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

Zhixi Wang

Zhixi Wang


Dissertation Project: ‘Teleology at Its Limits: Elemental Motion in Plato and Aristotle’

The elements, namely earth, water, air and fire, were believed by some ancient philosophers including Plato and Aristotle to be the basic constituents of the (sublunary) natural world; as such, these elements typically move in certain ways, e.g. earth towards the centre of the universe and fire towards the periphery. My dissertation investigates the relation between elemental motion and teleology in Plato and Aristotle. The central texts include Plato’s Timaeus and Aristotle’s Physics, On the Heavens, etc. While both philosophers defend some kind of teleology in explaining the natural world (e.g. living things, the heavenly bodies, and/or the cosmos as a whole), it is less evident whether or how they intend teleology to extend to the lowest-level changes in nature such as elemental motion. By looking into how they, through different approaches, incorporate elemental motion into a teleological cosmology, new light can be shed on issues such as the limits of teleology and the relation between teleology and necessity.


Research Interests

Plato’s and Aristotle’s natural philosophy (esp. cosmology) and metaphysics (esp. causation).




2020 –                                 Doctoral Candidate in Ancient Philosophy, Research Training Group ‘Philosophy, Science and the Sciences’, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

2018 – 2020                        M. A. Philosophy, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China

2016 – 2017                        Minor Abroad, Sciences Po Paris, France

2014 – 2018                        B. A. Philosophy, Tsinghua University



2020 –                                Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin [Research Assistant], Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

02/2019 – 07/2019             Teaching Assistant, Tsinghua University

09/2018 – 01/2019             Teaching Assistant, Tsinghua University