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Professor Sophie Grace Chappell

Profile summary

Professional biography

Sophie Grace Chappell is a philosopher whose main reseach concern is the relation between objectivity and history. She wants to understand what it is for ethical truths to be both objective, and also the product of long and often haphazard historical processes. Given that ethics always aspires to universal truth, and yet always has specific cultural and historical roots, can there be true epiphanies--manifestations to us of genuine ethical insight? Epiphanies - Sophie Grace Chappell - Oxford University Press (oup.com) Are there any character-traits that are always "virtues", ways of being that are always valuable and admirable? Can there be true ethical progress, steps whereby moral understanding makes real advances, rather than just changing?

[Spoiler: Yes, yes, and yes. Although, in each case, it's complicated.]

She follows Raimond Gaita, Alasdair MacIntyre, Iris Murdoch, Charles Taylor, Simone Weil, and Bernard Williams in working broadly in the "virtue ethics" tradition. For reasons autobiographical, and Wittgensteinian, and Nietzschean (Twilight Maxim 26: "The will to a system is a lack of integrity"), she is as sceptical as they all are about the idea of "moral theory", at least when that means ahistorical systematisations of our ethical thought and life. Her writings explore the history of ethical experience, and of the concepts that philosophers and poets and others have deployed to understand that experience. As a classicist, she focuses especially upon ethical experience among the ancient Greeks; she thinks that Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides have as much to teach us about this as Plato and Aristotle, and moreover that Plato and Aristotle thought so as well.   

As a Christian of the Scottish Episcopal Church, she is interested too in the ways in which humans have sought to experience the Divine, or have experienced what they took to be the Divine no matter what they intended, and to make sense of that experience. This also is, for her, always a historical inquiry; she has a lifelong affection (sometimes a somewhat crabby one) for Augustine and Aquinas, and at present the inquiry involves her in translating Dante's Paradiso and Euripides' Bacchae

The relation between objectivity and history has particular bite for her as a Christian who is also a trans woman, and publicly visible as such since 2014. To her mind the question for Christians is not whether or not they should be "traditionalists"--they should, of course; the question is, what it means to be faithful to the Christian tradition today. On that and on related questions, she has written a number of things in the hope of conveying to the nonplussed what being transgender is actually like, and what it isn't like. In particular there is her forthcoming book Trans Figured: on being a transgender person in a cisgender world Author Books | Polity (politybooks.com) . She discusses Trans Figured in this November 2023 podcast for the Berkeley Divinity School of Yale University: 10: Trans Figured with Sophie Grace Chappell | Berkeley Divinity School (yale.edu)

She has been Executive Editor of The Philosophical Quarterly since 2021, and she served on the Philosophy Sub-Panel in REF 2022. She was Treasurer of the Mind Association from 2000 to 2021, and Director of the Scots Philosophical Club from 2004 to 2006.

She has published a poetry collection, Songs for Winter Rain by Sophie Grace Chappell | Waterstones . Her translation of Aeschylus' Agamemnon is to be staged in a production at Boston University, MA, USA, in April 2024. (99+) Aeschylus' Agamemnon: a new translation | Sophie grace and Timothy Chappell - Academia.edu She has numerous other translation projects on the go, including Homer's Iliad (99+) Homer Iliad Book 1 | Sophie grace - Academia.edu and Dante's Divina Commedia (99+) Dante Inferno Canto 1 | Sophie grace - Academia.edu . (She has translated Plato's Meno (99+) Plato's Meno: a new translation | Sophie grace - Academia.edu and Crito (99+) Plato Crito translation | Sophie grace - Academia.edu as part of her work writing OU teaching courses.)

She has published over 100 academic articles and (depending how you count them) about ten books. Many of her articles are accessible here: . (99+) Sophie grace | The Open University - Academia.edu

When not reading or writing, she likes cycling, skiing, ski-mountaineering, hillwalking, and climbing (but not falling off) [PDF, 66 KB]. She is a member of the Scottish Mountaineering Club, with over 50 FWAs to her name.

Research interests

Ethics, metaethics, applied ethics, political philosophy, aesthetics especially philosophy of literature, ancient philosophy, epistemology, philosophy of religion especially religious experience and mysticism, mediaeval philosophy.

