Jan Szaif

Jan Szaif

Position Title
Professor of Philosophy

2290 Social Science and Humanities

Education and Degree(s)

  • PhD., 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 (West-)Berlin and at the University of Cambridge (1990/91). Ernst Tugendhat was his main philosophical mentor at Berlin; while in Cambridge he worked with Myles Burnyeat. After receiving his Ph.D. at Berlin in 1993, he taught for 12 years at the University of Bonn (Germany). Since 2005, he has been with UC Davis. He has published books and monographs on Plato’s concept of truth, on the concept of being, on friendship, and on Aristotelian ethics. Many of his articles cover topics in Plato and Aristotle, but he has also published in other areas, including medieval philosophy and bioethics.

Research Interest(s)

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. 

Selected Publications

  • Szaif, J. (2018). "Socrates and the benefits of puzzlement." In George Karamanolis & Vasilis Politis (eds.), The Aporetic Tradition in Ancient Philosophy, 29-47. Cambridge UP.
  • Szaif, J. (2018). "Plato and Aristotle on truth and falsehood." In Michael Glanzberg (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Truth, 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, 161-203. New York / Abingdon, NJ: Routledge. 
  • 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 167-193. Cambridge UP.
  • Szaif, J. (1996, 2nd ed. 1998). Platons Begriff der Wahrheit [Plato's Concept of Truth]. Freiburg / München: Alber.


Teaching Experience

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).