My dissertation, entitled Contradiction, Fallacy and the Origins of Philosophical Argumentation, 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 rivals whom Plato calls “Eristics” and Aristotle calls “Sophists”. I argue that we can more fully appreciate both Platonic dialectic and Aristotelian syllogistic by recognizing the ways both philosophers distance these argumentative methods from their closely related eristic and sophistic counterparts. In particular, I argue that Plato’s and Aristotle’s definitions of contradiction, refutation and (in the case of Aristotle) syllogism bear traces of their engagements with these contemporary opponents, and that some of the peculiar features of their philosophical methods are best understood as restrictions that exclude eristic and sophistic argumentation from the class of genuine philosophical arguments.
Paradoxology and Politics: How Isocrates Sells His School and His Political Agenda in the Busiris, Forthcoming in Classical Philology (accepted March 2017).
Abstract: When one considers the way Isocrates characterizes his authorial aims, the Busiris does not appear to be the sort of speech 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 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 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.’