Dr Giulio Di Basilio
Trinity College Dublin – Department of Philosophy
I am currently an Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow (2019-2021) at Trinity College Dublin, having completed my PhD in Philosophy at University College Dublin in 2019. I specialise in Ancient Philosophy, with a particular emphasis on Aristotle’s Ethics, though I maintain a broad interest in the ethical reflection in antiquity as a whole. My current project focuses on Aristotle’s Eudemian Ethics, which I attempt to consider as a self-standing ethical work in its own right.
Di Basilio, G. (Forthcoming) ‘Habituation in Aristotle’s Ethics: The Eudemian Ethics, the Common Books, and the Nicomachean Ethics‘ Journal of the History of Philosophy.
Di Basilio, G. (Forthcoming) ‘Aristotle on the Voluntariness of Self-Control and the Lack of Self-Control’, British Journal for the History of Philosophy.
Di Basilio, G. (Forthcoming) ‘EN1113a12: Some Textual Remarks Based on Aspasius’, Rheinisches Museum für Philologie.
Di Basilio, G. (Forthcoming) ‘Aquinas’ Theory of Decision and its Aristotelian Origins: the Role and Nature of Consent’, Recherches de Théologie et Philosophie Médiévales.
2019-2020 Postdoctoral Report
My 2019-2021 Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Plato Centre started remotely. In August 2019, two months before the beginning of my fellowship, I moved to New Haven, Connecticut, for a short academic stint at Yale University. The purpose of my stay was to attend a seminar jointly given by Professor David Charles, who examined my PhD in January 2019, and Professor Brad Inwood. The seminar ran from late August to early December. The IRC approved my request to stay at Yale for nearly the entire duration of the seminar. I’m extremely grateful to the IRC for having understood the importance of this stay for my current project. Though I cannot claim to have enjoyed living in New Haven as much as I do living in Dublin, I am glad I undertook this endeavour; my fellowship got off to a very good start.
The seminar I attended in Yale was devoted to examining Aristotle’s texts on voluntariness and decision in the Eudemian Ethics, the Nicomachean Ethics, and the books common to both ethical works. In addition to the module convenors, other important scholars of Aristotle’s ethics joined us for some of our sessions, e.g. Jessica Moss, Christopher Rowe. It was an extremely stimulating opportunity to discuss some of the texts central to my current research project with other scholars as well as with other graduate students. I also had the pleasure to take part in a small reading group on Aristotle’s Eudemian Ethics focused on texts that fell outside the scope of the seminar. While at Yale, I was invited to give a presentation at their Work-In-Progress Ancient Philosophy Seminar. I presented a paper entitled ‘Aristotle on the Voluntariness of Self-Control and the Lack of Self-Control (EE II 8, 1224a7-1225a2)’. Afterwards, I submitted it for publication to the British Journal for the History of Philosophy. The paper was accepted and is now available to read online ahead of print. Finally, I had the pleasure to discuss with my colleagues and hosts there another paper I then had in the works, namely ‘Habituation in Aristotle’s Ethics: The Eudemian Ethics, the Common Books, and the Nicomachean Ethics’, which is now forthcoming in the Journal of the History of Philosophy.
I came back to Ireland in early December 2019, which was effectively the start of my fellowship at Trinity College and at the Plato Centre more specifically. I was delighted to be back in Dublin, not least because I had been looking forward to taking up residency in the Centre along with my long-time colleagues and friends. I genuinely cherish the atmosphere of shared research and conviviality that animates the Centre. I was also keen to start working in person with my mentor at TCD, Professor Vasilis Politis, with whom I had only worked remotely until that time. It is no one’s fault if, due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis, I was able to enjoy this environment to its fullest only for three months. However, the Centre was quite busy during those months and I did my part alongside the other members. First, I presented in February a paper at our Work-In-Progress Seminar. The paper was entitled ‘What Does it Mean to Deliberate Geometrically? Aristotle’s EN III 2 and the Method of Analysis’. I delivered this paper again in early March at the conference Greek Geometrical Analysis: Problems and Prospects at Université Clermont Auvergne in Clermont-Ferrand, right before the COVID-19 outbreak. Second, with the other members of the Plato Centre we hosted an event devoted to discussing Professor Politis’ book manuscript Plato’s Essentialism. I was delighted to act as discussant for one of the chapters of the manuscript, entitled ‘Why are essences, or forms, the basis of all causation and explanation?’ on Phaedo 95-105, on a topic of crucial importance for our understanding of Plato’s so-called Theory of Forms.
The COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020 has of course changed everyone’s plans, but I’m happy to say that our work has proceeded as well as the circumstances could possibly allow. Above all, I continued to work closely with Professor Politis and with Dr Margaret Hampson, my fellow IRCer at the Centre, as well as with one of the graduate students I met at Yale, Dan Ferguson.
The title of my IRC project is Natural Virtue, Habituation, and Practical Wisdom in Aristotle’s Eudemian Ethics. Although I have started working on this project right at the beginning of my fellowship whilst I was away in Yale, its first fruits have materialised recently. I have now completed a first draft of a paper on natural virtue in Aristotle’s ethics. The gestation of this piece has been somewhat complicated. I found it hard at first to work on this topic owing to the striking neglect of this notion in Aristotle’s studies. I wasn’t building on, and taking a stance within, a well-established debate. Rather, I had to start from scratch; or so I felt. Getting a clearer grasp on the notion of natural virtue is a prerequisite for my project to get off the ground. The main contention of the project is that, for Aristotle, the importance of, and the role to be assigned to, practical wisdom (φρόνησις) can be properly understood only vis-à-vis his notion of natural virtue. For, he believes that practical wisdom distinguishes proper virtue from natural virtue (EE III 7, 1234a27-30; EN VI=EE V 13, 1144b1-17). I spent the latter part of my first year of fellowship to figure out what Aristotle takes natural virtue to be. I believe I now have a clearer grasp on this notion as well as on how it is introduced and deployed. Current discussion with Professor Politis of my draft paper is being extremely valuable to understand how to arrange, structure, and present the claims I want to defend. It is likely I will present my paper at a web seminar towards the end of September; I’m hoping that by then, and especially after discussion with the other members of the Centre, this piece will begin to approximate its desired form.
For the second and last year of my fellowship I plan on concentrating on the following tasks: first, I will be teaching a Senior Sophister module for fourth-year students at Trinity entitled Aristotle’s Ethics. I am being encouraged from my colleagues at Trinity to inflict upon my hapless students material closely related to my current research. Accordingly, I intend to start off by discussing with them my work on natural virtue in Aristotle’s ethics. I very much look forward to the seminar, not least because this will be my first opportunity to deliver a module of my own devising. With regard to my research plans, once my paper on natural virtue is completed, I would like to move on to consider the role assigned to habituation in the Eudemian Ethics. I will look in particular at EE II 2, and at the discussion of the individual character virtues in book III, in order to figure out how habituation is conceived of and put to use in these texts. I shall devote the conclusive part of my fellowship entirely to practical wisdom and to the picture of it that emerges from my reading of the Eudemian Ethics. Last but not least, I will be editing a collected volume devoted to the relationship between Aristotle’s Eudemian and Nicomachean Ethics, to be published by Routledge in the series Issues in Ancient Philosophy, directed by Professor George Boys-Stones.
As for conferences and other related academic events, I plan on attending two events over the next months, COVID-19 permitting, first the conference Shame and Virtue in Antiquity, to be held in Aix-en-Provence. Meant to take place originally in June 2020, the conference has been provisionally rescheduled for November 2020; second, the workshop Aristotle’s Dialectic and the Sciences to be held at Université du Québec à Montréal, which has been postponed to August 2021. Finally, Dr Hampson and I have been organising a workshop on the third book of Aristotle’s Eudemian Ethics. This was originally scheduled for July 2020, and has been put off until spring 2021 in the hope that by then it will be possible to hold it in person. This event is meant to gather junior as well as senior researchers, whose current work concentrates on Aristotle’s Eudemian Ethics. Our plan is to read in its entirety the third book on the character virtues (courage, temperance, etc.) as this text is still insufficiently known and is of central importance for both my and Dr Hampson’s own research projects.