• A Puzzle in Stoic Ethics
    In David Sedley (ed.), Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, Volume Xxiv: Summer 2003, Oxford University Press. 2003.
  •  10
    Colloquium 2 What Kind of Theory is the Theory of the Tripartite Soul?
    Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium of Ancient Philosophy 31 (1): 53-83. 2016.
  •  20
    Appearances and Impressions
    Phronesis 37 (3): 283-313. 1992.
  •  504
    Plato on conventionalism
    Phronesis 42 (2). 1997.
    A new reading of Plato's account of conventionalism about names in the Cratylus. It argues that Hermogenes' position, according to which a name is whatever anybody 'sets down' as one, does not have the counterintuitive consequences usually claimed. At the same time, Plato's treatment of conventionalism needs to be related to his treatment of formally similar positions in ethics and politics. Plato is committed to standards of objective natural correctness in all such areas, despite the problemat…Read more
  •  13
    Commentary on Rist: Is Plato interested in meta-ethics?
    Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium of Ancient Philosophy 14 (1): 73-82. 1998.
  •  1593
    Aristotle's Argument for a Human Function
    Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 34 293-322. 2008.
    A generally ignored feature of Aristotle’s famous function argument is its reliance on the claim that practitioners of the crafts (technai) have functions: but this claim does important work. Aristotle is pointing to the fact that we judge everyday rational agency and agents by norms which are independent of their contingent desires: a good doctor is not just one who happens to achieve his personal goals through his work. But, Aristotle argues, such norms can only be binding on individuals if hu…Read more
  •  1029
    The Carpenter and the Good
    In D. Cairns, F. G. Herrmann & T. Penner (eds.), Pursuing the Good: Ethics and Metaphysics in Plato's Republic, University of Edinburgh. 2008.
    Among Aristotle’s criticisms of the Form of the Good is his claim that the knowledge of such a Good could be of no practical relevance to everyday rational agency, e.g. on the part of craftspeople. This critique turns out to hinge ultimately on the deeply different assumptions made by Plato and Aristotle about the relation of ‘good’ and ‘good for’. Plato insists on the conceptual priority of the former; and Plato wins the argument.
  •  354
    Platonism, Moral Nostalgia and the City of Pigs
    Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium of Ancient Philosophy 17 (1): 207-27. 2001.
    Plato’s depiction of the first city in the Republic (Book II), the so-called ‘city of pigs’, is often read as expressing nostalgia for an earlier, simpler era in which moral norms were secure. This goes naturally with readings of other Platonic texts (including Republic I and the Gorgias) as expressing a sense of moral decline or crisis in Plato’s own time. This image of Plato as a spokesman for ‘moral nostalgia’ is here traced in various nineteenth- and twentieth-century interpretations, and re…Read more
  •  457
    Gorgias' defense: Plato and his opponents on rhetoric and the good
    Southern Journal of Philosophy 48 (1): 95-121. 2010.
    This paper explores in detail Gorgias' defense of rhetoric in Plato 's Gorgias, noting its connections to earlier and later texts such as Aristophanes' Clouds, Gorgias' Helen, Isocrates' Nicocles and Antidosis, and Aristotle's Rhetoric. The defense as Plato presents it is transparently inadequate; it reveals a deep inconsistency in Gorgias' conception of rhetoric and functions as a satirical precursor to his refutation by Socrates. Yet Gorgias' defense is appropriated, in a streamlined form, by …Read more
  •  447
    A Puzzle in Stoic Ethics
    Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 24 303-40. 2003.
    It is very difficult to get a clear picture of how the Stoic is supposed to deliberate. This paper considers a number of possible pictures, which cover such a wide range of options that some look Kantian and others utilitarian. Each has some textual support but is also unworkable in certain ways: there seem to be genuine and unresolved conflicts at the heart of Stoic ethics. And these are apparently due not to developmental changes within the school, but to the Stoics’ having adopted implicitly …Read more
  •  174
    Socrates Agonistes: The Case of the Cratylus Etymologies
    Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 16 63-98. 1998.
    Are the long, wildly inventive etymologies in Plato’s Cratylus just some kind of joke, or does Plato himself accept them? This standard question misses the most important feature of the etymologies: they are a competitive performance, an agôn by Socrates in which he shows that he can play the game of etymologists like Cratylus better than they can themselves. Such show-off performances are a recurrent feature of Platonic dialogue: they include Socrates’ speeches on eros in the Phaedrus, his rhet…Read more
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    Appearances and Impressions
    Phronesis 37 (3): 283-313. 1992.
