Melissa Lane

Class of 1943 Professor of Politics; Director, The University Center for Human Values


(609) 258-4860


304 Louis Marx Hall


During the academic year 2020-21, Humanities Council Old Dominion Research Professor Melissa Lane will work on the project “Lycurgus, Solon, Charondas, and their fellows: Figuring the legislator in Platonic political thought and its aftermath.”

The project explores the figuration of the ancient Greek legislator by Plato and his successors, not as a revolutionary inventor as moderns such as Rousseau would have it, but as a bricoleur working with existing laws. Plato adopted this figure in his own projects, especially in a work called Laws (Nomoi).  If such founding as legislating is not in Plato to be understood as a speech act of purportedly ideal theory, but rather one indebted to existing models and constrained to adapt and borrow from them, then the very origin of ideal political theorizing must itself be rethought.

At the Council, Lane will contribute to its interdisciplinary programs and events and engage colleagues and students from across the University in sustained discussions about her work.

Lane works primarily on ancient Greek political thought, and especially on Plato, with interests in the idea of political office, the nature of political expertise, the roles of written and unwritten law, and the figure of the legislator. Other interests include collaborations with Princeton colleagues and students in studying aspects of scientific uncertainty and the ethics of communication in regard to climate change.

Lane has taught in two distinctive interdisciplinary initiatives at Princeton: HUM 216-217 (Interdisciplinary Approaches to Western Culture I), for which she lectured on Herodotus, Plato, Livy, Tacitus, the Hebrew Bible, and Augustine, and ENV 200 (The Environmental Nexus), for which she designed and led the Ethical Thought and Moral Values (EM) track in the course’s inaugural year. She advises graduate students in Classics, Comparative Literature, Philosophy, Politics, and Religion.

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