I am a Lecturer in Ancient Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy, University of St Andrews.
I specialise in ancient philosophy, with a particular interest on Aristotle's Ethics and Moral Psychology. I also have interests in Plato and Hellenistic Ethics & Moral Psychology.
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My research focuses on ancient ethics and moral psychology, and in particular the ethics and moral psychology of Aristotle. I am particularly interested in the topics of moral development and moral habituation - how we develop as moral beings and how such development is effected, in particular, through practical engagement in certain sorts of activities. I am especially interested in the agential and interpersonal aspects of the developmental process, both of which seem to have an irreducible role in this process: what is it that the agential perspective affords a learner that is not offered by a non-agential or third-personal perspective? But what, also, do we learn from and in our interactions with others that we do not learn in isolation?
Current Research Project
Aristotle on Moral Development and Sensitivity to the Fine
The aim of my proposed research is to develop an account of the psychology of the developing subject, through an examination of a central concept in Aristotle’s ethics: ‘the fine’. This quality characterises virtuous actions and is ‘that for-the-sake-of-which’ the virtuous agent acts. Yet Aristotle says little explicitly about the nature of the fine, and especially our psychological engagement with this quality. Given the central role of the fine in his ethics, the issue of how Aristotle might conceive of our engagement with this quality deserves attention in its own right. But given, moreover, its role in Aristotle’s account of mature virtuous activity, a fuller understanding of this concept, and in particular how a sensitivity to fineness is developed, should significantly enhance our understanding of virtue acquisition.
I identify three broad issues concerning our engagement with the fine, investigation of which will further our understanding of this concept and its role in moral habituation, namely: (i) how we apprehend the fine; (ii) the relation between such apprehension and motivation; (iii) the relation between appreciation of the fine and practical engagement in virtuous action. In addressing these issues, I intend to offer a novel account of how the conditions of virtuous action come to be met.
Mentor: Professor Vasilis Politis, hosted by the Department of Philosophy, Trinity College Dublin and the Trinity Plato Centre. This project is funded by the Irish Research Council.
Previous Research Projects
Enacting Virtue (Doctoral Thesis)
This thesis develops and defends an account of Aristotelian habituation, with a particular focus on the nature of a learner's activity.
Supervised by Dr Fiona Leigh and Professor M.M. McCabe. Examined by Professor Ursula Coope and Dr Joachim Aufderheide.
A Non-Intellectualist Account of Epicurean Emotions (MPhil Thesis)
It is frequently assumed that the Epicureans endorse an intellectualist view of the emotions and that, according to the Epicureans, our emotional states are altered primarily by means of argumentation. I challenge this orthodox interpretation and defend a non-intellectualist account of emotions and emotional therapy in the Epicurean sources.
Supervised by Dr Fiona Leigh. Examined by Professors Raphael Woolf and James Warren.
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Aristotle on the Necessity of Habituation: Re-reading Nicomachean Ethics 2.4, Phronesis 2021, vol 66, 1-26.
In Nicomachean Ethics 2.4 Aristotle raises a puzzle about moral habituation. Scholars take the puzzle to concern how a learner could perform virtuous actions, given the assumption that virtue is prior to virtuous action. I argue, instead, that Aristotle is concerned to defend the necessity of practice, given the assumption that virtue is reducible to virtuous action.
The Learner's Motivation and the Structure of Habituation in Aristotle, Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie, forthcoming.
Moral virtue is, for Aristotle, a state to which an agent’s motivation is central. For anyone interested in Aristotle’s account of moral development this invites reflection on two questions: how is it that virtuous motivational dispositions are established? And what contribution do the moral learner’s existing motivational states make to the success of her habituation? I argue that views which demand that the learner act with virtuous motives if she is to acquire virtuous dispositions misconstrue the nature and structure of the habituation process, but also obscure Aristotle’s crucial insight that the very practice of virtuous actions affords a certain discovery and can be transformative of an agent’s motivational states. Drawing attention, in Aristotle’s account, to an asymmetry between the agential perspective and the observation of others, I consider what the agential perspective affords the learner, and offer a novel interpretation of the role a learner’s existing motives play in her habituation..
