Graduate Program in Ancient Philosophy

The Program in Ancient Philosophy is administered jointly by the Departments of Philosophy and Classics, and members of the two departments cooperate in teaching and supervision. The program aims at training productive scholars and effective teachers of ancient philosophy who will also be competent and well-rounded classicists or philosophers. Students apply for admission to, and are accepted by, the Department of Philosophy or Classics, depending on their major interests and previous qualifications. The program is designed differently for students in the two departments but encourages those enrolled in one department to strengthen their preparation by relevant work in the other.

Faculty members offering instruction in ancient philosophy are Tad Brennan (classics and philosophy), Rachana Kamtekar (classics and philosophy), Scott MacDonald (philosophy), Charles Brittain (classics and philosophy) and Terence Irwin, professor emeritus, and Gail Fine, professor emerita (Irwin and Fine are occasionally in residence in Ithaca).  Inquiries about the program should be sent to Professors Brennan or Brittain.

Details of requirements for students joining the program via the Philosophy department can be found on the Philosophy graduate program page. Further information and details of the requirements for students joining the program via Classics can be found on the Classics Department website.

The Joint Program in Ancient Philosophy in the Philosophy Department   

General Character of the Program

The main focus of the program in the graduate field of philosophy is on the philosophical interest of ancient texts. Students are encouraged to integrate their work in ancient philosophy with their other philosophical interests. At the same time, the linguistic, literary and historical background for serious study of ancient philosophy is emphasized; students who need to strengthen this background may do so by taking courses in the Department of Classics. Several courses in ancient philosophy are available every year. Small reading classes for the study of philosophical texts in Greek and Latin are held each term.      

The graduate field of philosophy welcomes students with different degrees of interest and specialization in ancient philosophy, and tries to help them plan courses of study that will meet their developing needs and interests, before they begin the actual writing of the dissertation. Students are not rigidly bound to the program in ancient philosophy if they enter it when they come to Cornell. On the other hand, a number of students have developed a stronger interest in ancient philosophy after coming to Cornell and have gone on to write dissertations in that area.      


Students in the program who are also in the graduate field of philosophy are generally expected to fulfill all of the normal requirements for a  Ph.D. in philosophy. In accordance with the general guidelines of the graduate field of philosophy, these requirements may be modified to meet the special needs of students in ancient philosophy; the appropriate modifications are decided in consultation with a student's special committee. All students must also demonstrate adequate knowledge of Pre-Socratic philosophy, Plato, Aristotle and ancient philosophy after Aristotle. Adequate knowledge of Greek and Latin is also required, and, where this is appropriate, of French and German. What constitutes adequate knowledge is decided in consultation with the student's special committee. Normally students applying to the program in the Department of Philosophy should know enough Greek to read philosophical texts. Knowledge of Latin is not a requirement for admission for philosophy candidates, although it is a requirement for the Ph.D.


A five-year support package is usually reserved every year for someone entering the Philosophy Department to study ancient philosophy. (For more information see funding.)

Speakers and Visiting Professors:

Every term, the Program in Ancient Philosophy brings a speaker to campus for a visit of around three days. Usually, the speaker presents two papers and is available to speak with interested students and faculty. Visiting speakers in recent years have included Rachel Barney, Susanne Bobzien, Sarah Broadie, David Charles, Alan Code, John Cooper, Brad Inwood, Richard Kraut, Dominic Scott, and Gisela Striker.

In addition to visiting speakers, we have had visiting professors every few years, who come to one or the other department for a semester. Visiting Professors in the last 10 years have included Julia Annas, Gabor Betegh, Amber Carpenter, Verity Harte, David Sedley, Christopher Shields, and Christopher Taylor.

