Martha Woodruff

Associate Professor of Philosophy

 Tuesday 4:30-5:30 PM & Wednesday 10 AM-12 PM & by appointment.
 Twilight Hall 311

Martha K. Woodruff earned her Ph.D. from Yale University with support from the Mellon Humanities Fellowship. She also studied for two years at Universität-Freiburg with a grant from DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) and received her B.A. from Haverford College. Her main areas of research and teaching include Ancient Greek philosophy and its influences on 19th and 20th Century German thought; a more recent interest focuses on women and gender in Greek philosophy and tragedy.

Her publications have examined Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, and Heidegger, considered both individually and comparatively. She has completed one book manuscript and started another; both examine retrievals of the Greeks by Continental thinkers. In addition, she has recently served a three-year term as Co-Director of the
Ancient Philosophy Society.



Course List: 

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

FYSE 1081 - Greek Phil., Tragedy, & Comedy      

"The Ancient Quarrel": Greek Philosophy, Tragedy, and Comedy*
In Plato's day there was a “quarrel” between philosophy and poetry, a rivalry for the ethical education of citizens. How do the tragedies of Aeschylus and Sophocles communicate ethical dilemmas? Does Aristophanes in The Clouds suggest a serious critique within his comic satire of Socrates? Why does Plato banish the poets from his ideal city in The Republic, but develop his own philosophical poetry? Why does Aristotle in the Poetics emphasize the catharsis of the tragic emotions? Finally, we will consider Nietzsche's interpretation in The Birth of Tragedy: Socratic rationalism deals the fatal blow to tragedy, yet Plato transforms Socrates into a tragic figure. 3 hrs. sem. CW EUR PHL

Fall 2011, Fall 2014

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PHIL 0150 - Intro Phil Tradition      

Introduction to the Philosophical Tradition
This course will introduce students to fundamental philosophical issues concerning the nature of reality (metaphysics), the possibility of knowledge (epistemology), and the nature of value (ethical theory) through a reading of a number of important primary texts of thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Kant, Kierkegaard, Mill, Nietzsche, and Freud. Cannot be taken by students with credit for PHIL 0151. 3 hrs. lect., 1 hr. disc. EUR PHL

Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2016

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PHIL 0201 - Ancient Greek Philosophy      

Ancient Greek Philosophy
This class introduces students to the range and power of Greek thought, which initiated the Western philosophical tradition. We will begin by exploring the origins of philosophy as found in myth (primarily Hesiod) and in the highly original speculation of the Pre-Socratic thinkers (such as Heraclitus and Parmenides). We will then focus on Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, examining their transformations of these earlier traditions and their own divergent approaches to ethics and education. We will also consider the influences of Greek philosophy on later thought. 3 hrs. lect. EUR HIS PHL

Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2015

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PHIL 0286 / CMLT 0286 - Philosophy & Literature      

Philosophy & Literature
In this course we will explore the border both separating and joining philosophy and literature. How does literature evoke philosophical problems, and how do philosophers interpret such works? How does fiction create meaning? Beginning with Greek tragedy, we investigate Plato’s “quarrel” with, and Aristotle’s defense of, poetry. Then we will turn to modern works, mostly European, on topics such as: tragedy and ethics; style and rhetoric; author and reader; time and temporality; mood and emotion; existence and mortality. Literary readings after Sophocles will be selected from Borges, Calvino, Camus, Kafka, Tolstoy, and Woolf. Philosophical readings after Plato and Aristotle will be selected from Bergson, Danto, Freud, Murdoch, Ricoeur, and Nussbaum. Not open to students who have taken PHIL/CMLT 1014. CW EUR LIT PHL

Fall 2015

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PHIL 0302 - Philosophy of Plato      

Philosophy of Plato
In this class, we will explore the significance, influence, and development of Plato's thought, paying special attention to the form of the dramatic dialogue and topics such as Platonic love, rhetoric and politics, learning and recollection, and the theory of forms. We will begin with the early period (dialogues such as the Meno and the Apology) focused on the historical figure of Socrates, continue to the middle period (Symposium, Republic), in which Plato develops his own distinctive views; and conclude with the later period (Philebus, Parmenides) in which Plato suggests a critique of Socrates and his own earlier positions. (Previous course in philosophy or waiver) EUR PHL