Some examples of Professor Chappell's published and late-draft work in philosophy are available on her  Publications page.

PhD supervision

In progress:

James Leigh, "Schopenhauer as educator in the thought of Nietzsche and Wittgenstein"

Second supervisor; with Manuel Dries

Chris Searle, "Merely verbal disputes in philosophy"

Second supervisor, with Mark Pinder

 

Completed:

2018-2022 

Rob Jones, "Asceticism in Nietzsche"

Second supervisor; with Manuel Dries

2017-2021 Lucy Fay Manning, "Logical atomism in the Theaetetus and the Tractatus"

First supervisor; with Naoko Yamagata (Classics)

2016-2020 Chris Grey, "Church-musical aesthetics"

Second supervisor; with Martin Clarke (Music)

2014-2018 Sarah Pawlett Jackson, "Second-person-plurality in ethics" (PhD awarded 2019)

First supervisor; with Manuel Dries (second supervisor)

2012-2016 Jon Phelan, "Truth in narrative fictions" (PhD awarded spring 2017)

Second supervisor; with Derek Matravers (first supervisor)

2010-2015 Paul Jackson, "Epicurean atheism and theism in Lucretius' de Rerum Natura" (PhD awarded spring 2015)

First supervisor; with Naoko Yamagata (Classics)

2006-2013 Raymond Boyce, "Moral perception" (PhD awarded spring 2013)

Second supervisor; with Alex Barber (first supervisor)

2006-2013 Luca Sciortino, "Ian Hacking on styles of thinking" (PhD awarded autumn 2013)

Second supervisor; with Cristina Chimisso (first supervisor)

Teaching interests

There is no area of philosophy that Sophie Grace Chappell is not interested in teaching, though she is probably not the Go-To Person for philosophy of quantum physics.

She is an Open University course author on 

A222 (Philosophy of religion)

A333 (Philosophy of narrative art)

A853 (Plato's Meno)

DA 223 (Plato's Crito and political philosophy)

Impact and engagement

Sophie Grace Chappell gives frequent talks in schools and public philosophy clubs and other such forums, both in Britain and elsewhere: for example at the Barnes Philosophy Club (at least when she doesn't stand them up), at the Pinner Philosophy Group, at Chigwell School, at Wellington College, at How The Light Gets In, and at Harris Academy. She also gives the sermon in her church sometimes, and on one occasion in Magdalen College Chapel, Oxford.

She is always happy to consider invitations for further banging on and sounding off in public. 

External collaborations

Sophie Grace Chappell has held the following Visiting Fellowships or Professorships:

School of Latin and Greek, St Andrews University, September 2001-May 2002

University of British Columbia, January-April 2003

Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, September-December 2005

Centre for Ethics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs, St Andrews University, January-May 2006

University of Oslo, February 2010

University of Reykjavik, August 2011

Flinders University, Adelaide, June 2014

Philosophy, St Andrews, 2017-2020

Erskine Fellowship, Univesity of Canterbury, NZ, February to April 2020

Academic visitor, Yale University Law School, November 2023

 

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Mind, Meaning and Rationality Research GroupGroupFaculty of Arts

Publications

Agamemnon at Aulis: On the Right and Wrong Sorts of Imaginative Identification (2023-05-18)
Chappell, Sophie-Grace
Topoi ([Early Access])


Is Consciousness Gendered? (2023-03)
Chappell, Sophie-Grace
European Journal of Analytic Philosophy, 19(1) (pp. SI8-13)


Reply to Commentators (2023)
Chappell, Sophie Grace
Journal of Value Inquiry, 57 (pp. 209-220)


Transformation and immortality: introducing Dante's Divina Commedia (2022-05-12)
Chappell, Sophie Grace
The Philosopher, 110(2)


To Live Outside the Law You Must Be Honest (2021-07)
Chappell, Sophie Grace
Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume, 95(1) (pp. 233-252)


Transgender and Adoption: An Analogy (2021)
Chappell, Sophie Grace
Think, 20(59) (pp. 25-30)


