Université de Strasbourg

Ada Bronowski


Philosophy Department, New College of the Humanities, London, United Kingdom & USIAS Fellow, European Dynamics (DynamE), University of Strasbourg and CNRS

Ada Bronowski, USIAS Fellow 2019

After a first degree in classics at Sorbonne University, Ada Bronowski pursued her graduate studies at Oxford University, where she received her doctorate in philosophy, under the supervision of Professor Michael Frede and Professor Jonathan Barnes, with a thesis on metaphysics and philosophy of language in Stoicism. She subsequently held a fellowship in philosophy at the Queen’s College, Oxford, before taking on a lectureship in philosophy at the New College of Humanities in London. She has received fellowships from the Sydney Foundation of Science (Australia) and the Warburg Institute in London.

Within ancient philosophy, Ada Bronowski specialises in post-Aristotelian logic, language and ontology, with an emphasis on the relation of Hellenistic theories with Plato and Aristotle. She is the author of a monograph on Stoic logic and metaphysics, entitled The Stoics on Lekta: All There Is to Say, published in 2019 with Oxford University Press, and of an edited volume on the philosophical letter through the ages, entitled Dear Friend, You Must Change Your Life, forthcoming in 2020 with Bloomsbury.

Project - The Non-material origins of materialism (Nomat)

01/09/2019 - 31/12/2020

This research project straddles questions of historiography and the philosophical analysis of central moments in ancient philosophy: first, the construction of the notion of body by the Hellenistic philosophers, second, the subsequent interpretation of that notion as the basis for a materialist philosophical account by the philosophers of the late Roman Republic through to Imperial and Late Antique authors. It seeks to determine when and by whom the notion of materialism was forged, making a surprising discovery: the philosophers who are considered as the founders of materialism, whether the Presocratic atomists or the Hellenistic philosophers (in particular the Stoics and Epicureans), are not materialists. It is the ancient historiography of Greek philosophy - under the Roman Republic and especially in imperial times - which manufactures, through commentaries and polemics with the heirs of the Greek schools, the notion of an ancient Greek materialism.

The project’s key original contributions are, on the one hand, the analysis of the evolution of the notion of body from the Presocratics to the Hellenistics, as a notion developed through theories about the place of the non-material (the void, lekta, limits) in the sensible world, via a double critique from Plato of his predecessors, and the Hellenistics of Plato. On the other hand, it examines in detail how the Roman philosophers and the generations of Aristotelian and Platonic Commentators construct the notion of materialism, loading it with pejorative connotations, all the better to contrast it with the dominant influence of Platonic idealism. The body which the Hellenistic philosophers theorised through ethical and geometrical analyses of pain and the identification of the limits of the body, is the body which the Church Fathers reframe as that which can be tortured and martyrized for the sake of the salvation of the soul, in what is an additional, Christian interpretation, and condemnation, of materialism.

During her Fellowship, Ada Bronowski will be hosted by Professor David Le Breton in the European Dynamics (DynamE) research unit at the University of Strasbourg.

France 2030