33rd Annual Runciman Lecture: Prof Malcolm Schofield

  • February 1, 2024 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
  • Great Hall, KCL Strand Campus

    Greater London, London
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Aristotle’s Practicable Idealism


Plato the idealist, his god a mathematician, but Aristotle the empiricist, who rolled up his sleeves and worked at observational marine biology. That is a common picture – the one dreaming of rule by philosopher kings, the other presiding over the compilation of a constitutional encyclopaedia including 158 city-states. But Aristotle did not forswear idealistic ambitions. This lecture will focus on the via media he advocated in his Politics between perfection and the practicable. He pinned his hopes on cities with a large middle class. For Sir Moses Finley, writing 40 years ago, the existence in ancient Greece of any middle class was simply ‘fictitious’, whereas Josiah Ober’s The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece (2016) associates its efflorescence with ‘an extensive middle class’. Why and how Aristotle thought it a practicable proposition, and in what sense an ideal, is what the lecture will hope to explore.


The vote of thanks will be given by Michael Trapp, Professor Emeritus of Classics.


The lecture will be preceded by Orthodox Vespers at the King’s Chapel (17:15).



Malcolm Schofield is Emeritus Professor of Ancient Philosophy, University of Cambridge, and Fellow of St John’s College. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and an Honorary International Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has served as President of the Classical Association and of the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies and as Chair of the British School at Athens. He is recognized as one of the major scholars in the world currently working on ancient Greek and Roman philosophy. His first book was An Essay on Anaxagoras (Cambridge 1980) and his most recent How Plato Writes (Cambridge 2023). He co-authored with G.S. Kirk and J.E. Raven the second edition of The Presocratic Philosophers (Cambridge 1983). He has co-edited numerous other collaborative volumes, including with Tom Griffith a new English edition of Plato’s Laws (Cambridge 2016). He now works mostly on Greek and Roman political philosophy. He was co-editor with Christopher Rowe of The Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Political Thought (Cambridge 2000). The Stoic Idea of the City (Cambridge 1991; expanded reprint Chicago 1999), Saving the City (London 1999), Plato: Political Philosophy (Oxford 2006) and Cicero: Political Philosophy (Oxford 2021) are his major solo publications.

Date & Time

Thu, Feb 1, 2024 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Venue Details

Great Hall, KCL Strand Campus

Greater London, London Great Hall, KCL Strand Campus
Centre for Hellenic Studies

The Centre for Hellenic Studies at King's College London is a unique grouping of academics in different disciplines and departments, with interests and expertise covering more than three millennia, from Aegean prehistory to the history, language, literature and culture of Greece, Cyprus and the worldwide Greek diaspora today.

Our work and our international prestige are supported by a distinguished International Advisory Board, with external members from the USA and Greece as well as the UK. The Centre's members participate in research projects funded by such prestigious bodies as the European Research Council (ERC) and the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Many of our projects have attracted generous sponsorship from leading Greek and Cypriot charitable foundations, including A.G. Leventis, Stavros Niarchos and Alexander S. Onassis.

Founded in 1989, the Centre is committed to promoting knowledge and understanding of Greek history, language, and culture of all periods, and in particular the fostering of research with a comparative focus, whether cross-cultural or exploring the diachronic spectrum of Hellenism itself.

In close partnership with the Department of Classics (ranked 1st in the UK in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework) the Centre builds upon the expertise of a membership drawn from a range of departments and central services across the Faculties of Arts & Humanities and Social Sciences & Public Policy, and from the neighbouring Courtauld Institute of Art. Visiting Fellows and Visiting Professors are also affiliated to the Centre for periods of between six months and three years.

The director of the Centre is Gonda Van Steen. For a full list of members please email chs@kcl.ac.uk.