People

Students

Graduate students in the Program for Ancient Philosophy belong to both Philosophy and Classical Studies, pursuing a PhD in the one they were originally admitted to and an MA in the other.

In addition, there are also students affiliated with the Program whose research centrally involves ancient philosophy and who are actively involved in our reading groups and colloquia, but who are just pursuing a PhD in one of the departments.

Justin Barney Fourth year
Classical Studies PhD, Philosophy MA
jabarney@umich.edu

Interests

  • Epicureanism
  • Presocratic philosophy
  • Ancient theories of perception
  • Poetry & philosophy

I am from Seattle, WA and received a B.A. in Classics and an M.A. in Comparative Studies from Brigham Young University. My most recent work has focused on Philodemus’ theory of perception, as set forth in the Herculaneum papyri (PHerc. 19/698). I am also interested in pre-Socratic cosmology, the origins of Greek philosophy, and the tension between traditional poets and philosophers. When I can, I like to read papyri and old manuscripts.

Matteo Milesi Third year
Classical Studies PhD, Philosophy MA
milesim@umich.edu

Interests

  • Neoplatonism
  • Ancient Philosophical commentaries
  • Reception of Homer in the Platonist tradition
  • Allegory
  • The Derveni Papyrus

I am from Milan, Italy, and I received a BA in Classics from the “Università degli Studi di Milano” in 2014. I then earned an MA in Classics from the University of Durham (UK), with a dissertation on the political and ethical thought of the sophist and tyrant Critias.

Currently, my main interest is in Neoplatonic philosophers (especially Porphyry) and their hermeneutical practices. I am also interested in ancient political thought, and I am fascinated by the so-called “Derveni Papyrus”.

David Morphew Seventh year
Classical Studies PhD, Philosophy MA
morphewd@umich.edu

Interests

  • Ancient Moral Psychology
  • Plato and Platonic Traditions
  • Hellenistic and Late Antique Philosophy
  • The Active and Contemplative Life in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy
  • Philosophy and Rhetoric

While I have interests in all areas of ancient philosophy, from the Presocratics through Late Antique philosophy and Christian reception, I find myself particularly drawn to ethics and metaphysics in Plato and different Platonic traditions (which often appropriate and adapt aspects of Peripatetic philosophy). The questions I tend to focus on are theoretical in nature but concerned with the practical life, such as what is the best kind of life and how do we live it?

In my dissertation, I focus on the centrality of passions in Plutarch’s psychology and the role that passions play in moral progress, principally vis-à-vis Plato and Stoicism. Passions for Plutarch are not only ineradicable aspects of human nature that should be cultivated but can also enhance our actions and intensify our pursuit of the good life. I have two further projects on Plutarch that grew out of my dissertation: both a study of Plutarch’s defense of poetry for moral progress and a study on Plutarch’s animal psychology and how his arguments for animal rationality bear on animal ethics. In my next book-sized project, I address the overarching question of how ancient conceptions of self-interested and other-regarding motivations bear on the tension between the active life and contemplative life in Plato and Plutarch. In addition to my current projects, I have worked on problems in Plato’s moral psychology, the metaphysics of evil in Plotinus, Proclus, Augustine, and Gregory of Nyssa, and the problem of continued identity for Christian resurrection in Gregory of Nyssa. For more information on past conference presentations, current research projects, and my teaching portfolio, see my website.

Umer Shaikh Seventh year
Philosophy PhD, Greek MA
umer@umich.edu

Interests

  • Aristotle’s metaphysics and philosophy of science
  • Plato’s middle dialogues
  • Ancient logic and mathematics

My primary interests are in Aristotelian metaphysics and philosophy of science; at the moment I am thinking about the relationships between scientific explanation and the classic concepts in Aristotelian metaphysics (substance, essence, form, matter, potentiality, actuality, etc.). Secondary interests are ancient metaphysics more generally and the development of logic and mathematics, including ancient philosophical reflection on them.

I believe that interaction between history of philosophy and contemporary philosophy is very fruitful for both fields; as such I hope to do theoretically sophisticated historical work and try to maintain some competence in the contemporary analogues of the historical areas I have listed.

Van Tu Fifth year
Philosophy PhD, Greek MA
thuyvan@umich.edu

Interests

  • Ancient Moral Psychology
  • Aristotelian Metaphysics and Natural Philosophy
  • Aristotelian Virtue Ethics

I am interested in all aspects of ancient Greek philosophy, but I tend to gravitate towards Aristotle’s psychological and ethical theories. My present project, however, focuses on Aristotle’s notion of rationaity. Although Aristotle enjoys a reputation for the valorization of rationality in Western philosophy, the secondary literature lacks a detailed account of his substantive view on what rationality consists in. In my dissertation, I aim to provide a systematic study of Aristotle’s notion of rationality and elucidate how this notion influences his ethical and political thought. In the first chapter, I reconstruct Aristotle’s psychological theory of deliberation and show that his theory is more sophisticated—and indeed more in harmony with contemporary intuitions—than the current literature suggests due to its multi-stage structure. In the second chapter, I offer a formal analysis of Aristotle’s theory of preference-ranking, a topic severely understudied, which he expounds most extensively in Topics 3.1–5. In the third chapter, I consider Aristotle’s theory of rationality more broadly and examine whether he shares the so-called Humean intuition: that reason cannot set substantive goals but its role is relegated to instrumental reasoning. I will argue that he does not because he thinks, not only that certain ends are preferable, but also that it is possible to redirect our desires by reasoning. The theory of rationality that emerges at the end of my dissertation will allow us to assess a deeply problematic application of Aristotle’s theory—his appeal to rationality to justify the political subordination of women and individuals he calls ‘natural slaves.’ In the final chapter, I intend to argue that Aristotle’s manifestly false remarks in Politics 1.13 are motivated by an extraneous political agenda and, as such, is not an implication of his theory of rationality.