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John Thorp


  • Ancient Philosophy

  • Free Will

  • Philosophy of Religion



Professor Emeritus
Department of Philosophy, Western University

John Thorp is a member and former chair of the Philosophy Department at Western University, and a member of the graduate faculty in Classics and in Theology. Before moving to Western he taught at the University of Ottawa, where he was chair of the Classics department. He has also been a Visiting Professor at the Université de Montréal. He is a former president of the Canadian Philosophical Association, and a former Executive Director of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities. His principal academic interests are in ancient philosophy (with an emphasis on ancient science), and in metaphysics (with an emphasis on debates about science and religion; of late he has turned his particular attention to the subject of secularism). His publications include Free Will – a defence against neurophysiological determinism (Routledge, London, 1980), which was published also in Spanish translation by Editorial Herder. He has been honoured by Western University which conferred on him its highest recognition for excellence in teaching, the Pleva Award, and by the Government of France, which made him a chevalier in the Ordre des palmes académiques.

His research in ancient philosophy has focused, over the years, mainly, though not exclusively, on the writings of Aristotle, and mainly on his work in science. ‘Science’, here, is writ large: it encompases the full gamut from physics and cosmology, through biology, physiology and psychology, to logic, semantics and scientific method. Beyond the work of Aristotle, he has investigated two other ancient sciences: music on the one hand, and grammar on the other. It may perhaps fall strangely on our modern ears to call these subjects ‘sciences’, but in antiquity music was understood as audible arithmetic, and reticular grammar was a science in its infancy, first organized in the second century BCE, and not ‘completed’ until something like the 6th century of our era.

In metaphysics his work has fallen in two main areas. On the one hand he wrote some years ago about the free will controversy, with particular attention to issues of neurophysiology; after lying dormant for some time, his interest in this subject has lately been rekindled by his graduate teaching. On the other hand he has long been interested in the philosophy of religion, and in the relations between religious and secular worldviews; he has spoken on this subject a number of times in recent years.


Free Will — a Defence against Neurophysiological Determinism, London & Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980.
Reviewed in:
Times Literary Supplement,
January 16, 1981, Galen Strawson
Philosophical Books
, June, 1981, 172-174, Robert Young
Novye Knege
number 7, 1981, 39-43, B.N. Birjukov
Philosophical Studies
(Ireland) 28, 1981, 397-399, D.E.B. Pollard
Teaching Philosophy
, July 1982, 250-251, James Gould
Heythrop Journal
, 23, April 1982, 212-214, Peter Byrne
, 17, September 1982, 303-306, William H. Austin
Australian Journal of Philosophy
, 60, December 1982, 374-376, Paul Simpson
International Studies in Philosophy
, 15, 1983, 122-124, Sara Shute
Review of Metaphysics
, 36, June 1983, 948-950, Robert H. Kane
Philosophical Review
, 92, October 1983, 627-630, Stephen Darwell
, vol.XXII, No.3, September 1983, 547-550, C.G. Prado
Philosophy of Social Sciences
, 14, December 1984, 585-586, Anthony Flew
Extensively discussed in:
Jennifer Trusted, Free Will and Responsibility, Oxford University Press, OPUS series, 1984
Robert Larmer, ‘Free Will, Hegemony and Neurophysiological Indeterminism’, Philosophia, Volume 16, No.2, August 1986, 177-188

El libre albedrío, Barcelona: Editorial Herder, 1985.

Selected Articles:

Whether the Theory of Family Resemblances Solves the Problem of Universals. Mind, October 1972; 567-570

Aristotle’s Use of Categories — an Easing of the Oddness in Metaphysics ∆7. Phronesis, 1974; 18: 238-256

Le mécanisme de la perception chez Aristote — étude de quelques problèmes. Dialogue, December, 1980; 576-589

The Luminousness of the Quintessence. Phoenix 1982; 36: 104-124

(with S. Kresic) ‘A Croatian Mediaeval Triptych’ (renditions of early Croatian poems into English verse) in The Journal of Croatian Studies, XXV-XXVI (1984-1985) 75-88

