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Thomas Davies *20

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I’m an historian of philosophy and a comparative linguist, with a special interest in cultural exchange in the ancient world. I work on natural philosophy in several ancient traditions, especially the Greco-Roman, Indian, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian. I grew up in New Zealand and studied at the University of Otago before arriving at Princeton in 2014.

My work looks at the emergence of philosophy and science in Greece as one component of a broader intellectual development across the ancient world. Long before the Greeks, thinkers in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Iran, and India had attempted to explain the cosmos in naturalizing terms. My dissertation, First Philosophy: Greek Cosmology and its Bronze Age Background, explores how these non-Greek traditions impacted three Greek thinkers of the sixth century BC: the Milesians Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes. I set their ideas beside Bronze and Iron Age texts from cultures in various forms of contact with Greece, showing that these ‘first philosophers’ in fact emerged from a deep history of antecedent cosmological thought.

I also have research interests in later Greek philosophy (especially Aristotle and the late antique commentary tradition on Aristotle), historical linguistics, and early Greek poetry (especially Homer, Hesiod, and Pindar, and especially from a comparative perspective). At Princeton, I am an IHUM Fellow and, for the 2019-20 academic year, a Procter Fellow. In 2017, I started teaching with the Prison Teaching Initiative. Since then I’ve designed and taught several courses in language, literature, and philosophy in local prisons.