Leo Catana

Leo Catana

Associate Professor

Office hours: Thursday 14-15

Primary fields of research

There are two main interests in my ongoing research and teaching, ethics and and method in the history of philosophy (historiography of philosophy). My interest in ethics concerns virtue ethics, both ancient and modern. My interest in the historiography of philosophy gravitates towards those eighteenth- and nineteenth-century historians and historians of philosophy, who have been instrumental to modern interpretations of past philosophers,

My teaching is primarily on ancient Greek philosophy. I teach regularly a BA course on ancient and medieval philosophy. My MA courses alternate, but they typically deal with a key text by Plato or Aristotle. In spring 2018 I taught a MA course on Plato’s Gorgias and its significance to ancient political philosophy, in spring 2019 I taught Aristotle on a MA course, focusing on his notion of citizenship in his Ethics and Politics. In spring 2020 I teach Aristotles's ETHICS with a special focus on ethical relativism. I have set up several intensive summer courses on ancient Greek 2015 onwards for philosophy students, always in close collaboration with colleagues from the department of ancient Greek. In general, I have an active interest in the philosophy education as a whole, for which reason I have acted as Study Coordinator at the Division of Philosophy, University of Copenhagen, from 2015 onwards, head of programme from 2020.

Together with Sabrina Ebbersmeyer and Anders Dahl Sørensen, also employed at the Division of Philosophy in Copenhagen, I run two fora dedicated to the history of philosophy. One is The History of Philosophy Research Group (2014-), in which we present and discuss work-in-progress, often in dialogue with internationally influential experts in the field. MA students working on their final thesis also present their work in this forum. Another forum is The Copenhagen Intellectual Seminar, which is an interdisciplinary forum, in which researchers with historical interests, but scattered over various departments — philosophy, history, classical philology, theology and jurisprudence— present their ongoing work. This seminar is held during spring term and alternates between two periods, namely ancient Greece in the fifth and fourth century BCE and the early modern period, that is, the seventeenth and eighteenth century; the one in spring 2020 will be dedicated to the ancient Greek context. In addition, I am a member of the research group in practical philosophy at the Philosophy Division; this group works on modern ethics and political philosophy.

In collaboration with Mogens Lærke (ENS de Lyon), I set up an international conference in September 2018 on the historiography of philosophy that concentrated on the period 1800-1950: Which were the interactions between philosophy proper and history of philosophy in this period? Fourteen internationally leading experts gave papers at the conference. The ultimate aim was to publish a special issue on this topic in the British Journal for the History of Philosophy in collaboration with its editor, Michael Beaney, in order to give this topic, philosophy’s historiography, the position in international research that it deserves. The special issue, edited by Mogens Lærke and me, has now been published. The project is supported by the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon (ENS de Lyon), The British Society for the History of Philosophy (BSHP), Centre for Modern European Studies (CEMES) and my department (MEF).

I have peer reviewed articles for many international journals in the field of philosophy and history of philosophy, and I am presently member of the editorial board of Classica et Mediaevalia (2014-), which is run by colleagues at several Danish divisions of classical philology. 


My most important publications



Leo Catana, Late Ancient Platonism in German Eighteenth-Century Thought. Dordrecht: Springer, 2019.

Leo Catana, The Historiographical Concept ‘System of Philosophy’: Its Origin, Nature, Influence and Legitimacy. Brill: Leiden and Boston, 2008.

Leo Catana, The Concept of Contraction in Giordano Bruno’s Philosophy. Ashgate: Aldershot, 2005. Reprinted by Routledge, 2017.



Leo Catana og Mogens Lærke (eds), Histories of Philosophy, 1800-1950. Special issue in British Journal for the History of Philosophy (2020).


Chapters in collective volumes:

Leo Catana ‘From Persona to Systema: Heumann’s Dethronement of Porphyry’s Vita Plotini and the Biographical Model in History of Philosophy’, in Biography, Historiography, and Modes of Philosophizing: The Tradition of Collective Biography in Early Modern Europe, ed. Patrick Baker. Leiden: Brill, 2017, pp. 337-398.

Leo Catana, ‘Philosophical Problems in the History of Philosophy: What are They?’, in Philosophy and Its History: New Essays on the Methods and Aims of Research in the History of Philosophy, eds Mogens Lærke, Justin E. H. Smith and Eric Schliesser. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 115-133.


Journal articles:

Leo Catana, ‘George Grote’s Analysis of Ancient Greek Political Thought: Its Significance to J.S. Mill’s Idea About “Active Character” in a Liberal Democracy’British Journal for the History of Philosophy, special issue, Histories of Philosophy 1800-1950, eds Leo Catana and Mogens Lærke (2020).

Leo Catana, ‘Plato on Recognition of Political Leaders: The Importance of Mirrored Character Traits’: Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought(accepted for publication on June 18, 2019)

Leo Catana, ‘The Ethical Discussion about Protection (boêtheia) in Plato’s Gorgias’: Classical Quarterly 67.2 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1017/S0009838819000168

Leo Catana, ‘Doxographical or Philosophical History of Philosophy: On Michael Frede’s Precepts for Writing the History of Philosophy’: History of European Ideas (2014), pp. 1-8. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01916599.2014.906149

Leo Catana,  ‘The Origin of the Division between Middle Platonism and Neoplatonism’: Apeiron: A Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science, vol. 46.2 (2013), pp. 166-200.

Leo Catana,  ‘The Concept ‘System of Philosophy’: The Case of Jacob Brucker’s Historiography of Philosophy’: History and Theory, vol. 44 (2005), pp. 72-90.


History of philosophy
Methodology of the history of philosophy

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