• Colloquium 4: The Medical Background of Aristotle’s Theory of Nature and Spontaneity
    Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium of Ancient Philosophy 27 (1): 105-152. 2012.
  • Early Pyrrhonism as a Sect of Buddhism? A Case Study in the Methodology of Comparative Philosophy
    with Brett Shults
    Comparative Philosophy 9 (2): 1-40. 2018.
    We offer a sceptical examination of a thesis recently advanced in a monograph published by Princeton University Press, entitled Greek Buddha: Pyrrho’s Encounter with Early Buddhism in Central Asia. In this dense and probing work, Christopher I. Beckwith, a professor of Central Eurasian studies at Indiana University, Bloomington, argues that Pyrrho of Elis adopted a form of early Buddhism during his years in Bactria and Gandhāra, and that early Pyrrhonism must be understood as a sect of early Bud…Read more
  • U. C. San Diego Department of Philosophy History 1963-2011
    UC San Diego Department of Philosophy Newsletter 2014 1-6. 2014.
    A history of the UC San Diego (UCSD) Philosophy Department from its founding in 1963 through approximately 2004; significant publications until 2011 are also noted. The history was produced for the sake of the celebrations on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of UCSD (in 2013).
  • Changing Our Minds: Democritus on What is Up to Us
    In Pierre Destrée, R. Salles & Marco Antonio De Zingano (eds.), Up to Us: Studies on Causality and Responsibility in Ancient Philosophy, Academia Verlag. pp. 1-18. 2014.
    I develop a positive interpretation of Democritus' theory of agency and responsibility, building on previous studies that have already gone far in demonstrating his innovativeness and importance to the history and philosophy of these concepts. The interpretation will be defended by a synthesis of several familiar ethical fragments and maxims presented in the framework of an ancient problem that, unlike the problem of free will and determinism, Democritus almost certainly did confront: the proble…Read more
  • Protreptic Aspects of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics
    with D. S. Hutchinson
    In Ronald Polansky (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, Cambridge University Press. pp. 383-409. 2014.
    We hope to show that the overall protreptic plan of Aristotle's ethical writings is based on the plan he used in his published work Protrepticus (Exhortation to Philosophy), by highlighting those passages that primarily offer hortatory or protreptic motivation rather than dialectical argumentation and analysis, and by illustrating several ways that Aristotle adapts certain arguments and examples from his Protrepticus. In this essay we confine our attention to the books definitely attributable to…Read more
  • Aristotle's Architectonic Sciences
    In David Ebrey (ed.), Theory and Practice in Aristotle's Natural Science, Cambridge University Press. pp. 163-186. 2015.
    Aristotle rejected the idea of a single, overarching super-science or “theory of everything”, and he presented a powerful and influential critique of scientific unity. In theory, each science observes the facts unique to its domain, and explains these by means of its own proper principles. But even as he elaborates his prohibition on kind-crossing explanations (Posterior Analytics 1.6-13), Aristotle points out that there are important exceptions—that some sciences are “under” others in that they…Read more
  • Luck in Aristotle's Physics and Ethics
    In Devin Henry & K. Nielson (eds.), Bridging the Gap between Aristotle's Science and Ethics, Cambridge University Press. pp. 254-275. 2015.
    I discuss how Aristotle’s formulation of the problem of moral luck relates to his natural philosophy. I review well-known passages from Nicomachean Ethics I/X and Eudemian Ethics I/VII and Physics II, but in the main focus on EE VII 14 (= VIII 2). I argue that Aristotle’s position there (rejecting the elimination of luck, but reducing luck so far as possible to incidental natural and intelligent causes) is not only consistent with his treatment of luck in Physics II, but is to be expected, given…Read more
  • Aristotelian Mechanistic Explanation
    In J. Rocca (ed.), Teleology in the Ancient World: philosophical and medical approaches, Cambridge University Press. pp. 125-150. 2017.
    In some influential histories of ancient philosophy, teleological explanation and mechanistic explanation are assumed to be directly opposed and mutually exclusive alternatives. I contend that this assumption is deeply flawed, and distorts our understanding both of teleological and mechanistic explanation, and of the history of mechanistic philosophy. To prove this point, I shall provide an overview of the first systematic treatise on mechanics, the short and neglected work Mechanical Problems, …Read more
  • Aristotle on the Meaning of Life
    In Stephen Leach & James Tartaglia (eds.), The Meaning of Life and the Great Philosophers, Routledge. pp. 56-64. 2018.
    Aristotle is the first philosopher on record to subject the meaning of life to systematic philosophical examination: he approaches the issue from logical, psychological, biological, and anthropological perspectives in some of the central passages in the Corpus Aristotelicum and, it turns out, in some fragments from his (lost) early popular work the Protrepticus (Exhortation to Philosophy). From an Aristotelian perspective, in asking about life’s “meaning”, we may be asking either a theoretical q…Read more
  • Sources for the philosophy of archytas
    Ancient Philosophy 28 (1): 173-199. 2008.
    A review of Carl Huffman's new edition of the fragments of Archytas of Tarentum. Praises the extensive commentary on four fragments, but argues that at least two dubious works not included in the edition ("On Law and Justice" and "On Wisdom") deserve further consideration and contain important information for the interpretation of Archytas. Provides a complete translation for the fragments of those works
  • Protrepticus
    with Aristotle and D. S. Hutchinson
    A new translation and edition of Aristotle's Protrepticus (with critical comments on the fragments) Welcome The Protrepticus was an early work of Aristotle, written while he was still a member of Plato's Academy, but it soon became one of the most famous works in the whole history of philosophy. Unfortunately it was not directly copied in the middle ages and so did not survive in its own manuscript tradition. But substantial fragments of it have been preserved in several works by Iamblichus of C…Read more
  • The Medical Background of Aristotle’s Theory of Nature and Spontaneity
    Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium of Ancient Philosophy 27 (1): 105-152. 2012.
