjustified insofar as Spinoza deliberately circumscribed with scientific method both Biblical hermeneutics (TTP), a field which he deserves credit for founding, and political theory (TP). Although he wrote no discrete discourse on method, he wove his scientific methodological principles into…Read more
  •  30
    Colloquium 3: Two Dogmas Of Platonism
    Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium of Ancient Philosophy 28 (1): 77-101. 2013.
    Contemporary platonism has been conditioned in large part by two dogmas. One is the belief in a fundamental cleavage between intelligible but invisible Platonic forms that are real and eternal, and perceptible objects whose confinement to spacetime constitutes an inferior existence and about which knowledge is impossible. The other dogma involves a kind of reductionism: the belief that Plato's unhypothetical first principle of the all is identical to the form of the good. Both dogmas, I argue…Read more
  •  29
    A Little Platonic Heresy for the Eighties
    Teaching Philosophy 8 (1): 33-40. 1985.
  •  26
    Socrates
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2008.
  •  20
    Review of Cristina Ionescu, Plato's Meno: An Interpretation (review)
    Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2007 (11). 2007.
  •  19
    Epitaph For The Third Man
    Auslegung 6 6-23. 1978.
    The "third man" argument presented in plato's "parmenides" is valid against any articulated version of the theory of forms. Plato recognized this fact, yet continued to hold the theory because the most fundamental description of what is (the "unwritten theory") cannot be articulated and does not fall victim to the third man
  •  19
    Annotated Bibliography of Spinoza and the Sciences
    In Marjorie G. Grene & Debra Nails (eds.), Spinoza and the Sciences, Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 305--314. 1986.
  •  19
    Seduced by prodicus
    Southwest Philosophy Review 17 (2): 129-139. 2001.
  •  19
    Agora, Academy, and the Conduct of Philosophy
    Kluwer Academic Publishers. 1995.
    Agora, Academy, and the Conduct of Philosophy offers extremely careful and detailed criticisms of some of the most important assumptions scholars have brought to bear in beginning the process of (Platonic) interpretation. It goes on to offer a new way to group the dialogues, based on important facts in the lives and philosophical practices of Socrates - the main speaker in most of Plato's dialogues - and of Plato himself. Both sides of Debra Nails's arguments deserve close attention: the negativ…Read more
  •  17
    Plato's Symposium: Issues in Interpretation and Reception (edited book)
    with J. H. Lesher and Frisbee C. C. Sheffield
    Harvard University Press. 2006.
    In his Symposium, Plato crafted speeches in praise of love that has influenced writers and artists from antiquity to the present. But questions remain concerning the meaning of specific features, the significance of the dialogue as a whole, and the character of its influence. Here, an international team of scholars addresses such questions.
  •  12
    A Little Platonic Heresy
    Demonstrating Philosophy 71-78. 1988.
    Translations of Plato's Republic, footnotes, and commentary strongly influence how the dialogue is interpreted. This brief paper compares a few English translations and commentaries.
  •  7
    Plato
    The Philosophers' Magazine 92 85-91. 2021.
  •  6
    François Renaud replies to the question of what principles one ought to employ in the study of Plato by arguing that, and demonstrating how, the argument and the drama operate together successfully in the Gorgias. In agreement with Renaud’s approach, I expose some historical roots with a review of Platonic interpretive strategies of the modern period in the context of history of philosophy more generally. I also try to show why argument and drama operate together, an insight I attribute to Plato…Read more
  •  6
    Doing it vs. Teaching it: a Modest Proposal
    Philosophie Et Culture: Actes du XVIIe Congrès Mondial de Philosophie 5 486-487. 1988.
  •  4
    _The People of Plato_ is the first study since 1823 devoted exclusively to the identification of, and relationships among, the individuals represented in the complete Platonic corpus. It provides details of their lives, and it enables one to consider the persons of Plato's works, and those of other Socratics, within a nexus of important political, social, and familial relationships. Debra Nails makes a broad spectrum of scholarship accessible to the non-specialist. She distinguishes what can be …Read more
  •  2
    Second Sailing: Alternative Perspectives on Plato (edited book)
    with Harold Tarrant
    Societas Scientiarum Fennica. 2015.