Thematic Description

In the ancient world natural philosophy notoriously encompasses a broad spectrum as its subject-matter, that is, Physis. It ranges over topics such as physical motion, elemental composition, human psychology, and meteorology, among others. Natural things are defined, or at least spoken of, as things that undergo generation and corruption, as well as other changes, whether it be local, qualitative, or quantitative change. Ancient natural science also includes questions that some of us would be reluctant to classify under that heading such as animal locomotion or the problem of free-will. In the light of all this, a question that arises is how to go about defining such a broad domain.

From at least the fifth century BC onwards, psychology, or the study of the soul and its functions, becomes a branch of natural philosophy. ‘Psychê’ comes standardly to indicate what sets living beings apart from other things undergoing change. It stands in for the organising centre of vital functions such as nutrition and digestion as well as of perception, emotions, desire, and cognition. From the mature Plato onwards, in particular, the idea that the soul is mainly conceived of as a principle of self-motion becomes prominent.

Possible paper topics may include, but are not restricted to:

  • Conceptions and Definitions of Physis in Ancient Philosophy;
  • Motion and Change and conceptions thereof;
  • The Soul as Self-Mover and/or Moving Principle;
  • Immortality of the Soul;
  • Questions of Free-will and Responsibility connected with Soul and Nature;
  • Doctrines of Causality in Antiquity.

Paper Details:

7-8 submissions will be selected for presentation. Papers should be in English and approximately 30 minutes long. All talks will then be followed by a 15 minute comment by an invited respondent.


Keynote Speakers:

  • Ursula Coope (Corpus Christi, University of Oxford)
  • Diana Quarantotto (Sapienza University, Rome)