‘Forms, Concepts and to mê on, Revue de philosophie ancienne, II (1984) 77-92

‘Does Primacy Confer Universality? — Logic and Theology in Aristotle’ Apeiron XXII (1989) 101-126

‘Standing Up Falling Down — Aristotle and the History of Grammar’ Classical Views, XXXIII (l989) 315-332

‘Aristotle’s Horror VacuiCanadian Journal of Philosophy, XX (1990), 149-166

‘La figure d’Achille chez Aristote’ Mélanges Pascal, Cahiers d’Etudes Anciennes, XXIV-II (1990) 357-363

‘Aristoxenus and the Ethnoethical Modes’ in Harmonia Mundi , eds Robert W. Wallace and Bonnie MacLachlan, volume 5 of the Biblioteca di Quaderni Urbinati di Cultura Classica, Edizioni dell’Ateneo, Rome 1991, 54-68

‘The Social Construction of Homosexuality’, (review article on David Halperin’s One Hundred Years of Homosexuality) Phoenix, 46 (1992) 54-61

‘Aristotle’s Rehabilitation of Rhetoric’, Canadian Journal of Rhetorical Studies III, September 1993, 13-31

‘Astérix et les qualia: la dernière poche de résistance’, in Dialogue, XXXII (1993), 461-73

‘Aristotle on Probabilistic Reasoning’, Canadian Journal of Rhetorical Studies IV, (1994) 157-172

‘Le couteau de Delphes: réflexions sur un legs nocif d’Aristote’, in Cahiers d’études anciennes,, XXXII, 1996, 115-121

‘La vie et la mort selon Aristote’, Actes du XXIVe Congrès International de l’Association des Sociétés de Philosophie de Langue Française, Poitiers, 1996, 270-271.

‘The Hydraulics of the Brain: Interpreting a puzzling text in the Hippocratic treatise on glands’, forthcoming in Hermes

‘Aristotle on Brutishness’, Dialogue Vol XLII, No. 4, Fall 2003 673-694

‘Fuming Accidie: the sin of Dante’s gurglers’, in James Miller, ed., Dante & the Unorthodox – the aesthetics of transgression, Waterloo, WLU Press, 2005, 151-169

‘A Defence of the Liberal View and Suggestions for a Way Forward — Submission to the Eames Commission’, published in +Crossings+, an online journal, Vol I, Number 1, September 2004: (this article was sollicited by the editor for the flagship issue)

‘In search of Hypatia/ À la recherche d’Hypatie’, being the CPA presidential address for 2004:

‘Sullenness & Technopoly’, in Burkhardt Krause and Ulrich Scheck, eds., Emotions and Cultural Change / Gefüle und kulturelle Wandel, Tübingen, Stauffenburg, 2006, 11-20

‘Splitting the Semantic Atom: Aristotle on compound nouns’, Apeiron, Vol. XLII, No. 2, June 2009, 153-166

Book Chapters:

Blackwell’s Encyclopedia of Psychology, Oxford: Blackwell, 1983: Entries on: ‘akrasia’, ‘choice’, ‘determinism’, ‘volition’, ‘indeterminism’,’will’, ‘intentional action’, ‘free will’

What about Antarctica? In: Rossetti, Livio (ed.), Greek Philosophy in the New Millennium, Sankt Augustin: Academia Verlag, 2004: 27-30

The St Michael Report: Wrong Question, Wrong Answer. In: Marks, Darren, Marr, Jacqueline (eds.), Faith Seeking Understanding: the Windsor Report, the St Michael Report and the Challenge Ahead, Toronto: Anglican Church of Canada, 2007

Aristotle on the Unity of Consciousness. In: Lennon, T. , Stainton, R. (eds.), The Achilles of Rationalist Psychology, Springer Verlag, 2008: 43-58

L’amour chez les Stoïciens. In: Daviault, A. (ed.), Mélanges Senay: Cahiers des études anciennes, Suplément 1, Trois-Rivières: Presses de l’UQTR, 2011: 163-176

Two Secularisms: Two Sources. In: Religion Unbound, Acres, W. (ed.) submitted for publication

Doctoral Thesis:

