Skip to main content

A world without objects: the metaphysics of indeterminacy in ancient philosophy, from Democritus to Aenesidemus.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - AWWO (A world without objects: the metaphysics of indeterminacy in ancient philosophy, from Democritus to Aenesidemus.)

Reporting period: 2015-06-01 to 2017-05-31

The proposed project aims at investigating the metaphysics of indeterminacy in ancient philosophy. By relying on the aid of contemporary metaphysics, the project will show that the metaphysics of indeterminacy was an important, yet neglected, part of ancient metaphysics, from the time of Democritus to that of Aenesidemus.
The project has a double scholarly nature, in so far as it is historical and philosophical. It is historical since it aims to reconstruct the various metaphysical theories held and defended by those ancient philosophers just mentioned. It also has a more philosophical aspect, since its main theoretical aim is to show how those metaphysical views all contribute to create developing a metaphysics of indeterminacy that is in itself coherent and viable.
The project has three main outcomes: 1) the organization of an international conference to be held in Durham in 2017 (concluded); 2) the writing of a research monograph (already contracted with Routledge), to be delivered to the Publisher in 2017 (almost concluded); 3) the preparation of new research projects (concluded).
In this first year I read much in contemporary metaphysics; in addition to reading, I have been able to write quite a lot. As far as my publications are concerned, I have written three pieces already published.
At the same time, I have been revising my book on Protagoras (originally published in 2007 for Ashgate) in light of a new edition of it (in paperback form) for Routledge (end of 2016). I have also three main draft papers, almost in their final forms: two lengthy chapters of my planned book on the Megarians and a paper on relativity in the Theaetetus. I have read papers at national and international conferences (on Euclides in Rome; on the Cyrenaics in Durham; on the Theaetetus and relativity in Bologna, Macerata and Durham). I have been involved in new initiatives in Lille (with Leone Gazziero) and in Rome (with Francesco Verde). I am also involved in new projects aimed to teach philosophy to primary school children. At the moment I am establishing a link with Durham City Council to see whether some primary schools in Durham city might introduce children to philosophy on a monthly basis.
In the second year of the fellowship I have been able to develop new contacts with the Department of Philosophy in Durham. As for my actual research, the second year of the fellowship has been mainly focussed on the philosophy of atomism, on which I have been able to organise a quite successful conference in Durham in May 2017. I have read extensively on the history of philosophical atomism. This extended reading on atomism has allowed me to prepare with care the Conference on the Philosophy of Atomism, as well as developing a new project on relativism, indeterminacy and atomism that is my next BIG project. At the same time, I have read widely on Philosophy and the Art of Life (Pierre Hadot, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Michel Foucault). I now have a new project, to be submitted to the Wellcome Trust at some point in early 2018, on Philosophy as an Art of life: the project will seek to investigate the relationship between philosophy, individual and societal well-being, and will have a potential very high outreach impact.
I have spent three brief periods of stay at the University of Macerata to discuss with Prof. La Matina my new project on Philosophy as an Art of Life; a week in Bologna in February 2017 to work with Dr Pesci, INFN, Bologna University, on atomism in the philosophy of quantum physics.
As for writing: the main outcome of the second year has been the new edition of my book on Protagoras: Protagoras and the Challenge of Relativism, paperback edition, November 2016. I have also managed to progress fairly well with my book on the Circle of Megara: I have written three more chapters and the book is scheduled to be handed in for review by December 2017--with the aim to see it published for June 2018 for Routledge. I have also managed to write three different book-proposals:
1) the first one is on the philosophy of atomism. It is a collection arising form the Durham Conference I organised in May 2017. The expected date for publication of the collection should be 2019 for Routledge.
2) the second proposal is a monograph on relativism, indeterminacy and atomism (for Verso: see more in the following section). The book is a quite ambitious theoretical project, to show how the three views under scrutiny all contribute--to my understanding--to the creation of a view of the world where objects play no role.
3) the third proposal is a lengthy Companion on the Philosophy of Scepticism, to be co-edited with John Shook (SUNY at Buffalo). While John will cover the American side of contributors, I will manage to handle the European side--with the aim to get the Companion delivered by the end of 2018. The Publisher will be Wiley-Blackwell.
I have read papers at the University of Macerata and at the University of Sheffield. I will soon deliver two guest lectures in Lisbon and Madrid. I am still involved in the National Project to teach philos
All the work that I have done so far goes well beyond the actual state of art in two different ways. First, in contrast to current scholarship in ancient philosophy, I think I have shown that an important part of ancient metaphysics can be read as a metaphysics of indeterminacy. Second, to assess the impact of an objectless metaphysics, either in terms of scholarly studies and in the general society, by drawing conceptual connections between ancient metaphysics, contemporary metaphysics and the philosophy of science and physics is in itself a valuable attempt to go beyond the actual start of art, where little dialogue is allowed between those areas of human thought.

I have been able to conceive of a new monograph (for Verso) that will contribute an innovative and radical theory about martial objects by combining ancient metaphysics, contemporary metaphysics and the philosophy of science. The book is aimed to be a quite ambitious theoretical project, to show how the three views under scrutiny (that is, relativism, indeterminacy and atomism) all contribute to the creation of a view of the world where objects play no role. The intended project will aim to offer a pioneering effort in this direction by providing a picture of a relevant part of ancient metaphysics that is compatible with the main findings of current quantum physics. My intention would be to look for large-scale funding, in order to establish a research team, including doctoral students and post-doctoral research assistants, to work on the project. I intend to present the new project for consideration for funding to the ERC Grant Scheme, to the John Templeton Foundation and to national Funding schemes across Europe. I believe that the project will have an important societal impact in so long as it will show that the common way we think of material objects is ungrounded and should be replaced by a conception of the world where objects have no actual role.
atoms