Research

PVP coverMy first book, Plato on the Value of Philosophy: The Art of Argument
in the Gorgias and Phaedrus
 (Cambridge University Press, 2017), offers a comprehensive reading of the relationship between the Gorgias and the Phaedrus — the only two of Plato’s dialogues that focus systematically on the relation between philosophy and rhetoric, and the only two of his dialogues that explain what an “art of argument” must look like.  The book explores the role of human motivation in argument and the role of argument generally in civic life.  The central claim is that the way in which we approach argument for Plato typically reveals something at a deeper level about our desires and motivations, particularly with respect to others.  If we are prone to think of our interactions in the social world as occasions to manipulate or outdo others, then it is natural to think of argument only as a tool of domination.  But Plato, following Socrates, views the proper use of argument as a tool of learning, which requires a quite different attitude towards others.  According to this reading, the key to engaging in argument correctly for Plato is found in his understanding of the human soul.

Some material from the book is available at my Academia site here.  A short essay I wrote for Aeon Magazine touching on themes in the book can be found here.  I’ve also presented various parts of the project at the following meetings:

  • “Vindicating the Philosophical Life in Plato’s Gorgias,” selected for a colloquium session of the Pacific Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association, San Francisco, CA (March, 2016)
  • “Plato on Soul Leading,” selected for a colloquium session of the Central Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association, Chicago, IL (March, 2016)
  • “The Contradictions of Callicles,” selected for a colloquium session of the Central Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association, Chicago, IL (February, 2014)
  • “Socrates and Gorgias on the Aims of Argument,” selected for a symposium session of the Pacific Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association, San Francisco, CA (March, 2013)
  • “From Philologia to Philosophia,” selected for the 1st U.S. Regional Meeting of the International Plato Society, Plato’s Moral Psychology, University of Michigan, MI (October, 2012)
  • “Reason and Value in Plato,” selected for a colloquium session of the Central Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association, Chicago, IL (February, 2012)
  • “Reason and Value in Plato,” selected for the 11th Annual Meeting of the Ancient Philosophy Society, Sundance, UT (April, 2011)

My other line of interest in Plato concerns his views in metaphysics and epistemology, and their relation to his views on philosophical method.  I’m especially intrigued by his treatment of this topic in three later-period dialogues, the TheaetetusSophist, and Statesman, whose philosophical and dramatic connections have been a source of puzzlement for me since I first explored them in my doctoral dissertation.