My dissertation (supervised by Susan Sauvé Meyer) addresses a longstanding interpretive puzzle involving Plato’s apparently conflicting accounts of psychic conflict. I argue that a better understanding of the soul helps to resolve this puzzle, and that we can properly understand Plato’s conception of the soul by focusing on his account of self-mastery (to kreittō heautou). Self-mastery is a concept well-suited to this project because it is treated consistently across dialogues and features centrally in discussions of psychic conflict. My dissertation is part of a larger research project on personal identity in Plato.
My master’s thesis (supervised by Thomas Johansen) examines the relationship between parts and wholes in Plato’s Parmenides, where a rapidly escalating series of one-many puzzles yields the surprising result that forms are wholes composed of parts. In order to explain how each form can be ‘one’ whole composed of ‘many’ parts, Plato introduces a new sort of unity: a one that is not also a many. I explore what this radically simple unity entails for Plato’s ethical and metaphysical views, focusing on his enigmatic claim that the one is the good.
I am also collaborating with Scott Weinstein and Michael Vazquez on a paper that explores Zeno’s so-called Paradox of Measure. We provide a novel exposition of the modern mathematical resolution of the paradox, and consider the extent to which this answer was accessible to the ancient mathematical understanding of the nature of the linear continuum.
Here is a sample of some other projects currently in progress:
1) In book six of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle distinguishes between two parts of the rational faculty: one part is said to contemplate ‘things whose principles cannot be otherwise,’ while the other is said to calculate ‘variable things.’ While both parts have received considerable treatment in the literature, they tend to be analyzed either in isolation or in contradistinction. Both approaches, however, obscure the simple fact that each is part of a single rational faculty. Given that the stated aim of book six is to determine the standard that ‘fixes’ right reason (1138b33), I argue that the role of the contemplative part of the rational faculty is to grasp stable first-principles which serve as the mark to which the calculative part looks in practical deliberation.
2) Sextus Empiricus famously defines skepticism as the ability to “set out oppositions among things that appear and are thought of in any way at all” (PH I.8). This ability is then utilized by the skeptic in order to induce equipollence. When faced with opposing but equally forceful arguments or appearances, the recognition of their equal strength leads to the suspension of judgment, resulting in tranquility. I argue that the ability to ‘set out oppositions’ requires that the skeptic make use of the principle of non-contradiction; since the Pyrrhonian cannot set out an opposition to this principle without in some sense begging the question, they cannot remain skeptical about it.