Jan Szaif Portrait

Position Title

2290 Social Science and Humanities Building
Office Hours
Winter 2024: W 2:00-3:30 (Zoom), R 6:00-6:30 (after the seminar)


  • Ph.D., Philosophy, Free University of Berlin, 1993
  • M.A., Philosophy & Ancient Greek, Free University of Berlin, 1988


Jan Szaif studied philosophy and classics at the Free University of Berlin and at the University of Cambridge. Ernst Tugendhat was his main philosophical mentor at Berlin; in Cambridge (1990/91), he worked with Myles Burnyeat. After receiving his Ph.D. in 1993, he taught philosophy at the University of Bonn (Germany). Since 2005, he has been with UC Davis. Most of his research centers around the history of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, especially Plato and the Aristotelian tradition. He is also interested in approaches that link ancient philosophy with contemporary philosophical debates. His publications include books, monographs, and articles on Plato’s concept of truth, Plato’s theory of knowledge, Aristotelian and Peripatetic ethics, the concept of being, and the ethics of friendship.

Research Focus

Ancient Greek Philosophy, especially: Plato; Aristotelian ethics and metaphysics, including their later reception (medieval and modern); the history of the concepts of truth and being.


  • Szaif, J. (2022). “Pseudo-Objects in a World of Seeming (Parmenides 164b5–165e1).In L. Brisson, A. Macé, O. Renault (eds.), Plato’ Parmenides, pp. 439-451. Academia Verlag.
  • Szaif, J. (2021). "The Place of Flawed Pleasures in a Good Life. A Discussion of Plato’s Philebus”, Plato Journal: The Journal of the International Plato Society 22, pp. 133-157.
  • Szaif, J. (2019). "Aristotle on What to Praise and What to Prize. An Interpretation of Nicomachean Ethics I.12," Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy, vol. XXXIV, pp. 149-178 & 187-8. Brill.
  • Szaif, J. (2018). "Plato and Aristotle on truth and falsehood." In Michael Glanzberg (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Truth, pp. 9-49. Oxford UP.
  • Szaif, J. (2018). "Two conceptions of ‘primary acts of virtue’ in Doxography C." In W. Fortenbaugh (ed.), Arius Didymus on Peripatetic Ethics, Household Management and Politics: Text, Translation and Discussion, Rutgers University Studies in Classical Humanities XX, pp. 161-203. New York / Abingdon, NJ: Routledge.
  • Szaif, J. (2017). "Socrates and the benefits of puzzlement." In George Karamanolis & Vasilis Politis (eds.), The Aporetic Tradition in Ancient Philosophy, pp. 29-47. Cambridge UP.
  • Szaif, J. (2016). "Disagreement and reception. Peripatetics Responding to the Stoic challenge." In: Ralph Hexter, Brenda Schildgen (Eds.), Reading the Past Across Space and Time: Receptions and World Literature, pp. 121–147. Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Szaif, J. (2015). "Natürlichkeit und Künstlichkeit: Bemerkungen zur ethischen Problematik der Manipulierbarkeit des humangenetischen Substrats [Comments on ethical questions relating to the manipulability of the human genome]." In G. Rager, G. Wegner (eds.), Synthetische Biologie – Leben als Konstrukt, pp. 161-195. Freiburg/München: Alber.
  • Szaif, J. (2012). Gut des Menschen. Problematik und Entwicklung der Glücksethik bei Aristoteles und in der Tradition des Peripatos [The Good of Human Beings. Problems and Developments in the Aristotelian and Peripatetic Ethics of Eudaimonia]. Berlin/New York: deGruyter.
  • Szaif, J. (2011). "Aristotle on friendship as the paradigmatic form of relationship." In R. King and D. Schilling (eds.), How Should One Live? Comparing Ethics in Ancient China and Greco-Roman Antiquity, pp. 208-237. Berlin/New York: de Gruyter.
  • Szaif, J. (2009). "The beginnings of Greek ontology and the question of temporal being." In L. Honnefelder, E. Runggaldier, B. Schick (Eds.), Unity and Time in Metaphysics, pp. 151-182. Berlin/New York: de Gruyter.
  • Szaif, J. (2007). "Doxa and Epistêmê as Modes of Acquaintance in Republic V." Les Etudes Platoniciennes, vol. IV, pp. 253-272. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.
  • Szaif, J. (2006). "Aristotle on the benefits of virtue (NE X.7 and IX.8)." In B. Reis (Ed.), The Virtuous Life in Greek Ethics, pp. 167-193. Cambridge UP.
  • Szaif, J. (1996, 2nd ed. 1998). Platons Begriff der Wahrheit [Plato's Concept of Truth]. Freiburg / München: Alber.


Jan Szaif teaches a broad range of courses in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy. He also teaches surveys of medieval and modern philosophy. He has taught multiple courses at various other universities in Germany, Poland, Estonia, and China.


Jan Szaif has won a number of stipends and research fellowships, including fellowships for the Universities of Oxford (1997/98) and the Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington DC (2002).