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About Karen Margrethe Nielsen

I am an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Philosophy and a Tutorial Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford.
My research has centred on questions at the intersection of Aristotle’s ethics and moral psychology. Recent publications include "The Constitution of the Soul – Aristotle on Lack of Deliberative Authority", Classical Quarterly (forthcoming, 2015); "The Will – Origins of the Notion in Aristotle's Thought", Antiquorum Philosophia (2012); “Deliberation as Inquiry: Aristotle’s Alternative to the Presumption of Open Alternatives”, Philosophical Review (2011). I have also published on the reception history of the Nicomachean Ethics (“The Nicomachean Ethics in Hellenistic Philosophy”, in Jon Miller (ed.), The Reception of Aristotle’s Ethics (CUP 2012)); and on Aristotle's reproductive biology ("The Private Parts of Animals – Aristotle on the Teleology of Sexual Difference", Phronesis (2008)).
This spring, CUP published a volume of papers I edited with Devin Henry, Bridging the Gap between Aristotle's Science and Ethics. The volume appeared at the end of May 2015.
From the cover:
"This book consolidates emerging research on Aristotle's science and ethics in order to explore the extent to which the concepts, methods, and practices he developed for scientific inquiry and explanation are used to investigate moral phenomena. Each chapter shows, in a different way, that Aristotle's ethics is much more like a science than it is typically represented. The upshot of this is twofold. First, uncovering the links between Aristotle's science and ethics promises to open up new and innovative directions for research into his moral philosophy. Second, showing why Aristotle thinks ethics can never be fully assimilated to the model of science will help shed new light on his views about the limits of science. The volume thus promises to make a significant contribution to our understanding of the epistemological, metaphysical, and psychological foundations of Aristotle's ethics."
A link to the CUP site:
I received my PhD from the Sage School of Philosophy at Cornell University, where I wrote a dissertation titled “Aristotle’s Theory of Decision (prohairesis)” under the supervision of Terry Irwin (2006). I am still working on a comprehensive analysis of prohairesis for a monograph.
My first academic appointment after Cornell was in Canada. I came to Western University as an Assistant Professor in the fall of 2005, and was tenured and promoted to Associate Professor in July 2012. I spent the 2012-13 academic year on sabbatical leave in Oxford, where I was Visiting Scholar at Corpus Christi College in Michaelmas term. I have also taught at St. Catherine's College, Oxford. In the 2007/8 academic year, I held a Lectureship in the Faculty of Philosophy at Cambridge University and a Fellowship at Trinity College, Cambridge. Before arriving at Cornell on a Fulbright Fellowship in 2000, I was a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in my native city Trondheim, where I also earned a Cand. mag. degree (B.A.-equivalent) and a Cand. philol. degree (M.A.- equivalent) in the late 90’s. Trondheim is a beautiful Medieval city at 63,4º North. In Canada, that is equivalent to the latitude of Iqaluit, Nunavut (so, north of the Hudson Bay), though unlike Iqaluit, Trondheim benefits from the balmy Gulf Stream. It is a pleasant place, if a little dark in winter.
A note on my name: I sign with both my first names ("Karen Margrethe"), and prefer that all three names appear in writing. Alas, Oxford email doesn't recognise Scandinavian naming practices, so my email address leaves out my second first name. If you find the cluster of consonants in "Margrethe" hard to pronounce, I'm fine with being called "Karen"! Just don't tell my mom.
Recent and Upcoming talks:
I presented a paper titled “Spicy Food as Cause of Death: Conditional and Unconditional Necessity in Metaphysics 6.3” at the conference "Actions and Passions in Ancient Greece" at the Maison Française d'Oxford, May 8-9, 2015 organised by Catherine Darbo, Carlo Natali and Cristina Viano.
I organised a session at the Oxford Summer School in Philosophy and Psychiatry in July 23-24 2015 (with Chris Megone), and presented a paper on "Mental Health and Ancient Philosophy: Aristotle on Moral Injury"
I will present the paper "Vice in the Nicomachean Ethics" at a colloquium in Paris 27-28 November 2015 titled "Le vice et ses vertus. Théories des vices dans la philosophie antique", Université Paris Ouest Nanterre / Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne.
I will present "Vice in the Nicomachean Ethics" at the Philosophical Society in the Faculty of Philosophy at Oxford on February 5th 2016


Present Associate Professor, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford

Curriculum Vitae


Research Interests

Ancient Philosophy (incl. Hellenistic Philosophy and post-Hellenistic Philosophy through the 3rd century AD) and History of Ethics, Philosophy of Action, especially Practical Reason and Moral Psychology, History of the Metaphysics of Free Will, Early Modern Philosophy

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Honors and Awards

  • Fulbright Fellowship, U.S.-Norway Fulbright Foundation for Educational Exchange, 2000-2001

Contact Information

Somerville College
Woodstock Road
Oxford OX2 6HD
United Kingdom


Forthcoming Publications (2)

Articles (5)

Forthcoming Book (1)

Book Chapters (2)

Reviews (2)