“Free Will: a defense against neurophysiological determinism”, Oxford, 1976

B.Phil. Thesis:

“Aristotle’s Theory of Being”, Oxford, 1972

Invited Talks:

‘The History of the Idea of Usury’, Undergraduate colloquium, UWO, March 2002

‘Porphyry’s Subtle Sabotage’, Department of Philosophy, UWO, April 2002

‘A Mistake about Grace’, joint meeting of Anglican and RC seminarians, London, January 2003

‘Universal Accidents’, Trent University, Peterborough, February 2003

‘Aristotle on Natural Justice’, Colloquium of the Philosophy Dept, UWO, October 2003

‘Aristotle’s Worst Idea’, Senior Alumni Colloquium, Toronto, October 2003

‘Universal Accidents’, Department of Philosophy, University of New Brunswick, January, 2004

‘Sound amplification systems in ancient theatres’, Department of Classics, University of New Brunswick, January, 2004

‘Same Sex Marriage’, King’s College, London, February, 2004

‘One Million Steps to the End of the Earth: the Santiago Pilgrimage’, MacKay Lectureship, Halifax, February 2004

‘Aristotle’s Worst Idea’, Department of Philosophy, Dalhousie University, February 2004

‘In Search of Hypatia / A la recherche d’Hypatie’, Presidential address to the Canadian Philosophical Association, Winnipeg, May 2004

‘Eternity in an Hour’, address to the ‘Scientific Journey’ conference, UWO, May, 2004

‘In Search of Hypatia’, Department of Philosophy, University of Windsor, October, 2004

Acta Vogriana 1968-1985′, The Bagnani Symposium, Trent University, March, 2005

‘Deux concepts de sécularisme’, conférence inaugurale, Faculté de théologie, éthique et philosophie, Université de Sherbrooke, August, 2006

‘Aristotle on the Unity of Consciousness’, McMaster University, October, 2006

The St Michael Report: Wrong Question, Wrong Answer’, plenary address to the conference entitled ‘Faith Seeking Understanding: the Windsor Report, The St Michael Report & the Challenges Ahead, Faculty of Theology, Huron University College, University of Western Ontario, January 12-13, 2007

‘Aristotle’s Worst Idea’, keynote address to the Trent University Philosophy Society 40th anniversary celebration conference, Peterborough, March 2007

‘Grounding Liberal Theology’, keynote address to the Widening Circle founding conference, London, November, 2007

‘Aristotle’s Worst Idea’, Middlebury College, November, 2007

‘Is God a Delusion?’, Abraham’s Café, London Public Library, June, 2008

‘Two Concepts of Secularism’, Philosophy Series, London Public Library, October 2008

‘Aristotle’s Worst Idea’, York University, October, 2008

‘Is God a Delusion?’ Western Senior Alumni, Toronto branch, November 2008

‘Aristotle on the Variability of Natural Law’, St Paul University, Ottawa, November 2008

‘The Real Presence without Aristotle’, University of Regina, November 2009

‘Aristotle’s Rhetorodicy’, Symposium on ancient rhetoric, University of Windsor, September 2010

Conference Presentations:

Solving the Ontological Argument’, conference on the Ontological Argument, King’s College, London, February, 2001

‘Predestination and the Nature of Time’, King’s College, London, February, 2002

‘Porphyry’s Subtle Sabotage’, UWO Department of Philosophy, April, 2002

‘Dante’s Depression’, Canadian Philosophical Association, Toronto, May 2002

‘On Aristotle on the divinity of semen’, CAC, Fredericton, May 2003

‘Aristotle on Splitting the Semantic Atom’, CPA, Halifax, May 2003

To physikon dikaion – Aristotle’s conception of natural justice’, CPA Halifax, May 2003

‘Differentia makes a difference — comments on a paper by Kyle Fraser’, CPA Halifax, May 2003

‘The Ossification of Aristotle’ Lethbridge, WCPA October 2003

‘Religion, Politics & Same Sex Marriage’, Equity Committee Panel, Canadian Philosophical Association, Winnipeg, May, 2004