    Pyrrhonian sceptics claim, notoriously, to assent to the appearances without making claims about how things are. To see whether this is coherent we need to consider the philosophical history of ‘appearance’(phainesthai)-talk, and the closely related concept of an impression (phantasia). This history suggests that the sceptics resemble Plato in lacking the ‘non-epistemic’ or ‘non-doxastic’ conception of appearance developed by Aristotle and the Stoics. What is distinctive about the Pyrrhonian sce…Read more
  •  215
    The Inner Voice: Kant on Conditionality and God as a Cause
    In Joachim Aufderheide & Ralf M. Bader (eds.), The Highest Good in Aristotle and Kant, Oxford University Press. pp. 158-182. 2015.
  •  15
    Platonism, Moral Nostalgia, and the “City of Pigs”
    Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium of Ancient Philosophy 17 (1): 207-236. 2002.
  • A Reading of Plato's "Cratylus"
    Dissertation, Princeton University. 1996.
    The Cratylus is Plato's principal discussion of language, and has generated immense interpretive controversy. This thesis offers a new interpretation of the Cratylus, starting from the idea that it is essentially a normative enquiry, to be interpreted alongside Plato's ethical and political works. Just as the Statesman attempts to determine the nature of the statesman, so too the basic project of the Cratylus is to discover what constitutes a true, correct name. But this aim is doomed in the cas…Read more
  •  743
    Simplicius: Commentary, Harmony, and Authority
    Antiquorum Philosophia 3 101-120. 2009.
    Simplicius’ project of harmonizing previous philosophers deserves to be taken seriously as both a philosophical and an interpretive project. Simplicius follows Aristotle himself in developing charitable interpretations of his predecessors: his distinctive project, in the Neoplatonic context, is the rehabilitation of the Presocratics (especially Parmenides, Anaxagoras and Empedocles) from a Platonic-Aristotelian perspective. Simplicius’ harmonizations involve hermeneutic techniques which are reco…Read more
  •  98
    This study offers a ckomprehensive new interpretation of one of Plato's dialogues, the _Cratylus_. Throughout, the book combines analysis of Plato's arguments with attentiveness to his philosophical method
  •  884
    Eros and Necessity in the Ascent from the Cave
    Ancient Philosophy 28 (2): 357-72. 2008.
    A generally ignored feature of Plato’s celebrated image of the cave in Republic VII is that the ascent from the cave is, in its initial stages, said to be brought about by force. What kind of ‘force’ is this, and why is it necessary? This paper considers three possible interpretations, and argues that each may have a role to play.
  •  68
    Aiming at virtue in Plato (review)
    Journal of the History of Philosophy 48 (4): 521-522. 2010.
    Iakovos Vasiliou argues for reading Plato’s early dialogues and the Republic in light of “the aiming/determining distinction.” Aiming questions are concerned with the selection of our overriding ends. Determining questions ask how we can identify actions which secure those ends. As Vasiliou argues, Socrates claims to know an answer to the central aiming question, namely that virtue must be supreme (SV). Virtue functions sometimes as an explicit end and always as a limiting condition: we must nev…Read more
  •  240
    The Sophistic Movement
    In M. L. Gill & P. Pellegrin (eds.), A Companion to Ancient Philosophy, Blackwell. 2006.
    This discussion emphasises the diversity, philosophical seriousness and methodological distinctiveness of sophistic thought. Particular attention is given to their views on language, ethics, and the social construction of various norms, as well as to their varied, often undogmatic dialectical methods. The assumption that the sophists must have shared common doctrines (not merely overlapping interests and professional practices) is called into question.
  •  198
    Plato on the Desire for the Good
    In Sergio Tenenbaum (ed.), Desire, Practical Reason, and the Good, Oxford University Press. pp. 34--64. 2010.
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    Intrinsically Scarce Goods
    The Proceedings of the Twenty-First World Congress of Philosophy 2 189-192. 2006.
    The Paleolithic paintings and drawings found on cave walls at sites in France and Spain, such as Lascaux, Altamira and Vallon-Pont-D'Arc, have profound effects on those who see them. In addition to their historical interest, they are prized for their aesthetic and spiritual qualities, which have had an important influence on modern art. But the caves are small and the paintings are fragile. Access to them has been sharply limited: some caves have been closed to protect the paintings from the dam…Read more
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    Socrates' refutation of thrasymachus
    In Gerasimos Xenophon Santas (ed.), The Blackwell Guide to Plato's Republic, Blackwell. 2006.
    Socrates’ refutations of Thrasymachus in Republic I are unsatisfactory on a number of levels which need to be carefully distinguished. At the same time several of his arguments are more powerful than they initially appear. Of particular interest are those which turn on the idea of a craft, which represents a shared norm of practical rationality here contested by Socrates and Thrasymachus.
  •  254
    Notes on the Kalon and the Good in Plato
    Classical Philology 105 363-377. 2010.