Refutation, Deduction and The Demarcation of Philosophy from Sophistry, My dissertation argues that Plato’s and Aristotle’s conceptions of genuine philosophical argumentation were significantly shaped by their attempts to distance their own methods from the argumentative practices of their contemporary sophistic rivals. I argue that we can more fully appreciate both Platonic dialectic and Aristotelian deduction by recognizing the ways both philosophers distance these argumentative methods from their closely related sophistic counterparts. In particular, I argue that Plato’s and Aristotle’s definitions of contradiction, refutation and deduction bear traces of their engagements with these opponents, and that some of the more puzzling features of these philosophical methods are best understood as restrictions that exclude eristic and sophistic argumentation from the class of genuine philosophical arguments. I show that it was in large part through their efforts to demarcate their argumentation from that of their sophistic opponents that Plato laid the groundwork for, and Aristotle brought to completion, the first logical theory in Western philosophy.
Ambiguity and Fallacy in Plato's Euthydemus,forthcoming in Ancient Philosophy (accepted January 2019). Abstract: In this paper I argue that in the Euthydemus Plato successfully provides solutions to sophistical refutations that depend on various forms of linguistic ambiguity by exposing the mechanism by which these arguments appear to be genuine refutations. The paper in part responds to a common view according to which Plato lacks the technical resources necessary to expose sophistical refutations as fallacies. I argue instead that Plato implicitly relies on a notion of genuine refutation according to which the derivation of a merely verbal contradiction is not sufficient for a refutation, and that this implicit conception of genuine refutation laid significant groundwork for Aristotle’s explicit treatment of linguistic fallacies in the Sophistici Elenchi. I show that Plato has a more robust sensitivity to ambiguity and its pernicious effects on philosophical arguments than has been recognized, and that part of his aim in the Euthydemus is to suggest to his readers a conception of genuine refutation on which the sophistical refutations that exploit various forms of linguistic ambiguity do not count as real refutations.
Paradoxology and Politics: How Isocrates Sells His School and His Political Agenda in the Busiris, forthcoming in Classical Philology 115.1 (2020). Abstract: When one considers the way Isocrates characterizes his authorial aims, the Busiris does not appear to be the sort of work that he ought to have written. Interpreters of the treatise tend either to think it is an unsuccessful work because it represents the very sort of sophistic paradoxical literature that Isocrates frequently criticizes, or to take the speech to be a serious work only insofar as it demonstrates pure encomiastic form. I argue that the Busiris is an educational tract whose content Isocrates takes seriously. In his encomium of Busiris (XI.10-29) and his defense of that encomium vis-à-vis Polycrates’ Defense of Busiris (XI.30-43), Isocrates uses an engagement with the rival rhetorician Polycrates to advance two pieces of propaganda: the superiority of his own Philosophical education in persuasive speeches on important political matters over the education offered by Polycrates as well as the relevance and importance of the Panhellenic political agenda that his education ultimately serves.
Power, Getting What You Want and Happiness: Gorgias 466A4-472D7,Journal of Ancient Philosophy Vol. 11 No. 2 (2017), pp. 22-44. Abstract: Interpreters of Socrates’ argument at Gorgias 466A4-468E5 that rhetoricians and tyrants have little power because they do almost nothing they want tend either to think that the argument is invalid, or that Socrates relies upon peculiar uses of the terms ‘power’ and ‘want.’ By examining this passage within its larger dialectical context, I show that Socrates’ argument is valid and relies only on his interlocutor’s conventional use of the terms ‘power’ and ‘want.’
Animal Welfare and Environmental Ethics: It's Complicated, Ethics and the Environment, Vol. 23 No. 1 (2018), pp. 49-69. Abstract: In this paper I evaluate the possibility of convergence between animal welfare and environmental ethics. By surveying the most prominent views within each of these respective camps, I argue that animal welfare ethics and ecological theories in environmental ethics are incommensurable in virtue of their respective individualistic and holistic value theories. I conclude by arguing that this conceptual clarification allows us to see that animal welfare ethics can nevertheless be made commensurable with theories in environmental ethics according to which value primarily resides in individuals, rather than in collectives and communities.
Photo: The scarce remains of the 4th-C BCE Peristyle Building, believed to have belonged to Plato's Academy