Dr Lea Cantor, Research Fellow, awarded Best Doctoral Dissertation Prize

Dr Lea Cantor, Blacker Loewe Research Fellow in Philosophy, has been awHead and shoulders photograph of Lea Cantorarded the Oxford Nicolas Berggruen Prize for Best Doctoral Dissertation in Philosophy, Law and Politics. 

University of Oxford’s Faculty of Law said in their announcement:

This prestigious prize, generously funded by Nicolas Berggruen of the Berggruen Institute in Los Angeles, is awarded to the work that is both excellent and transformative in either theory or practice. The selection process is rigorous, with one dissertation nominated by each of the three faculties in Oxford (Philosophy, Law, and DPIR) every year, and the final selection made among the three highly impressive nominees by a committee constituted by the terms of the prize.

The Prize 2024 is awarded to Dr Lea Cantor for her dissertation “Ancient Philosophy within a Global Purview: Parmenides and Zhuangzi on Expressing what Can (and Cannot) be Known”. Dr Cantor’s dissertation argues that “widespread misconceptions about the early history of philosophy undermine the study of ancient philosophy from a global perspective”. Dr Lea Cantor challenges “an influential narrative according to which philosophy emerged through a shift from myth to reason, or mythos to logos” that misrepresents “the history of ancient Greek philosophy, and simultaneously underpins the marginalization of so-called ‘non-Western’ philosophical traditions.” In her work, she examines “how the received narrative engenders interpretive blind spots within specialist work on ancient philosophy, by exploring two foundational philosophers of early Greek and classical Chinese philosophy, Parmenides and Zhuangzi”. The result is a piece of work that is, in the words of the examiners, "an impressive and markedly original thesis", which will become a basis for a monograph.

More information is available from the University of Oxford's Faculty of Law website

Dr Lea Cantor completed a BA at Downing College, Cambridge in Classics (Part IA) and Philosophy (Part II) in 2013–2017. Her Master of Studies in Ancient Philosophy is from Worcester College, Oxford (2017-2018) and decided to stay on for a DPhil in Philosophy (2018-2023). Lea’s doctoral thesis looked at the epistemologies of two foundational philosophers in early Greek and classical Chinese philosophy, respectively: Parmenides and Zhuangzi. During the DPhil, Lea also conducted research on the historiography of ancient philosophy and the European reception of Chinese and Greek philosophy. She was previously a British Society for the History of Philosophy Postgraduate Fellow (2022-2023).

Dr Cantor’s current research focuses on classical Chinese philosophy (especially Daoism), early Greek philosophy (especially Parmenides), and the global history and historiography of philosophy. She is currently co-authoring a book (with Dr Josh Platzky Miller) challenging the very idea of ‘Western Philosophy’ from philosophical, historical, and historiographical perspectives.