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My academic research spans the disciplines of philosophy, comparative literature and intellectual history, focusing currently on:

  • The Ḥatäta Zär’a Ya‛ǝqob & Ethiopian Philosophy

  • The Philosophy of Translation

  • The History and Historiography of Philosophy

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The Hatata Zera Yacob & Ethiopian Philosophy
My doctoral research at King's College London focuses on two remarkable texts from Ethiopia, the Ḥatäta Zär’a Ya‛ǝqob and the Ḥatäta Walda Heywat. These texts have fascinated and puzzled alike on account of their philosophical depth, beauty and apparent historical singularity. They have been called the ‘jewel of Ethiopian literature’, and served to demonstrate, in the words of Claude Sumner, that “modern philosophy, in the sense of a personal rationalistic critical investigation, began in Ethiopia with Zera Yacob at the same time as in England and in France”. But they have also been denounced as forgeries, and for the last century have been the subject of a highly controversial scholarly - and political - debate. 

Two talks I gave on the subject, as the Princeton-Bucharest seminar in early modern philosophy, and at Addis Ababa University,  are available here

The Philosophy of Translation

Do philosophical concepts slip easily between languages, like birds flying over borders? Or are they smuggled across with great difficulty, changing not only their own character but those of the languages they become a part of? Is the translation of philosophical terms 
My first peer-reviewed article, How Does Philosophy Learn to Speak a New Language? examined philosophical translation in a number of contexts: from Greek to Latin; Greek to Arabic; Latin and French to English; Greek and Arabic to Ge'ez, and argued that philosophical translation between very different languages is important for contemporary philosophy insofar as it reveals the linguistic presuppositions of philosophical theories expressed in some particular language. You can also find a video of an early draft of the paper here.

This interest in the translation of philosophical terms, and the possibility of interlinguistic commensurability is also a running theme in the 'Philosophising in...' series of interviews, in which a guest and I discuss the philosophical resources of various different linguistic traditions, and examine the translation of philosophical terms into many of the lesser-studied languages of the world. At the end of each interview a short philosophical wordlist, which we hope to work into a truly global philosophical lexicon.

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