Foto del docente

Carlotta Capuccino

Associate Professor

Department of the Arts

Academic discipline: M-FIL/07 History of Ancient Philosophy


Keywords: History of Ancient Philosophy - Metaphilosophy - Philosophical Writing - Teaching Philosophy - Socratic Dialogue - Maieutics - Paideia - Platonic Gnoseology - Aristotelian Ethics

Research Directions

Ancient Philosophy Today

  • New perspectives and research methods in the history of ancient philosophy.
  • Ancient Philosophy’s contribution to contemporary debate.

Within the M-Fil/07 sector, my research seeks to find a place within the scope of international research that pays particular attention to the redefinition of ancient philosophy’s role in the sphere of contemporary Humanistic and Scientific studies. This approach has the double objective of investigating new perspectives and methods of research in the history of western ancient philosophy at the boundaries of other disciplines focused on antiquity (in particular papyrology, philology, classical literature, and oriental philosophy), together with redefining the contribution that ancient philosophy can offer to contemporary philosophical debate by sharing disciplinary expertise.

In line with this approach to research, pursued at Bologna since 1992, in the autumn of 2018 I organised the International Bologna-Oxford Conference (BOOX 2018) Blowing in the Wind of Logos: Ancient Philosophy Today, in collaboration with the colleagues at the University of Oxford, Luca Castagnoli and Paolo Fait. As a spin-off of the conference, (1) I created a fixed seminar entitled Il Vento del Logos: Ancient Philosophy Today; and I founded (2) the Interdisciplinary Research Center APToday - Ancient Philosophy Today, at the FILCOM Department ( I have envisaged the foundation of a philosophical journal to be entitled ΣΥΝΟΥΣΙΑ: Ancient Philosophy Today, based in Bologna.

The fixed seminar Ancient Philosophy Today will be held alongside the traditional Rodolfo Mondolfo Seminars and the Incontri [Encounters] event series for the presentation and discussion of recent publications on authors and topics in the history of ancient philosophy, in collaboration with Bologna’s Academy of Sciences. The dates and times of the events will be published on the facebook page Filosofia Antica a Bologna [Ancient Philosophy at Bologna] (


Primary Research Fields and Topics

  1. Metaphilosophy

    (a) Philosophy and Writings – I am primarily interested in questions of a metaphilosophical character and in particular the link between philosophy and writing in Plato. I conduct my research on Platonic topics following the approach known as the “Third Way”.

    Beginning from Michael Frede’s thesis (1992) according to which the literary form and philosophical content of Plato’s corpus are inseparably entangled (not indissoluble in the sense of being confused or logically inseparable, but interdependent in the sense that they cannot be explained if not in relation to one another), I conducted my doctoral research on the opening scenes (proems) of Platonic dialogues investigating their peculiar philosophical function. The result is presented in my monograph, ΑΡΧΗ ΛΟΓΟΥ: Sui proemi platonici e il loro significato filosofico (Firenze: Olschki, 2014) [ΑΡΧΗ ΛΟΓΟΥ: On Plato’s proems and their philosophical meaning], which until today represents the only synoptic study of the topic.

    My current research focus on the iconic style of Plato’s prose, beginning with the presupposition that it is possible to distinguish, in Plato’s dialogues, three different expressive styles that are irreducible to one another: an argumentative, dialectical or rhetorical, style (logos), a narrative style (mythos), and an iconic style (eikón) that makes use of images and analogies. Whilst logos and mythos have always been objects of interest for scholars of Plato, in my view, the dià eikonon légein, “speaking through images”, requires renewed attention as an independent style of Platonic prose.

    Project Title: Speaking through images: Platonic models of analogical argumentation.

    (b) The Figure of the philosopher and of Socrates as a dialogical character – The study of the Platonic dialogues as both philosophical and literary works has led me to reflect on the role that Plato assigns to the philosopher, and in particular to Socrates, who pre-eminently represents the character (dramatis persona) of the philosopher in Plato’s writings. Plato chose to transform the philosopher into a dialogical persona, by means of the figure of Socrates,in order to (continue to) practice his own, anonymous, philosophical role before his readers.

