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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Philosophy, Science and the Sciences

Johanna Schmitt

Research project:

In my doctoral thesis I work on Ancient Stoicism, a philosophical school from 344 BCE to 180 CE in the Hellenistic period. I am interested in a Stoic account of belief-formation, and especially in an analysis and explanation of the phenomenon that someone is confronted with a sound argument, but - despite knowing so - does not adopt a new belief in accordance with the conclusion of this argument.

One might have as a first intuition that such a person simply is being arational. And this also would be the explanation of other ancient philosophers, famously Aristotle and Plato: Both held that human souls consist of rational and arational parts, and depending on which soul part is the dominant one, a person is guided either by a rational or arational soul part. This view allows the explanation that a person might not be convinced by a sound argument (despite knowing about the soundness of the argument) in virtue of being guided by an arational soul part. But unlike their predecessors, the Stoics did not believe that (grown up) humans have souls capable of arationality in virtue of human souls consisting of rational and arational parts. They thought that (grown up) human souls are completely rational; they even defended the strong claim that emotions (pathe) are identical with judgments or grounded in judgements. Therefore the explanation, that someone does not adopt a new belief in the scenario described above in virtue of being guided by an arational soul part, is not available to them.

I am developing an account of how the Stoics would have analyzed and explained the initially described phenomenon. For this I am working on criticism of (some) arguments within the Stoic school to the effect that these arguments are not convincing despite being accepted as sound. I am focusing currently on Seneca’s criticism on some syllogisms ascribed to Zeno of Citium, the founder of the Stoic school.

General philosophical interests:

Apart from my interest in Stoicism I am in Ancient Philosophy interested in accounts of Dialectic and Sophistic, and in philosophical methodology (especially in the questions why Plato wrote his dialogues the way he did and how sceptical inquiry was supposed to work). 

Outside of Ancient Philosophy I am interested in Philosophy of Language, the History of Analytic Philosophy, Philosophy of Logic (especially the question whether Logic is normative) and Epistemology.


09/2016 - 02/2017

Visiting Student Research Collaborator, Princeton

since 2015

Doctoral Candidate in Philosophy, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin


M.A. in Philosophy, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

03/2010 - 08/2010

Erasmus Mundus Exchange Student, La Sapienza Università di Roma

2009 - 2013

B.A. in Philosophy, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Major: Philosophy, Minor: Ancient Greek)

Contact: schmitt_johanna@gmx.de