Ian McCready-Flora

Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Virginia

Fellow, Society of Fellows, SOF/Heyman, Columbia University (2011–2014)

Ian McCready-Flora works mainly on Ancient Greek Philosophy (especially Aristotle and Plato), and has substantial side interests in contemporary Aesthetics, Epistemology and Applied Ethics. He is trying to understand Aristotle's conception of rationality: what is it about human thinking that distinguishes it from the sorts of thinking other animals are capable of? Aristotle's views on belief, in particular, need to be integrated into this account; only humans can form beliefs, according to Aristotle, so belief must have some characteristics that make it a special brand of cognition. Aristotle's theory of belief, however, gets relatively little attention compared to his deductive model of science and knowledge. A serious effort at understanding it, then, can reshape our views about Aristotle's conception of rationality.

In addition to this main project, Ian is also thinking about ancient conceptions of knowledge and its relation to other forms of knowing; Aristotle's and Plato's differing responses to Protagorean relativism and its implications; and the history and prehistory of theorizing about the emotions.

In Aesthetics, Ian is currently thinking about the concept of "canon," i.e. the set of fictional truths that constitute a world shared by several different works. Examples would be the DC Universe of superheros and the world of The West Wing. Certain works, it seems, get to decide what is true about that shared world, and others do not. What is the relationship, then, between the Harry Potter in J.K. Rowling's novels and the Harry Potter in the hundreds of fan-written stories? More generally, what makes a work canonical? Are there aesthetic criteria, or only sociological and conventional factors? How does the weight of canon affect the reception and composition of works?