The Nellie Wallace Lectures

rachel barney utoronto philosophy

The annual Nellie Wallace Lectures, which are shared between the Faculty of Classics and the Faculty of Philosophy, enable scholars from outside the University to visit Oxford in order to lecture and conduct seminars in a subject in the field of Literae Humaniores (that is, ancient philosophy, ancient history, and the Greek and Roman languages and literatures)

The Nellie Wallace Lectures TT20 have been cancelled. Updates will be issued at the earliest opportunity 

Last Night in Suburbia: Rereading Plato’s Republic in 2020

Plato’s political ideas in the Republic have been mostly regarded with suspicion, or simply ignored, since the publication of Karl Popper’s The Open Society and its Enemies in 1945. It’s time for a rethinking. These lectures will argue that a number of Plato’s distinctive political ideas are well worth revival, and that he has some compelling things to say about our current political predicament.


No Ideals, No Utopias, No Philosopher-Kings

To grasp the political argument of the  Republic we need to clear away some unhelpful accretions from its use and abuse in past centuries; we also need to ask afresh what Plato means when he claims a just society is ‘possible'.

Drink Reception in the Ryle Room from 5pm onwards.


Immoralist Politics

The argument of the  Republic is best understood as a response to a rival understanding of politics which remains alive and well today: the view that the language of justice can only ever be an instrument of manipulation and domination, and that politics is essentially a struggle for zero-sum goods.

Greedy, Angry, Tribal, Rational: Plato on Human Nature

Plato’s just society is characterised by three principal interconnected features. It is organized around labour, and takes as fundamental the expression of human nature in meaningful and appropriate work. It includes a responsible political class who
are reliably motivated by the good of the whole. And it is marked by an absolute separation of wealth from political power. All three ideas are worth exploring today, and so is Plato’s basis for them in his conception of the structure of the human


Plato’s solution to the challenge of political immoralism is his idea of the Guardian class: a political class committed to the truth, the discovery of knowledge, and the pursuit of the common good. Mill and other Victorians were excited to find in Plato this conception of government as public service: how far can we reappropriate it today?

The Appalling Argument

Most of the respects in which the  Republic has been denounced as authoritarian or totalitarian involve misreadings or gross exaggerations. But there is an exception: Plato’s insistence that a just society requires rigid control of ‘mimetic poetry’, and in general the management of culture by the state. We’ll examine his argument for that conclusion, and attempt to identify the points, if any, at which it goes wrong.

Portable Platonism

How far does the  Republic offer an ‘non-ideal theory’, available for use in our own unjust societies? What would it mean to be a Platonist in politics today? A set of modest proposals, with reflections on the points at which Platonism and liberal democracy either mesh or collide.

Plato’s Timaeus (I)— Narratology.

I shall address some questions about narratology, which will help us to better understand some of the main aspects of Plato’s doctrine in the Timaeus. Of special interest will be for us the first lines of the dialogue (17A-B), the implicit presentation of Timaeus as a Pythagorean of the Archytas type (19E-20A) and Critias’ aporetical genealogy (20D sqq.). Some tentative conclusions will be drawn about the importance of the “genealogical” theme in the Timaeus.

Plato’s Timaeus (II) — Participation in the Timaeus.

I shall examine how Plato’s doctrine of participation is dealt with in the Timaeus. My main contention will be to show that it is presented in order to meet Plato’s own criticisms in the Parmenides. I shall envisage again, from this point of view, the relationship between Plato’s late ontology and Aristotle’s doxographical account of his thought, in Metaphysics A 6 in particular.

Plato’s Timaeus (III) — Why Possibly Five Worlds?

I shall focus on what appears to be the main enigma of the dialogue, the second proof for the unicity of the world (55C-D). I shall propose a new interpretation, not in terms of Plato’s elementary physics as commonly assumed since Plutarch, but against the background of Plato’s mathematical ontology.

Plato’s Timaeus (IV) — Fate and Biology.