The program also regularly sponsors conferences, colloquia and workshops, alone or in concert with other programs at Cornell, such as medieval philosophy, or elsewhere, e.g. at Toronto. Recent conferences include one on the Divided Soul in Plato and on Augustine's De Trinitate. A number of the faculty and graduate students also regularly participate in the collaborative workshops of the medieval philosophy program, such as its annual Colloquium in June (held either in Ithaca or Brooklyn, NY) and the annual Augustine Lectio, which rotates between Ithaca, Amherst, and Burlington, in April. These and other activities of the program are supported in part by the Joseph and Eva Karp Fund in Ancient Philosophy.      

Job Placement

Students who have completed the Ph.D. in the area of ancient philosophy have received tenure-track positions at the following institutions: Amherst, Colgate, Colorado, Dartmouth, Harvard, Nebraska, Northwestern, Oberlin, Pittsburgh, Swarthmore, the University of Chicago, Western Ontario, Williams, and Wisconsin.

Here is a table with initial placements and current positions of our graduates who completed their Ph.D. in ancient philosophy:








Classifying Difference and Value: The Metaphysics of Kinds and the Search for the Good in Plato’s Philebus

Ancient Philosophy 

University of Chicago, Assistant Professor (TT)  
OSORIO, Peter Argument and Authority: Textualizing Scepticism in Cicero's Dialogues Ancient Philosophy (PhD: Classics) Loeb Post-doctoral Fellowship, University of Toronto  
MOBUS, Freya  Socratic therapy for the criminal, the glutton, and the coward. Ancient Greek Philosophy Loyola University of Chicago, Assistant Professor (TT)  
HARWOOD, Theo "What my scripture says, I say": principles of scripture interpretation in St. Augustine Ancient Philosophy (PhD: Classics) Franciscan University of Steubenville (TT)  






HECKEL, Marta A. Plato's Guide to Philosophical Preparedness: the Dangers of Philosophy and How to Handle Them Classical Greek Philosophy Cornell University, Philosophical Review Visiting Lecturer Assistant Professor, University of Missouri at Columbia (TT)
MEYVIS, Nate Knowledge, Simplicity, and Predication: Essays on Plato's "Theatetus" Ancient Philosophy Seven Bridges Genomics, Cambridge, MA Founder, BlackHound LLC, Software Consultancy, Boston, MA
HENSLEY, Ian The Principles and Elements of Stoic Physics Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy Cornell University, Philosophical Review Visiting Lecturer East Tennessee State University, Assistant Professor (TT)
ROBERTS, Clifford Masood In Observance of the Everyday: The concept of Assent in Pyrrhonian Skepticism Ancient Philosophy University of Victoria (BC, Canada), Post-doctoral Fellowship University of Victoria (BC, Canada) (TT)
O'CONNOR, Scott On the Principles of Nature: An Interpretation of Aristotle's Physics I.5-8  Ancient Philosophy, Metaphysics University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Instructor New Jersey City University, Assistant Professor (TT) 
INGLIS, Kristen A. Aristotle on the Virtues of Slaves, Women, and Children Ancient Philosophy, Ethics University of Pittsburgh, Assistant Professor (TT)  Academic Manager, Prison Education Program, Wesleyan University, CT
ROSENTHAL, Saul Gordon Plato’s Explanatory Predication  Ancient Philosophy, Plato’s Metaphysics and Epistemology University of Pennsylvania, Postdoctoral Fellow University of Pennsylvania, Lecturer
YARBROUGH III, Joseph William Philip the Chancellor, Bonaventure of Bognoregio, and Thomas Aquinas on the Eternity of the World Ancient Philosophy Ave Maria University (FL), Assistant Professor (TT) Ave Maria University (FL), Classics and Philosophy Assistant Professor (TT)
KLEIN, Jacob Samuel Nature and Reason in Stoic Ethics Ancient Philosophy, Metaethics, Ethics Colgate University, Assistant Professor (TT) Colgate University, Associate Professor (w/ tenure)
WYNNE, John Cicero on the philosophy of religion: On the nature of the gods and On divination Ancient Philosophy (PhD: Classics) Northwestern University (TT) University of Utah, Associate Professor (w/ tenure)