    Working on a brief dialogue from Plato’s youth, the Ion, I traced Socrates’s philosophical profile as a dialogical character in opposition to the “poetic” style of thought that hides behind the, in many ways, speaking name of the fictional character Ion. The results of this research are presented in the monograph, adapted from my graduation thesis, Filosofi e Rapsodi: Testo, traduzione e commento dello Ione platonico (Bologna: CLUEB, 2005) [Philosophers and Rhapsodes: Text, translation and commentary on Plato’s Ion]; and updated in the most recent translation with commentary Platone: Ione (Santarcangelo di Romagna [RN]: Rusconi, 2017).

    (c) Philosophical writing and disciplinary teaching – My specific interest in the link between philosophy and writing in Plato is accompanied by a more general interest in philosophical writing, argumentation theory and oral style, with particular reference to the history of ancient philosophy and its pedagogy.

    From 2003 to 2019, I held annually a Seminar on Philosophical Writing as a component of the combined graduate and undergraduate course History of Ancient Philosophy at the University of Bologna, for which I prepared a course textbook by the same name. In 2012 the method adopted during the seminar was the subject of an inter-doctoral lecture at the “Umberto Eco” International Center for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (Scuola Superiore di Studi Umanistici), and was integrated into the yet to be published essay in oral style How to write an argumentative paper. Moreover, I have collaborated with Walter Cavini to produce the department’s style handbook Norme di redazione per un saggio breve [Editing guidelines for a short essay] for the Writing Workshop of the FILCOM department. The publication of an updated version of both the unpublished essay (in English) and the style handbook (both are for now available on my web page: is underway, along with the creation of a philosophical writing handbook for the purposes of disciplinary teaching.

  2. Ethics

    (a) Philosophy and Paideia – The topic of philosophical writing in Plato contains an ethical implication: Plato considers the dialogical form and expressive styles that he chooses to adopt for the transmission of his philosophy as the only way to transmit philosophical material responsibly.This means that establishing exactly what the complicated expressive form of Plato’s corpus is and how it functions cannot be separated from an investigation into the role that Plato assigns to education.

    The research project’s starting point, Parlare per immagini [Speaking through images], consists in a close reading of books VI and VII of the Republic, and in particular of its closing image, the celebrated allegory of the cave, whose setting is explicitly presented by the text as educational and which invites reflection on the relationship between paideia and philosophy, in the double sense of both how the philosopher is educated and what his educational role is. This part of the project foresees the publication of a translation with commentary of the Republic, contracted with the publishing house Rusconi with expected publication at the end of 2020. It involves a collaborative effort, conducted by philosophers and philologists from the school of Bologna, within which I will work on the curation of a part of the introductory essay and the annotated translation of books VI-VII.

    (b) Teaching philosophy and philosophical practices – Just as in the case of philosophical writing, my interests also extend to the teaching of philosophy in its various declensions in regards to the topic of paideia.

    In 2019 I cofounded, together with colleagues in the FILCOM Department and from the Filò Association, the research group ΑΙΩΝ/ AIÓN- Gruppo di Ricerca sulla Didattica della Filosofia e le Pratiche Filosofiche [Research Group on the Teaching of Philosophy and Philosophical Practices] (                                                                    

    Combining my discipline’s interests with those of the group, I have undertaken the following lines of research:

      • Socratic dialogue and maieutics in philosophical practices

    The topic of the maieutics of thought is introduced by Plato in the Theaetetus in the form of an iconic analogy that compares Socrates to a midwife. This may seem to turn maieutics into something very specific, yet the midwife concept is nevertheless situated at the centre of philosophical practices from their first appearance. The aim of this line of research is to reconstruct the origins of the concept for the purposes of making a more conscious use of it in philosophical practices with children and adolescents. A monograph entitled Il segreto di Socrate: La maieutica dei pensieri [Socrates’s secret: The maieutics of thought] is in the works.