Spring 2012

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PHIL 0303 - Aristotle      

Philosophy of Aristotle
In this class we will explore both the original breadth and the contemporary relevance of Aristotle's thought. We will read a diverse selection of his writings, beginning with ethical and political works, continuing to works on art and poetry, the soul, and nature, and concluding with logical and ontological works. We will ask why Aristotelian virtue ethics in particular has enjoyed a recent renaissance and generated special interest in Aristotle's ideas about the ethical role of friendship, the perceptive power of the emotions, and the different kinds of intelligence. (Previous course in philosophy or waiver.) 3 hrs. sem. CW EUR PHL

Spring 2013

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PHIL 0418 - Nietzsche & Greek Thought      

Nietzsche and Greek Thought: Tragedy and Philosophy
This seminar explores the profound influence Greek thought wielded upon Nietzsche. We will focus on Nietzsche's understanding of the complex relation between tragedy and philosophy: Greek tragedy is born out of the spirit of music and the twin deities of Apollo and Dionysus; it dies under attack from Socratic rationalism; but it reemerges when philosophy reaches its limits and yields to a tragic insight, as exemplified by the "music-making Socrates." We will ask how this artistic Socrates relates to Nietzsche's own tragic hero, Zarathustra, and why tragedy affirms life and overcomes pessimism. Readings selected from Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, the Pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle, and Nietzsche. (Junior and senior majors, or by waiver) 3 hrs. sem. EUR PHL

Fall 2012, Spring 2016

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PHIL 0500 - Resrch In Philosophy      

Research in Philosophy
Supervised independent research in philosophy. (Approval requiredl.

Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Winter 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016

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PHIL 0700 - Senior Thesis      

Senior Thesis
(Approval Required)

Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Winter 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016

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Recent Publications

Katharsis Revisited: Aristotle on the Significance of the Tragic Emotions.” Newsletter of the Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy Vol. 8.2 (February 2008)

Untergang und Übergang: The Tragic Descent of Socrates and Zarathustra.” Journal of Nietzsche Studies, Vol. 34 (Fall 2007)

“Plato’s Different Device: Reconciling the One and the Many in the Philebus.” In Philosophy in Dialogue: Plato’s Many Devices. Edited by Gary Alan Scott.Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2007

“The Cat at Play: Nietzsche’s Feline Styles.” In A Nietzschean Bestiary. Edited by Ralph Acampora and Christa Davis Acampora. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004

“The Music-Making Socrates: Plato and Nietzsche Revisited, Philosophy and Tragedy Rejoined.” International Studies in Philosophy, Vol. 34:3 (Fall 2002)

“The Ethics of Generosity and Friendship: Aristotle's Gift to Nietzsche?” In The Question of the Gift. Edited by Mark Osteen. New York, NY: Routledge, 2002


Recent Presentations

“Plato on Belief and Persuasion: A Commentary”, University of Texas at Austin, 35th Annual Workshop on Ancient Philosophy, March 2012

“Heraclitus and Nietzsche: Flux, Play, Logos,” Invited paper, Haverford College, Philadelphia, February 2011

“On Platonic Education: Four Commentaries,” Conference on Greek Paideia Revisited: Ancient Remedies/Contemporary Ills, University of South Florida, Tampa, February 2011

“Aristotle on Soul and Self-Movement: A Commentary,” Ancient Philosophy Society, Michigan State University, April 2010

“The Midwife of Ideas and the Priestess of Pregnancy: Reflections of Philosophical Birth in Plato,” Conference on Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Mothering, University of Oregon, May 2009 [presented in absentia]

“Art after the End of Art: A Commentary.” APA Eastern Division, Panel on Continental Aesthetics, Philadelphia, December 2008

Antigone on Eros, Friendship, and Androgyny.” Invited paper, “Year of Antigones” conference, DePaul University, Chicago, May 2008

Katharsis Revisited: Aristotle on the Significance of the Tragic Emotions.” Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy, APA Pacific Division, Pasadena, March 2008

“Über die deutsche Sprache und die deutsche Philosophie.” Invited presentation in German, Middlebury College Summer School of Languages, August 2007

“Plato’s Self-Enacting Methods in the Philebus,” International Plato Society, Trinity College, Dublin, July 2007

Department of Philosophy

Twilight Hall
50 Franklin Street
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753

802.443.2077 fax