Philosophical Letters: A Conference on Philosophy and Epistolarity - Manchester (England)



Some of the most important and influential letters and letter collections of antiquity were written by philosophers (e.g. the letters of Seneca or Epicurus) or attributed to philosophers (such as the letters of Plato, Socrates and the Socratics, Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans, etc.). Letters can be employed as the vehicle for the exploration of philosophical topics or problems (as in Seneca or Epicurus), or for the defence of a philosopher's life or endeavours (as in the Seventh Letter of Plato), while several letter collections engage with philosophical material more or less obliquely (e.g. the letters of Cicero). Philosophers also often appear as characters in epistolary collections (e.g. Plato in the letters of Chion, or Democritus in the exchange of letters between Democritus and Hippocrates), and several letter collections purport to give us a glimpse into some aspect of the 'private lives' of philosophers.

This conference seeks to explore the interaction of philosophy and philosophers in antiquity with the letter form and the broader letter collection. It will bring together experts on epistolography, letter collections and ancient philosophy to investigate topics including (but not limited to):

  • the effect of the letter form and the letter collection on the philosophical content of a letter/collection 
  • the engagement with the philosophical work of philosophers in pseudepigraphic letter collections 
  • the interaction between the 'private lives' of philosophers in letters/letter collection and the philosophical works of those philosophers 
  • the depiction of philosophers in letters and the relationship of such depictions to the biographical tradition 
  • the use of letters and letter collections as a vehicle for philosophy 
  • the inscription of philosophical letters (e.g. at Oenoanda) 
The conference marks the beginning of the next phase of the Manchester Ancient Letter Collections project (funded by the AHRC; 2016-2021) and will make an important contribution to the project by bringing together experts on a range of relevant letter collections and philosophers to uncover the most important features of the interaction of philosophy and epistolography in antiquity.

Confirmed speakers include:

Carol Atack (Oxford)
Ada Bronowski (Oxford)
Jenny Bryan (Manchester)
Pamela Gordon (Kansas, USA)
Owen Hodkinson (Leeds)

Those interested in contributing should send abstracts of approximately 300 words by 6 July 2018 at the latest. Papers should last no longer than thirty minutes. Contributions by established scholars and postgraduate students are equally welcome: we are particularly keen to encourage submissions by early career academics and PhD students.

Abstracts or requests for further information should be sent to Andrew Morrison on this email address: