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

Yan Lu (陆炎)


Yan Lu


Thesis: Plato on Powers and Their Objects


My PhD dissertation focuses on the discussion of powers/capacities (dunameis) and their objects in Plato’s Philosophy, especially in his epistemology and metaphysics. There are two most important issues to be addressed in this study. (1)First, in Plato's view, what is the relationship between rational and sensory powers in human beings, and, accordingly, what is the relationship between their respective objects (so-called two worlds). The question that what human powers can do (their accomplishments) is also lead to dealing with the problem of soul’s tripartition (which is related to desire) and the problem of soul’s pleasure (which is related to feeling) in Plato. Plato here shows the connection between the traditional three types of states or faculties of the soul, but the last two types of states of the soul are not the focus of this study. However, I will nevertheless briefly investigate them under Plato’s discussion of powers.  (2) Second, in a more general sense, in Plato's view, whether different entities or beings have different levels of powers. If all entities have power, and just as all entities can be understood only in terms of ‘being’, does ‘power’ have the same status as ‘being’? And if different entities have different levels of powers, what is the position of human powers in these different levels, and what is the relationship between human powers and other entities’ powers? Of course, these two issues, i.e. the problem of human powers and the problem of entities’ powers are closely related.


In methodology, my study adopts an approach similar to Aristotle's discussion of ‘being’, i.e. acknowledging that ‘being is said in many ways’ (τὸ ὂν λέγεται πολλαχῶς). Similarly, this study acknowledges that powers are said in many ways, and then clarifies the most important and basic meaning of power. Thus, at the beginning of my dissertation, I don’t presuppose that Plato has a consistent doctrine of powers in his dialogues. I'll take a full look at Plato's use of dunamis and its associated vocabulary across all his dialogues, but the main texts I will address consist of Republic, Theaetetus, Sophist, and Timaeus. In the Republic, Plato proposes the principle of "the individuation of powers" as the basis of his epistemological and ontological distinctions. The elaboration of this principle leads to the clarification of the participation and Platonic causation in Sophist and the distinction and relationship between Knowledge and belief in Theaetetus. I'm going to investigate relevant passages in detail and then briefly compare Plato’s view with Aristotle’s and Neoplatonic interpretations. From an examination of this subject in Plato and his successors, this research is also supposed to contribute to the discussion of contemporary counterparts on related topics.



Research Interests

Ancient Philosophy, Early Modern Philosophy, Metaphysics, Epistemology,Ethics


Academic Education

Since 2020

Ph.D. candidate in Philosophy at Humboldt-Universität Berlin, Department of Philosophy, Research Training Group “Philosophy, Science and the Sciences”

M.A. in Philosophy at Peking University. Thesis: Rousseau and Kant on Natural Man and Moral Person

B.A. in Classics at Renmin University of China. Thesis: Marsilius of Padua on Activa Potentia



“Dikaiopolis’ Mind and Heart in Aristophanes’ Acharnians.” in The Chinese Journal of Classical Studies 11. 2012:13-28.

“The History and Current Status of Ancient Greek Philosophy Studies in China.” translator’s preface of A Short History of Greek Philosophy. Guangzhou, 2017, pp.1-45.


Translations (into Chinese)

Figueira, T. J. and Nagy, G. eds. Theognis of Megara: Poetry and the Polis. Fangning Zhang and Yan Lu trans. Beijing, 2013.

Marsilius of Padua. “De Translatione Imperii” in Marsilius on Imperium. Yan Lu trans. Beijing, 2020.

Barbeyrac, J. Préface du Traducteur à le Droit de la Nature et des Gens par Pufendorf (Translated and known as An Historical and Critical Account of the Science of Morality in English World). Yan Lu trans. Shanghai (finished, forthcoming)

Copleston, F. The Enlightenment: Voltaire to Kant (A History of Philosophy, vol.6). Yan Lu trans. Beijing (finished, forthcoming)