Rory Hanlon

Rory Hanlon
Humanities Teaching Fellow
Stuart 228
Office Hours: Winter Quarter: Tuesdays, 12:30 - 2:00 pm
PhD, University of Chicago, 2021; BA, St. John's College, Santa Fe, 2014
Teaching at UChicago since 2021
Research Interests: Ancient Greek Philosophy (esp. Aristotle and Plato); Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy; Philosophy of Mind; Philosophy of Film; Moral Psychology; Early Modern Philosophy

Rory Hanlon received his PhD from the University of Chicago in 2021 and his BA from St. John’s College, Santa Fe. Rory’s work focuses on Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy, centrally Aristotle’s and Plato’s conceptions of mind, soul, and life. Rory also works on the influences of these conceptions throughout the history of philosophy, and their relevance for contemporary philosophy of mind and moral psychology. He also maintains a strong interest in philosophy of film, film theory, and the presentation of philosophy through film.

Recent Courses

PHIL 22002 Introduction to Philosophy

Topic: Through Film

Film has been and is perhaps our central artistic medium, influencing and reflecting the values of our time, while also exploring perennial aspects of the human condition. Movies then present powerful avenues through which to engage with our deepest and most enduring philosophical questions. This course serves as a general introduction to philosophy, using films to explore the practice of thinking philosophically, as well as the broad range of questions and themes with which philosophers have concerned themselves for over 3,000 years, such as: How can we be free if we are subject to the laws of nature? How can we know or perceive anything with certainty? What is a just political community? Can we ever determine the right answer to ethical dilemmas? To explore these questions, we will discuss a wide selection of films, from The Third Man to Office Space to Blade Runner; we will examine how philosophers themselves have engaged directly with those films; and we will study philosophical texts, both historical and contemporary, that address questions raised by those films. (A)

2021-2022 Spring

PHIL 23502 Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind

What is a mind? How does the mind relate to one’s brain and body? In what sense can nonhuman animals or computers think? How does our subjective experience relate to the objective world? Versions of these questions have been the focus of reflections on the mind since the beginning of philosophy, which have been grouped under the banner of ‘philosophy of mind’. In this class we will examine central questions in the philosophy of mind, looking to theories that contemporary philosophers have given about the nature of the mind, and their relationship to the increasingly detailed accounts of the natural world that physical and biological sciences provide. Key topics to be investigated are the mind-body problem, as well as its implications for our understanding of consciousness, intentionality, mental content, and personal identity. (B)

2021-2022 Winter

PHIL 29910 Ancient Greek and Roman Conceptions of Soul

(CLCV 29921)

This course traces a central thread in ancient Greek and Roman thought—the nature of the soul (psuchê). Standing far from what we now associate with the word ‘soul,’ psuchê was treated as the distinguishing mark of life, and the subject of activities like perceiving, feeling emotions, and thinking. Yet the notion also went through radical transformations: from the soul’s mythical beginnings in the Homeric epics, to its immortalization in the Platonic dialogues, to its scientific treatment in Aristotelian biology, to its materialist character in Stoic and Epicurean philosophy. These changes reflected evolving answers to a variety of fundamental questions, such as: what is the relation of soul to body? What is the nature of human reason and thought? Do nonhuman organisms have souls? Is the soul immortal? We will explore these changes, seeing how they were symptomatic of diverging explanations of the natural world, life, the gods, the human good, and immortality. We will also explore how these conceptions foreshadow or depart from contemporary theories of mind, life, and personal identity. (B)

2021-2022 Winter

PHIL 29200-02/29300-02 Junior/Senior Tutorial

Topic: Aristotle’s On the Soul

Aristotle’s De Anima (On the Soul) contains his general account of soul, understood as the principle and cause of life. This text has been foundational to much of the philosophical and scientific reflections on life and the mind that have followed. Philosophers from Aquinas to Hegel have praised its richness and insight; contemporary psychologists, cognitive scientists, and biologists have found in it a predecessor to contemporary conceptions of mind, perception, and life. In reading De Anima, then, we can come face to face with the origins of our own conceptions of life. Yet it has also struck some modern readers as quite alien. De Anima’s scope doesn’t fit neatly within contemporary philosophy of mind, psychology, or biology; it instead offers an idiosyncratic ‘metaphysics of life’, which to some has appeared hopelessly antiquated in our post-Cartesian age.

In this class, we will engage in a close reading of the whole of De Anima. We will give particular attention to Aristotle’s greatest achievement in De Anima: his hylomorphic conception of soul, according to which the soul is ‘form’ and ‘actuality’, and the body is ‘matter’ and ‘potentiality’. We will use an understanding of this doctrine to address Aristotle’s most infamous and enigmatic claims in De Anima: that the soul and the body are one, that nutrition and reproduction are imitations of the divine, that perception is a reception of form, and that intellect is both nothing and everything. Our goal will be not only to understand Aristotle on his own terms, but also to see how modern philosophical problems about life and mindedness (e.g., AI, consciousness) look from an Aristotelian perspective.

Meets with Jr/Sr section. Prerequisite: Open only to philosophy majors. Intensive-Track Majors should reach out to the instructor to be enrolled manually. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements.

2019-2020 Spring