Ursula Coope Joins us in Uppsala [Feb 1, 2018]

On the first day of February, Ursula Coope, professor in Ancient Philosophy from University of Oxford, will join us in Uppsala for a day of philosophical discussion about a few themes from to our project.

We will begin with a more informal seminar, at 1030, where we shall discuss professor Coope’s paper “Proclus on responsibility, self-movement and inquiry”. If you want to join, send us an email and we will send you the text.

Later the same day, after lunch, at 1430, professor Coope will give a public lecture with the title “Demonstration and self-determination”.

(Abstracts below)


10.30-12.30 “Proclus on responsibility, self-movement and inquiry”

14.30-16.30 “Demonstration and self-determination”

If you want to read ahead, professor Coope will be looking at some Cicero (Acad 2, 8-9, De Div 2.150, Tusc Disp 5.33), a passage in Olympiodorus’ Gorgias Commentary (ch. 6, sec.1) and, for the Proclus paper, at various passages from his Commentary on the First Alcibiades.

Date: 2/1/2018 at 10:30 AM – 4:30 PM
Lovation: Eng22-0025
Contact: Olof Pettersson, Pauliina Remes



‘Proclus on responsibility self-movement and inquiry’

Proclus thinks that human activity is controlled from above, by
providence. This raises a question about how our responsibility for our
good or bad activity can be compatible with this overall providential
control. Moreover, Proclus faces a special difficulty about our
responsibility for our bad actions, since he follows Plato in saying that
all vicious activity is involuntary. We shall look at how Proclus responds
to these difficulties. We shall focus in particular on some interesting
remarks he makes in his Commentary on Plato’s Alcibiades, about why the
interlocutor in a Platonic dialogue is responsible for the answers he

‘Demonstration and self-determination’

We depend on others for much of what we know. Does this dependence
undermine our ability to determine for ourselves what to think? The
ŒSocratic¹ method of teaching is sometimes said to be superior to other
methods, because of the way in which it fosters the independence of the
learner: teaching without indoctrinating. In this paper, I discuss two
very different ancient expressions of this view: the first by Cicero and
the second by Olympiodorus. Both philosophers assume that our epistemic
dependence on others threatens something important (freedom for Cicero,
self-movement for Olympiodorus), and both imply that this threat can be
averted by the use of the Socratic method. However, they have opposed
views of what the Socratic method is and how it averts the threat. For
Cicero, the key point is Socrates¹s disavowal of knowledge. Because
Socrates lacks knowledge, he does not fully commit to any of his beliefs
and he does not attempt to provide conclusive arguments. This is what
leaves his interlocutors free. For Olympiodorus, on the contrary, the key
point is that Socrates has the kind of understanding that allows him to
teach his interlocutors. We are self-moved just insofar as we are learning
from a knowledgeable teacher. In discussing these two accounts, I shall
ask about the nature of this supposedly valuable thing (freedom,
self-movement), why it might be valuable, and in what sense (if any) it
can be reconciled with a kind of epistemic dependence on others.


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