      • Role and use of ancient philosophy in philosophical practices

    The guidelines for the best part of the philosophical practices diffused in Italy and the world today contain explicit reference to the Socratic dialogue and to philosophers and topics from Ancient Greece and Rome. Ancient Philosophy, in particular, is at the centre of a heated debate on the opportunity to teach the history of philosophy at school levels below the third high school class, placing it alongside the activity of philosophising proper to philosophical practices since their origin. The aim of this more general line of research is to reflect on the strengths and limits of a geo-historical approach to philosophical practices orientated towards childhood and adolescence, with particular reference to the history of ancient philosophy, starting from a careful analysis of the practices currently in use.

  3. Platonic Gnoseology – If the extreme care that Plato dedicates to philosophical writing testifies to his interest in the transmission of knowledge, even though in sui generis way, then an indispensable côté of research regards knowledge acquisition.

    Between 2012 and 2018 I was holder of a research grant at the FILCOM Department. The opportunity to carry out research into Platonic gnoseology was a result of my participation, in 2009, in a national PRIN (Progetto di Rilevante Interesse Nazionale [Project of Relevant National Interest]) on the Aristotelian concept of philosophical science. My contribution to the local research group was the investigation of the Platonic antecedent of this concept; that is, a research project on the relationship between science and philosophy in Plato, which was subsequently transformed into the research project for the departmental grant Episteme: Un’analisi strutturale del lessico cognitivo di Platone [Episteme: A structural analysis of Plato’s cognitive lexicon], currently underway. The aim of the project is to contribute to the first complete mapping of the Platonic and Aristotelian cognitive lexicon, conducted by an équipe of specialists. The initial findings regard the detailed analysis of the cognitive lexicon of the Ion, a dialogue that contains the principles of techne as stated by Plato, and a study on the phrase techne kai episteme, which fills a gap in John Lyons’s works dedicated to the cognitive lexicon of the Platonic corpus.

  4. Aristotelian Ethics – Lastly, one non-Platonic line of research regards the Aristotelian ethics of happiness and originated from the need to investigate directly the Aristotelian concept of philosophy, not, however, in relation to science, but to the end of human life. I asked myself what the role of philosophy can and must be for the lives of human beings, or of some of them, according to Aristotle. The privileged site in which to search for an answer is without a doubt the works of moral philosophy, in particular the Nicomachean Ethics, in which man’s practical activity and theoretical activity are put into relation in a discourse on the end of human life, which for Aristotle coincide with happiness, in Greek, eudaimonia.

    This research consists, therefore, in an analysis of the Aristotelian concept of eudaimonia and articulates itself in two parts. (1) The first part, recorded in two articles published in 2013 («Philosophical Topics») and in 2015 («Philosophia»), consists in an analysis of the Aristotelian definition of eudaimonia in book I of the Nicomachean Ethics. Firstly it establishes what, according to Aristotle, are the necessary and sufficient conditions for human happiness (exegetical aim); and secondly it shows how Aristotle’s theory is also a good response to the questions that contemporary common sense sets itself about what happiness is and how to achieve it (philosophical aim). (2) The second part of the research, still underway, aims to complete the investigation by means of a reading of book 10 of the Nicomachean Ethics, where the topic is picked up and amplified without exegetical difficulties, in particular in relation to one of the more controversial aspects of Aristotle’s practical philosophy; that is to say, the identification of “perfect happiness” with theoretical activity (and therefore philosophy?), and the apparent aporia that arises when eudaimonia is removed from the political context in view of which ethical reflection is openly carried out. In the context of the Incontri aristotelici [Aristotelian encounters], held at the Academy of Sciences of Bologna on 19 April 2017 (organized by myself and Walter Cavini), I suggested a solution to the aporia that is different from those currently proposed by the critics and that I believe merits further investigation.