This last lecture on the Timaeus will be devoted to the third part of the monologue, where Plato expounds his biology. I shall try to show that this part is less biological than metaphysical.  Plato’s develops a theodicy, aiming at showing that the Demiurge, even if he wished that the world be what it is, is not responsible for the evil occurring in it.

Boethus of Sido (I) — General Ontology.

Boethus of Sido (1st c. BC) is one of the first commentators on Aristotle, and one of the most interesting. He is a true philosopher, engaged in a lively debate with the Platonists and, most of all, the Stoics about what it is to be a real being. I shall envisage some aspects of his ontology, specifically his doctrine of relation.

Boethus of Sido (II) — Syllogistics and Ontology.

I shall dwell upon a text of Themistius transmitted only in Arabic, devoted to the question of the perfection of the syllogisms of the first figure, to show how Boethus understood Aristotle’s syllogistics in accordance with his ontological stance. 

Thinking with language: from grammar to free speech 

In this series of lectures and seminars, Ineke Sluiter will discuss different aspects of (ancient) linguistic thought, not primarily in its technical aspects, but with attention to the roles and functions of ideas about language in different genres. She will be paying particular attention to Plato’s Cratylus; to the different roles of ‘language talk’ in Greek drama, particularly in Sophocles; and to etymology, its link with genealogy, and its various discursive functions. The introductory lecture will focus on an icon of modern language ideology, free speech.

In the seminar sessions, she will introduce and discuss a number of passages from Plato’s Cratylus that illuminate Socratic rhetoric, and the interconnectedness of literary, rhetorical and philosophical issues.

Opening lecture: Free speech, political deliberation, and the marketplace of ideas

This lecture explores the metaphor of the “marketplace of ideas” in debates over freedom of speech and political deliberation. Starting from the legal case against controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders, it takes a look at the archaeology of the concept in ancient Greece, fast-forwards to the United States at the beginning of the 20th century, analyses the nature of the frame of the “marketplace”, and studies three subsequent theories that take their lead from this metaphor: marketplace mechanisms as a way to elicit information from a group in order to make the deliberative process more effective (Sunstein); the analysis of the metaphor as a vehicle of social criticism (Ingber); and the consequences of more recent insights into the functioning of the actual economy for ideas about freedom of speech (Blocher). After a brief return to the Wilders case and the “rhetoric of free speech”, I will end with the briefest of suggestions for an alternative model for thinking about free speech: an evolutionary theory of rhetoric.

Seminars (both 5 p.m. in the Okinaga Room, Wadham College)

Tuesday, 11th May: Seminar 1: Socratic rhetoric in Plato’s Cratylus

Tuesday, 18th May: Seminar 2: ‘Language talk’ in Plato’s Cratylus: literary form, rhetorical function, philosophical content.

Aristotle's Rhetoric and Aristotelian Philosophy’

The dialectical approach to rhetoric [Handout]

Enthymemes and truncated syllogisms [Handout]

Topoi in dialectic and rhetoric [Handout]

Rhetoric and ethical theory [Handout]

A system of emotions [Handout]

The poet and the rhetorician [Handout]

Abstract: Aristotle’s art of rhetoric borrows from several areas of Aristotelian philosophy: Above all, the artful rhetoric requires the dialectician’s competence for valid arguments and acceptable opinions. Then the rhetorician benefits from the study of character and emotions as well as from political theory. This is why Aristotle himself describes the art of rhetoric as an offshoot of dialectic and political science. Furthermore there are certain poetical techniques that are apt to improve the persuasiveness of prosaic speeches. –The six lectures on ‘Aristotle’s Rhetoric and Aristotelian philosophy’ will pick out some of those philosophically salient issues that are distinctive of Aristotle’s art of rhetoric.

Sarah Broadie is a fellow of the British Academy, of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2003 she gave the Nellie Wallace lectures in the University of Oxford, entitled Nature and Divinity in the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle.

Nellie Wallace Lectures