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Richard Sorabji

Professor of Philosophy Emeritus, Kings College, London

Richard (Ruston Kharsendji) Sorabji historian of ancient Western philosophy was born in Oxford on 8 November 1934, the son of an Indian father and English mother. After an early education at the Dragon School (1943–1948) and Charterhouse (1948–1953) and two years in compulsory military service in London he attended Pembroke College Oxford on a scholarship and studied ancient history and philosophy (1955–1959). Sorabji completed a B.Phil. under Gwil Owen and John Ackrill at Oxford. He was offered his first academic post at Cornell University (1962) where he became associate professor in 1968 and worked as an editor of the Philosophical Review.

Sorabji returned to England in 1970 and joined the faculty at King’s College London, where he was appointed Professor of Ancient Philosophy in 1981. During this period he published his first book, Aristotle on Memory (1972), and compiled the four volumes of Articles on Aristotle (1975–1979). Dialoguing with scientists he published a trilogy of books on the ancient philosophy of physics: Necessity, Cause and Blame (1980), Time Creation and the Continuum (1983) and Matter Space and Motion (1988).

He became President of the Aristotelian Society (1985–1986) and a fellow of the British Academy in 1989. He founded the King’s College Centre for Philosophical Studies (1989–1991), one of whose aims is to promote philosophy to the wider public. He was Director of the Institute of Classical Studies (1991–1996) and British Academy Research Professor at Oxford (1996–1999). After his Gifford Lectures (1996–1997) Sorabji was appointed a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1997 and was included on the Queen’s honors list for his distinguished contributions to ancient philosophy (CBE 1999). His Gifford Lectures were published as Emotion and Peace of Mind: From Stoic Agitation to Christian Temptation in 2000.

Sorabji retired from King’s College in 2000. Since then he has held teaching positions as Professor of Rhetoric at Gresham College London (2000–2003); adjunct professor at the University of Texas at Austin (2000– ); distinguished visiting scholar New York University (2000–2003); and visiting professor City University of New York (2004– ). He is also an Honorary Fellow of Wolfson College Oxford as well as a fellow of King’s College and a Research Fellow of the Institute of Classical Studies.

He is the founder and director of the international Ancient Commentators on Aristotle project (1987– ) whose aim is to publish translations of philosophical text from the period 200–600 A.D., texts that formed a missing link in the history of Western philosophy. To date over sixty volumes have been completed.

Sorabji’s other works include Philoponus and the Rejection of Aristotle (1987), Aristotle Transformed (1990), Animal Minds and Human Morals (1993), Aristotle and After (1997), The Philosophy of Commentators 200–400 A.D. (2003–2005) and The Self: Insights from Different Times and Places (2005).

  • Shin Ahn, University of Edinburgh