Introducing Epiphanies (2019)
Chappell, Sophie Grace
Zeitschrift für Ethik und Moralphilosophie, 2(1) (pp. 95-121)


Utrum Sit Una Tantum Vera Enumeratio Virtutum Moralium (2018-04-16)
Chappell, Sophie Grace
Metaphilosophy, 49(3) (pp. 207-215)


The Cross (2018)
Chappell, Sophie-Grace
International Journal of Philosophical Studies, 26(3) (pp. 478-498)


The Objectivity of Ordinary Life (2017-08)
Chappell, Sophie Grace
Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 20(4) (pp. 709-721)


Commentary: From metaphysics to ethics: three routes (2015)
Chappell, Sophie Grace
Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society: The Virtual Issue(3) (pp. 290-309)


Why ethics is hard (2014-07)
Chappell, Timothy
Journal of Moral Philosophy, 11(6) (pp. 704-726)


Critical Notice. Paul Horwich, Wittgenstein's Metaphilosophy (2014-07)
Chappell, Timothy
Philosophical Investigations, 37(3) (pp. 258-271)


The varieties of knowledge in Plato and Aristotle (2012-10)
Chappell, Timothy
Topoi, 31(2) (pp. 175-190)


Glory as an ethical idea (2011-04)
Chappell, Timothy
Philosophical Investigations, 34(2) (pp. 105-134)


On the very idea of criteria for personhood (2011-03)
Chappell, Timothy
Southern Journal of Philosophy, 49(1) (pp. 1-27)


Mi Kyoung Lee's Epistemology after Protagoras: responses to relativism in Plato, Aristotle, and Democritus (2010-04)
Chappell, Timothy
Philosophical Books, 51(2) (pp. 117-125)


Ethical blindspots: why Socrates was not a cosmopolitan (2010-03)
Chappell, Timothy
Ratio, 23(1) (pp. 17-33)


“A logos that increases itself”: response to Burley (2010-01)
Chappell, Timothy
Philosophy, 85(1) (pp. 105-108)


Book Review. Self-Constitution: Agency, Identity, and Integrity. By Christine M. Korsgaard (2010)
Chappell, Timothy
Philosophy, 85(3) (pp. 425-432)


Philosophy as a humanistic discipline – by Bernard Williams The sense of the past – by Bernard Williams (2009-10)
Chappell, Timothy
Philosophical Investigations, 32(4) (pp. 360-371)


Ethics beyond moral theory (2009-07)
Chappell, Timothy
Philosophical Investigations, 32(3) (pp. 206-243)


The fear of death (2009-07)
Chappell, Timothy
New Blackfriars, 90(1028) (pp. 413-423)


Moral perception (2008)
Chappell, Timothy
Philosophy, 83(4) (pp. 421-437)


Utopias and the art of the possible (2008)
Chappell, Timothy
Analyse und Kritik, 30 (pp. 179-203)


Defending the unity of knowledge (2008)
Chappell, Timothy
The Philosophical Quarterly, 58(232) (pp. 532-538)


Critical study of Sylvain Delcomminette, Le Philèbe de Platon (2008)
Chappell, Timothy
International Journal of the Platonic Tradition, 2(1) (pp. 65-75)


Infinity goes up on trial: must eternal life be meaningless? (2007)
Chappell, Timothy
European Journal of Philosophy, 17(1) (pp. 30-44)


Reading the peritropê: Theaetetus 170c-171c (2006-04)
Chappell, T. D. J.
Phronesis, 51(2) (pp. 109-139)


Two distinctions that do make a difference: the action-omission distinction and the principle of double effect (2002-04)
Chappell, Timothy
Philosophy, 77(2) (pp. 211-234)


Option ranges (2001-04)
Chappell, Timothy
Journal of Applied Philosophy, 18(2) (pp. 107-118)


The virtues of Thrasymachus (1993)
Chappell, Timothy
Phronesis, 38(1) (pp. 1-17)


Epiphanies: an ethics of experience (2022)
Chappell, Sophie-Grace
ISBN : 9780192858016 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford and New York


Ethics Beyond the Limits: New Essays on Bernard Williams’ Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy (2018-12-20)
Chappell, Sophie Grace and van Ackeren, Marcel
ISBN : 9781138481640 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London