‘Aristotle and the Variability of Natural Justice’, WCPA, Victoria, October 2004

‘What did Hypatia teach?’, Classical Association of Canada, Banff, May, 2005

‘Aristotle on the role of dialectic in science’, contribution to a CPA symposium, May 2005

‘Stoic eros’, Conference on Ancient Teleologies, UWO, November, 2006

‘The Idea of Secularism’, King’s College, London, February 2007

‘Stoic Eros’ CPA, Saskatoon, May, 2007

‘Epicurean ateleology: Response to Byron Stoyles’, CPA, Saskatoon, May 2007

‘Aristotle on the Unity of Consciousness’, CPA symposium, May, 2007

‘Theists in Secular Space’, international conference on Rational Theism in the Public Sphere’, McGill University, September 2007

‘Hiding or Hidden?’, symposium on Divine Hiddenness, King’s College, London, February 2008

‘Two Secularisms: Two Sources’, Conference on Sacred & Secular in a Global Canada, Huron University College, May, 2008

‘Aristotle’s Vitalism’, CPA, Vancouver, May 2008

‘Linnaeus & Aristotle: the arbitrariness of biological classification’; reply to Devin Henry at the UWO Ancient & Mediaeval Conference, October, 2008

‘Divinity in the Ethics’, reply to Aryeh Kosman, Ancient Philosophy Society, Baltimore, April, 2009

‘Aristotle on Intelligible Matter’, CPA, Ottawa, May, 2009

‘Aristotle on Natural Law’, Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy, New York, October, 2009

‘Aristotle on Intelligible Matter’, APA/SAGP, San Francisco, April, 2010

Aristotelis corruptus‘, Ancient Philosophy Society, East Lansing, Michigan, April 2010

Aristotelis corruptus’, Classical Association of Canada, Québec, May 2010

Aristotelis corruptus’, Canadian Philosophical Association, Montreal, May 2010

Nous chez nous, comments on Louis Groarke’s book on Aristotelian induction’, CPA, Montreal, May 2010

‘Postmodern Aristotle: the problem in Posterior Analytics II, 19′, Midwest Seminar on Aristotle and the Aristotelian Tradition, Marquette University, Milwaukee, June 2010

‘Aristotle’s Vitalist Moment’, UWO supplementary workshop on Aristotle’s de Generatione Animalium, London, September 2010

‘What are the Liberal Arts?’, St Thomas University, Fredericton, September 2010

‘Aristotle, Females and Wind-eggs’, Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy, New York, October 2010

‘Aristotle’s Rhetorodicy’, CPA, Fredericton, May 2011

‘The Heat and Light from the Stars’, Midwest Seminar on Aristotle and the Aristotelian Tradition, Marquette University, Milwaukee, June 2011

‘Aristotle’s Rhetorodicy’, Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy/American Philological Association, Philadelphia, January 2012

Recent Graduate Seminars:

2000 Aristotle’s Cognitive Psychology

2001 Celebrated Texts of Aristotle

The Infinite in Ancient Thought

2002 Explorations in Neoplatonism

2003 The Ancient Science of Music

2004 Plato’s Theory of Forms

2005 Topics in Stoic & Epicurean Philosophy

2006 Aristotle’s Worst Idea

2007 Aristotle’s Logic

Contemporary Theodicy (Faculty of Theology)

2008 Aristotle’s de Anima

2010 Topics in the Philosophy of Time

2011 Free Will

Recent Graduate Thesis Supervisions:


‘Epicurean Arguments on the Value of Death’ completed 2004 (joint with Samantha Brennan)


Qua: Reinterpreting Aristotle’s Logic’ completed 2006


‘Aristotle on Moral Luck’ completed 2007


‘Thought Experiments in Aristotle’, completed 2007


‘Religious and Civil Marriage in Canada’ (MA, Faculty of Theology) completed 2009


‘Aristotle’s Naïve Somatism’ completed 2011


‘The Idea of Nature in Greek Philosophy’ in progress


‘Creating & Raising Humans: Essays on Procreation, Upbringing & Harm’ (joint with Samantha Brennan) in progress

Faculty Research Domains

Rotman Institute faculty members are listed below by shared research areas. Visit individual member profiles to learn more.