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Authors and Authorities in Ancient Philosophy

Monday 15–Thursday 18 September 2014

Ancient Greek and Roman philosophy is often characterised in terms of competitive individuals debating orally with one another in public arenas.  But it also developed over its long history a sense in which philosophers might look to an authority and offer to that authority explicit intellectual allegiance.  This is most obvious in the development of the philosophical ‘schools’ with agreed founders and canonical founding texts.  There also developed a tradition of commentary, interpretation, and discussion of texts—composed by ‘authorities’—which often became the focus of disagreement between members of the same school or movement and also useful targets for critics interested in attacking a whole tradition.  Discussing the meaning, force, and even the authorship itself of these texts became a mode of philosophical debate. 

This international conference will investigate the twin notions of ‘authorship’ and ‘authority’—the Latin word auctoritas combines these two—in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy.  Topics to be explored include: philosophical allegiance and schism, commentary and quotation, the treatment of anonymous texts or texts of disputed authorship, the collection of authorised corpora of texts and the rejection of spurious or non-canonical works.

The conference also marks the retirement of David Sedley as Laurence Professor of Ancient Philosophy.


A copy of the Conference Programme (pdf) is available here.



Dr Jenny Bryan, Department of Greek and Latin, University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT ()

Dr Robert Wardy, St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, CB2 1RL ()

Dr James Warren, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, CB2 1RH ()

The organisers thank the following for their help and financial support: The Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge; St Catharine's College, Cambridge; University College, London; The Leventis Foundation; The British Society for the History of Philosophy; The Mind Association; Cambridge University Press; Oxford University Press.


Online registration is now closed.  If you are interested in attending please contact one of the organisers ().

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