Imitating Virtue, Phronesis 2019, vol 64, 292-320.
Moral virtue is, for Aristotle, famously acquired through the practice of virtuous actions. But how should we understand the activity of Aristotle’s moral learner, and how does her activity result in the acquisition of virtue? I argue that by understanding Aristotle’s learner as engaged in the emulative imitation of a virtuous agent, we can best account for her development. Such activity crucially involves the adoption of the virtuous agent’s perspective, from which I argue the learner is positioned so as to appreciate the value of virtuous action – its fineness – and what it would be to act finely herself.
Aristotle on the Nature of Ethos and Ethismos, in J. Dunham. ed. Habit and the History of Philosophy, Routledge (forthcoming).
That character virtue is produced, according to Aristotle, through a process of moral habituation is a familiar feature of his ethics. And yet our feeling of familiarity with the notions of habit and habituation can engender a like feeling of familiarity with the process Aristotle describes, and encourage us to conceive of this process in an overly narrow way. In this chapter, I examine Aristotle’s notion of ethos (habit, habituation) in the Nicomachean Ethics to better understand what Aristotle means to convey when he claims that character virtue ‘arises from habit’. I argue that to characterise ethos as ‘non-rational’ is misleading, particularly when this characterisation forecloses questions about what kinds of activity may be involved in the process of habituation, and what kind of states can be produced as a result. Ethos, I argue, is not characterised as a non-rational process, but a process of being active. This allows that the process of habituation may be understood in a relatively broad way and as potentially involving a range of activities which engage and develop a variety of psychological capacities. It also raises interesting questions about what a learner’s activity affords and how this contributes to her successful habituation.
Introduction, in F. Leigh ed. Themes in Plato, Aristotle and Hellenistic Philosophy, BICS Supplement 141, 2021, 1-10.
Philosophical introduction to the collected Keeling Memorial Lectures 2011-2018 co-authored with Fiona Leigh.
Aristotle on Shame and Learning to Be Good by Marta Jimenez, Mind (forthcoming).
Psychology and Value: The Ninth Keeling Memorial Lectures, co-edited with Fiona Leigh, OUP, (under contract).
Proceedings of the Ninth Keeling Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy, published under OUP's Keeling Colloquia in Ancient Philosophy series. Contributions from Rachel Barney, Sarah Broadie, Matthew Evans, Margaret Hampson, Terence Irwin, M.M. McCabe, Jessica Moss, Katharine O'Reilly, Anthony Price, Daniel Russell, David Sedley, James Warren and Raphael Woolf.
Modelling the Memory and Anticipation of Pleasure: Response to Warren 'Memory, Anticipation, Pleasure', co-authored with Katharine O'Reilly, for F. Leigh & M. Hampson eds. Psychology and Value, OUP.
The Tyrant and the Failure of Philia: Re-reading the account of the Tyrannical Character, for M.M. McCabe ed. Re-reading Plato's Republic.
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Phd, Department of Philosophy, UCL
Doctoral thesis: 'Enacting Virtue'. Supervised by Dr Fiona Leigh & Professor M.M. McCabe. Examined by Dr Joachim Aufderheide (KCL) and Professor Ursula Coope (Oxford).
MPhil Stud., Department of Philosophy, UCL
MPhil Thesis: 'A Non-Intellectualist Account of Epicurean Emotions'. Supervised by Dr Fiona Leigh. Examined by Professor Raphael Woolf (KCL) and Professor James Warren (Cambridge).
BA Philosophy, Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge
1st Class Honours.
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Awards & Fellowships
Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship
Total funding of €91850 for postdoctoral research.
Keeling Scholarship, UCL
Full funding for doctoral studies.
Dawes Hicks Scholarship, UCL
Fees scholarship for MPhil Stud.
Boutwood Prize, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge
Prize for 1A and Part II Tripos results.
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