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Leo Catana

Leo Catana

Associate Professor

Primary fields of research

There are two main interests in my ongoing research and teaching, namely ethics and political philosophy, and the historiography of philosophy.

My interest in ethics concerns virtue ethics, both ancient and modern; my interest in political philosophy regards forms of self-organisation within political communities, including the one we find in the ancient Athenian democracy, which remains an important source of inspiration for the modern, representative demoracy. My interest in the historiography of philosophy gravitates towards those eighteenth- and nineteenth-century historians and historians of philosophy, who have been instrumental to modern interpretations of past philosophers,

My teaching is primarily on ancient Greek philosophy. I teach regularly a BA course on ancient and medieval philosophy. My MA courses alternate, but they typically deal with a key text by Plato or Aristotle. In 2016, I offered a MA course on Aristotle’s Politics, and in spring 2018 I shall offer a MA course on Plato’s Gorgias and its significance to ancient political philosophy. In collaboration with colleagues from the department of ancient Greek, I have set up several intensive summer courses on ancient Greek from 2015 onwards for philosophy students. In general, I have an active interest in the philosophy education as a whole, for which reason I have acted as Study Coordinator at the Division of Philosophy, University of Copenhagen, from 2015 onwards.

Together with Sabrina Ebbersmeyer, also employed at the Division of Philosophy in Copenhagen, I run two fora dedicated to the history of philosophy. One is The History of Philosophy Research Group (2014-), in which we present and discuss work-in-progress, often in dialogue with internationally influential experts in the field. MA students working on their final thesis also present their work in this forum. Another forum is The Copenhagen Intellectual Seminar, which is an interdisciplinary forum, in which researchers with historical interests, but scattered over various departments — philosophy, history, classical philology, theology and jurisprudence— present their ongoing work. This seminar is held during spring term and alternates between two periods, namely ancient Greece in the fifth and fourth century BCE and the early modern period, that is, the seventeenth and eighteenth century; the one in spring 2018 will be dedicated to the ancient period. In addition, I am a member of the research group in practical philosophy at the Philosophy Division; this group works on modern ethics and political philosophy.

In collaboration with Mogens Lærke (ENS de Lyon), I set up an international conference in September 2018 on the historiography of philosophy that concentrates on the period 1800-1950: Which were the interactions between philosophy proper and history of philosophy in this period? Fourteen internationally leading experts will give papers at the conference. The ultimate aim is to publish a special issue on this topic in the British Journal for the History of Philosophy in collaboration with its editor, Michael Beaney, in order to give this topic, philosophy’s historiography, the position in international research that it deserves. The project is supported by the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon (ENS de Lyon), The British Society for the History of Philosophy (BSHP), Centre for Modern European Studies (CEMES) and my department (MEF).

In 2018, I plan to participate in several international conferences on ancient Greek philosophy; most of my papers will discuss issues in Plato’s Gorgias and its ethics and political philosophy. Moreover, I have been accepted as a fellow at the School of History, Classics & Archaeology, University of Edinburgh, for a period during spring 2018, where I shall set up a workshop on the historiography of ancient democratic Athens before George Grote. I do so in collaboration with Mirko Canevaro, who is a Reader in Classics at this school.

I have peer reviewed articles for many international journals in the field of philosophy and history of philosophy, and I am presently member of the editorial board of Classica et Mediaevalia (2014-), which is run by colleagues at several Danish divisions of classical philology. 


My most important publications:



Leo Catana, Late Ancient Platonism in German Eighteenth-Century Thought (forthcoming).

Leo Catana, The Historiographical Concept ‘System of Philosophy’: Its Origin, Nature, Influence and Legitimacy. Brill: Leiden and Boston, 2008.

Leo Catana, The Concept of Contraction in Giordano Bruno’s Philosophy. Ashgate: Aldershot, 2005. Reprinted by Routledge, 2017.


Chapters in collective volumes:

Leo Catana ‘From Persona to Systema: Heumann’s Dethronement of Porphyry’s Vita Plotini and the Biographical Model in History of Philosophy’, in Biography, Historiography, and Modes of Philosophizing: The Tradition of Collective Biography in Early Modern Europe, ed. Patrick Baker. Leiden: Brill, 2017, pp. 337-398.

Leo Catana, ‘Philosophical Problems in the History of Philosophy: What are They?’, in Philosophy and Its History: New Essays on the Methods and Aims of Research in the History of Philosophy, eds Mogens Lærke, Justin E. H. Smith and Eric Schliesser. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 115-133.


Journal articles:

Leo Catana, ‘The Ethical Discussion about Protection (boêtheia) in Plato’s Gorgias’: Classical Quarterly (forthcoming 2018).

Leo Catana, ‘Doxographical or Philosophical History of Philosophy: On Michael Frede’s Precepts for Writing the History of Philosophy’: History of European Ideas (2014), pp. 1-8. DOI:

Leo Catana,  ‘The Origin of the Division between Middle Platonism and Neoplatonism’: Apeiron: A Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science, vol. 46.2 (2013), pp. 166-200.

Leo Catana, ‘Changing Interpretations of Plotinus: The 18th-Century Introduction of the Concept of a ‘System of Philosophy’: The International Journal of the Platonic Tradition, vol. 7.1 (2013), pp. 50-98.

Leo Catana,  ‘The Concept ‘System of Philosophy’: The Case of Jacob Brucker’s Historiography of Philosophy’: History and Theory, vol. 44 (2005), pp. 72-90.


History of philosophy
Methodology of the history of philosophy

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