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

Wei Cheng

Wei_Cheng_Foto_2.jpgThesis: Pleasure and Pain in Context: Aristotle's Dialogue with his Predecessors and Contemporaries

The goal of my thesis is to understand Aristotle’s theories of pleasure and pain in a dialectical context. It aims to set out a new interpretation of this classical topic by repositioning Aristotle’s ideas in dialogue with his predecessors and contemporaries. In undertaking this historical-philosophical investigation, my central concern is to understand and display the internal dynamics of Aristotle’s fundamental ideas and use this as a basis for a rigorously philosophical interpretation. At the heart of this study is a desire to make sense of Aristotle’s aims and motivations in general, as well as his arguments and strategies in particular, which will be developed and fleshed out by considering a series of dialogues in which Aristotle himself directly and indirectly took part – not confined to his dispute with Plato, but also with the Academy, some Presocratic philosophers, and medical theorists. This monograph on the one hand attempts to demonstrate that contextualising Aristotle is not only of historical interest, but also and more importantly, sheds light on his philosophy in a more fruitful way than looking at his work in isolation. On the other hand, my approach also aims to foreground the philosophical contributions of Aristotle’s interlocutors, demonstrating that they too contribute to our intellectual legacy, as genuine philosophical alternatives whose potential should be better appreciated.


Wei Cheng was born in China, where he graduated in Chinese Literature at Peking University (Beijing, 2004). He continued his studies in Philosophy and Classics (Greek) at the University Tübingen (Germany) and received a degree of Magister Artium in 2011 under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Otfried Höffe and Prof. Dr. Michael Franz.  During his studies in Tübingen, he worked as tutor at the Department of Philosophy (Dr. Ina Goy, 2008-9) and gained a scholarship from the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (2008-11). In 2011-15, he joined the APSN-Program as a PhD-student at the Graduate School of Ancient Philosophy at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin. He spent 2013 fall semester at Princeton University, working with Prof. John Cooper and Prof. Von Staden. He was also a research fellow in Prof. Philip van der Eijk’s research program “Medicine of the Mind, Philosophy of the Body” at the Department of Classics funded by the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung. He earned his PhD in December 2015 with ‘summa cum laude’ at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. His thesis "Pleasure and Pain in Context: Aristotle's Dialogue with his Predecessors and Contemporaries" is a study on Aristotle’s conceptions of pleasure and pain. He is now assistant professor at the Institute of Classical Studies at Peking University (Beijing).

In 2017, he received the Werner Jaeger Award of the Gesellschaft für Antike Philosophie for the best dissertation in ancient philosophy. 

Research Interests

  • Ancient philosophy (philosophy of mind, moral psychology and ethics)
  • Ancient commentaries on Aristotle
  • Orality and literacy
  • History of classical scholarship
  • Kant and early German Idealism