    Abstract: An appreciation of the "more philosophical" aspects of ancient medical writings casts considerable light on Aristotle's concept of nature, and how he understands nature to differ from art, on the one hand, and spontaneity or luck, on the other. The account of nature, and its comparison with art and spontaneity in Physics II is developed with continual reference to the medical art. The notion of spontaneous remission of disease (without the aid of the medical art) was a controversial su…Read more
  • Ousia: a fundamental term in Plato's ontology
    Southwest Philosophy Review 17 (1): 95-101. 2000.
    I argue against Deborah Nails that Plato, like Aristotle, frequently used the term "ousia" to indicate what is ontologically fundamental, and that he did so throughout all periods of his writing.
  • The Aristotelian Explanation of the Halo
    Apeiron 42 (4): 325-357. 2009.
    For an Aristotelian observer, the halo is a puzzling phenomenon since it is apparently sublunary, and yet perfectly circular. This paper studies Aristotle's explanation of the halo in Meteorology III 2-3 as an optical illusion, as opposed to a substantial thing (like a cloud), as was thought by his predecessors and even many successors. Aristotle's explanation follows the method of explanation of the Posterior Analytics for "subordinate" or "mixed" mathematical-physical sciences. The accompanyin…Read more
  • Nature, spontaneity, and voluntary action in Lucretius
    In Daryn Lehoux, A. D. Morrison & Alison Sharrock (eds.), Lucretius: Poetry, Philosophy, Science, Oxford University Press. 2013.
    In twenty important passages located throughout De rerum natura, Lucretius refers to natural things happening spontaneously (sponte sua; the Greek term is automaton). The most important of these uses include his discussion of the causes of: nature, matter, and the cosmos in general; the generation and adaptation of plants and animals; the formation of images and thoughts; and the behavior of human beings and the development of human culture. In this paper I examine the way spontaneity functions …Read more
  • Review of Mann, The Discovery of Things, and Wardy, Aristotle in China (review)
    Ancient Philosophy 21 (1): 188-198. 2001.
    A review and comparison of two recent and very different monographs about Aristotle's Categories: W. R. Mann "The Discovery of Things" and Robert Ward's "Aristotle in China".
  • Aristotle on Teleology
    Oxford University Press. 2005.
    Aristotle's has been the most influential philosophy in the whole history of science. Monte Johnson examines its most controversial aspect: Aristotle's emphasis on the importance of goals and purposes to scientific understanding--his teleology. In some cases this policy has proved deeply flawed, for example in his earth-centric cosmology, or his anthropology purporting to justify slavery and male domination. But in many areas Aristotle's teleology has been successful, and remains influential, fo…Read more
  • Lucretius and the history of science
    In Stuart Gillespie & Philip R. Hardie (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Lucretius, Cambridge University Press. 2007.
    An overview of the influence of Lucretius poem On the Nature of Things (De Rerum Natura) on the renaissance and scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, and an examination of its continuing influence over physical atomism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
  • Isocrates' Antidosis ("Defense against the Exchange") and Aristotle's Protrepticus ("Exhortation to Philosophy") were recovered from oblivion in the late nineteenth century. In this article we demonstrate that the two texts happen to be directly related. Aristotle's Protrepticus was a response, on behalf of the Academy, to Isocrates' criticism of the Academy and its theoretical preoccupations. Contents: I. Introduction: Protrepticus, text and context II. Authentication of the Protrepticus of Ari…Read more
  • Was Gassendi an Epicurean?
    History of Philosophy Quarterly 20 (4). 2003.
    Pierre Gassendi was a major factor in the revival of Epicureanism in early modern philosophy, not only through his contribution to the restoration and criticism of Epicurean texts, but also by his adaptation of Epicurean ideas in his own philosophy, which was itself influential on such important figures of early modern philosophy as Hobbes, Locke, Newton, and Boyle (to name just a few). Despite his vigorous defense of certain Epicurean ideas and ancient atomism, Gassendi goes to great lengths to…Read more
  • Aristotle on the Ends and Limits of Teleology
    Dissertation, University of Toronto (Canada). 2003.
    Aristotle is commonly considered the inventor of teleology, although the exact term "teleology" originated in the eighteenth century. If teleology means the use of ends and goals in natural science, then Aristotle should be regarded rather as a critical innovator of teleological explanation. Teleological notions were widespread among his predecessors, but Aristotle rejected their conception of extrinsic causes like mind or god as the primary causes for natural things. Aristotle's radical alterna…Read more
  • Spontaneity, Democritean Causality and Freedom
    Elenchos 30 (1): 5-52. 2009.
    Critics have alleged that Democritus’ ethical prescriptions (“gnomai”) are incompatible with his physics, since his atomism seems committed to necessity or chance (or an awkward combination of both) as a universal cause of everything, leaving no room for personal responsibility. I argue that Democritus’ critics, both ancient and contemporary, have misunderstood a fundamental concept of his causality: a cause called “spontaneity”, which Democritus evidently considered a necessary (not chance) cau…Read more
  • Authenticating Aristotle's Protrepticus
    Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 29 193-294. 2005.
    Authenticates approximately 500 lines of Aristotle's lost work the Protrepticus (Exhortation to Philosophy) contained in the circa third century AD work by Iamblichus of Chalcis entitled Protrepticus epi philosophian. Includes a complete English translation of the authenticated material.