Corpus Christi College Oxford

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Professor Ursula Coope

Ursula Coope

Fellow and Tutor, University Lecturer in Ancient Philosophy, Professor of Ancient Philosophy


I was an undergraduate at Corpus, and then spent seven years studying philosophy in the US: four years at Berkeley (where I got my PhD) and three as a visiting student at Princeton.

In 2000, I moved to London, first as a Jacobsen Fellow at UCL and then as a Lecturer at Birkbeck College. In 2003, I spent a term as a visiting assistant professor in the philosophy department at Princeton University. I returned to Oxford, and to Corpus, to take up a job as a University Lecturer and Tutorial Fellow in 2006. In 2010 and 2011, I had a visiting position as a Global Distinguished Professor at NYU.

I have had periods of research leave funded by the AHRC, by a Philip Leverhulme Prize and by a mid-career fellowship from the British Academy.


My research focusses mainly on two related areas: Aristotle (especially Aristotle's Physics and his philosophy of action), and late antique philosophy (especially Neoplatonist accounts of freedom and responsibility).

My book examines Aristotle's account of time, an account that raises questions about temporal order, the role of the present, and the relation between time and the mind.

I am also interested in Aristotle's views on change. What exactly does he mean when he says that change is something ‘incomplete'? And how does his notion of change differ from the notion (in modern philosophy) of an ‘event'? Answers to these questions should shed light on Aristotle's odd remarks about the infinite (for instance, his claim that the infinite is potentially, in a way in which it cannot be actually) and also on his understanding of action.

My interest in Aristotle's philosophy of action is partly in his metaphysics (in particular, how the views he adopts in the Physics affect his account of action), but also in questions of moral psychology (for instance, what is the relation between desiring something and thinking it good?). I have become particularly interested in the question: what is distinctive about human, as opposed to animal, action? Since Aristotle thinks that humans alone possess reason, this amounts to asking what difference the possession of reason makes to the ability to act. In particular, I have been thinking about (i) the distinction between rational and nonrational desire (in Aristotle and his successors) (ii) the sense in which, for Aristotle, there are parts of the soul (iii) the relation between ethical and intellectual virtue (iv) the relation between deliberation and purposiveness, (v) the relation between craft (techne) and theoretical understanding.

I am currently working on a book on the development of views about freedom and responsibility in ancient philosophy, focussing especially on the accounts of freedom and responsibility in Neoplatonist philosophers. I am particularly interested in the way in which these philosophers invoke self-reflexive notions (such as self-knowledge and self-movement) in their discussions of freedom and responsibility.

Teaching and supervision

At the undergraduate level, I teach the Plato and Aristotle papers, the presocratics, philosophy of mind, general philosophy and knowledge and reality. I supervise MSt and BPhil students working on ancient philosophy and DPhil students working on topics related to my research interests.

Major publications

Time for Aristotle: Physics IV.11-14. Oxford University Press, 2005 (Paperback edition, 2008).


‘Animal and celestial motion: the role of an external springboard: DM 2 and 3’, Proceedings of the Symposium Aristotelicum, ed O. Primavesi and C. Rapp (forthcoming) 

‘Rational assent and self-reversion: a Neoplatonist Response to the Stoics, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy (Summer, 2016)

‘Self-motion as other-motion in Aristotle’s Physics’ in Aristotle’s Physics: a critical guide ed M Leunissen (CUP, 2015)

‘Aquinas on judgment and the active power of reason’  Philosophers Imprint, 2013

‘Why does Aristotle think that Ethical Virtue is Required for Practical Wisdom?’ Phronesis, 57, 2012.

‘Aristotle on the infinite’ in Oxford Handbook of Aristotle, ed. C Shields (2012)

'Change and its relation to actuality and potentiality'  in Blackwell Companion to Aristotle, ed. G. Anagnostopoulos  (2009)         

‘Aristotle on action' Proceedings of the Aristotelian SocietySupplementary Volume CVI, 2007.

'Aristotle's account of agency in Physics III.3' Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy, 2004.

Book Chapter:
‘Change and its relation to actuality and potentiality' in A Companion to Aristotle ed. G. Anagnostopoulos, 2009.

'Aristotle on the infinite' in Oxford Handbook of Aristotle, ed. C Shields (forthcoming)


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