Knowing What To Do: Imagination, Virtue, and Platonism in Ethics (2014-03-27)
Chappell, Timothy
ISBN : 9780199684854 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford


Ethics and Experience: Life Beyond Moral Theory (2009-07)
Chappell, Timothy
ISBN : 1844651460 | Publisher : Acumen Publishing | Published : Durham


The Inescapable Self: an Introduction to Western Philosophy since Descartes (2005-10)
Chappell, Timothy
ISBN : 029784735X | Publisher : Weidenfeld & Nicholson | Published : London


Reading Plato's Theaetetus (2005)
Chappell, Timothy
ISBN : 872207609 | Publisher : Hackett Publishing Company | Published : Indianapolis, USA


Epiphanies: A Brief and Partial History, with Particular Reference to James Joyce (2024)
Chappell, Sophie-Grace
In: Bruno, G. Anthony and Vlasits, Justin eds. Transformation and the History of Philosophy. Rewriting the History of Philosophy (pp. 333-344)
ISBN : 978-0-367-52088-5 | Publisher : Routledge


Autonomy in Sophocles' Antigone 1 (2023)
Chappell, Sophie Grace
In: Colburn, Ben ed. The Routledge Handbook of Autonomy. (pp. 13-22)
ISBN : 9780429290411 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Oxon, UK and New York, USA


Tempted Like Achilles: Reflections on Roles and Role-Recalcitrance in Ancient and Modern Ethics (2023)
Chappell, Sophie Grace
In: Barber, Alex and Cordell, Sean eds. The Ethics of Social Roles (pp. 25-48)
ISBN : 9780191926228 | Publisher : Oxford Academic


Republics of Conversation: The Normativity of Talk in Plato up to the Theaetetus (2022-06)
Chappell, Sophie Grace
In: Zucca, Diego ed. New Explorations in Plato's 'Theaetetus' (pp. 83-113)
ISBN : 978-90-04-51601-4 | Publisher : Brill | Published : Amsterdam


Bernard Williams' liberal naturalism (2022-03-15)
Chappell, Sophie Grace
In: MacArthur, David and De Caro, Mario eds. The Routledge Handbook of Liberal Naturalism
ISBN : 9780815381822 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London


Inwardness in Ethics (2022)
Chappell, Sophie Grace
In: Panizza, Silvia Caproglio and Hopwood, Mark eds. The Murdochian Mind (pp. 128-141)
Publisher : Routledge | Published : London


Salience, choice, and vulnerability (2022)
Chappell, Sophie Grace
In: Archer, Sophie ed. Salience: A Philosophical Inquiry (pp. 130-139)
ISBN : 978-0-815-38519-6 | Publisher : Routledge


Duty, beauty and booty: an essay in ethical reappropriation (2018-12-20)
Chappell, Sophie Grace
In: Chappell, Sophie Grace and van Ackeren, Marcel eds. Ethics beyond the limits (pp. 94-118)
ISBN : 9781138481640 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London


Seeds: on personal identity and the resurrection (2016-12)
Chappell, Sophie Grace
In: Cholbi, Michael ed. Immortality and the Philosophy of Death (pp. 85-98)
ISBN : 9781783483839 | Publisher : Rowman & Littlefield | Published : London


How Encounters with Values Generate Moral Demandingness (2015-09-16)
Chappell, Sophie Grace
In: van Ackeren, Marcel and Kuehler, Michael eds. The Limits of Obligation: Moral Demandingness and Ought Implies Can. Routledge Studies in Ethics and Moral Theory (pp. 84-99)
ISBN : 9781138824232 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London


Augustine's ethics (2014)
Chappell, Timothy
In: Stump, Eleonore and Meconi, David eds. The Cambridge Companion to Augustine (2nd ed). Cambridge Companions (pp. 189-207)
ISBN : 978-1-107-68073-9 | Publisher : Cambridge University Press | Published : Cambridge


Virtue ethics and rules (2013-11-28)
Chappell, Timothy
In: van Hooft, Stan ed. Handbook of Virtue Ethics
ISBN : 184465639X | Publisher : Acumen | Published : London


There are no thin concepts (2013-04-25)
Chappell, Timothy
In: Kirchin, Simon ed. Thick concepts. Mind Association Occasional Series (pp. 182-196)
ISBN : 978-0-19-967234-9 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford


Virtue ethics in the twentieth century (2013-02)
Chappell, Timothy
In: Russell, Daniel ed. Cambridge Companion to Virtue Ethics. Cambridge Companions to Philosophy (pp. 149-171)
ISBN : 978-1-107-00116-9 | Publisher : Cambridge University Press | Published : Cambridge


Kalou Heneka (2012-12-03)
Chappell, Timothy
In: Peters, Julia ed. Aristotelian Ethics in Contemporary Perspective. Routledge Studies in Ethics and Moral Theory (pp. 158-176)
ISBN : 9780415623414 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London/ New York


Intuition, System, and the “paradox” of deontology (2011-02)
Chappell, Timothy
In: Jost, Lawrence and Wuerth, Julian eds. Perfecting Virtue: New Essays on Kantian Ethics and Virtue Ethic (pp. 271-288)
ISBN : 9780521515252 | Publisher : Cambridge University Press | Published : Cambridge


Plato (2010-12-02)
Chappell, Timothy
In: Bernecker, Sven and Pritchard, Duncan eds. Routledge Companion to Epistemology. Routledge Philosophy Companions (pp. 655-665)
ISBN : 978-0-415-96219-3 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon


Impartial benevolence and partial love (2009-09-16)
Chappell, Timothy
In: Chappell, Timothy ed. The problem of moral demandingness (pp. 70-85)
ISBN : 9780230219403 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : London


“Naturalism” in Aristotle's political philosophy (2009)
Chappell, Timothy
In: Balot, Ryan ed. A Companion to Greek and Roman Political Thought (pp. 382-398)
ISBN : 9781405151436 | Publisher : Blackwell | Published : Oxford


Understanding human goods (2007)
Chappell, Timothy
In: Riordan, Patrick ed. Values in Public Life (pp. 77-96)
ISBN : 978-3-8258-0552-4 | Publisher : Lit Verlag | Published : Berlin


'The good man is the measure of all things': objectivity without world-centredness in Aristotle's moral epistemology (2005-03-03)
Chappell, Timothy
In: Gill, Christopher ed. Virtue, Norms, and Objectivity: Issues in Ancient and Modern Ethics (pp. 233-256)
ISBN : 199264384 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford, UK


Introduction (2004-10)
Chappell, Timothy and Oderberg, David S.
In: Chappell, Timothy and Oderberg, David S. eds. Human Values (pp. 1-10)
ISBN : 1403918104 | Publisher : MacMillan | Published : Houndmills


Absolutes and particulars (2004)
Chappell, Timothy
In: O'Hear, Anthony ed. Modern Moral Philosophy. Royal Instittute of Philosophy Supplement (54) (pp. 95-115)
ISBN : 9780521603263 | Publisher : Cambridge University Press | Published : Cambridge


The polymorphy of practical reason (2004)
Chappell, Timothy
In: Chappell, Timothy and Oderberg, David S. eds. Human Values (pp. 102-126)
ISBN : 1403918104 | Publisher : MacMillan | Published : Houndmills


Persons in time: metaphysics and ethics (2003)
Chappell, Timothy
In: Dyke, Heather ed. Time and Ethics. Library of Ethics and Applied Philosophy (14) (pp. 189-207)
ISBN : 978-1-4020-1312-6 | Publisher : Kluwer | Published : Dordrecht


Intuition, Theory, and Anti-Theory in Ethics (2015-03-05)
Chappell, Sophie Grace ed.
ISBN : 9780198713227 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford


The Problem of Moral Demandingness: New Philosophical Essays (2009)
Chappell, Timothy ed.
ISBN : 9780230219403 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : London


Values and Virtues: Aristotelianism in contemporary ethics (2006)
Chappell, Timothy ed.
ISBN : 9780199291458 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford


Bernard Williams (2010)
Chappell, Timothy
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy


Knowledge in the Theaetetus (2009)
Chappell, Timothy
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy