The Department of History at the University of Zurich offers a three-year research position in intellectual history as part of the project The Just City: The Ciceronian Conception of Justice and Its Reception in the Western Tradition (JustCity), funded by an ERC Consolidator Grant (2020-2025) and headed by Professor Benjamin Straumann. The appointment will be at the rank of PhD student or post doc research fellow, according to the nominee’s academic qualifications. Starting date is 1 September 2022.
With a focus on Cicero’s conception of justice and its lasting intellectual legacy, the JustCity project delves into one of the most innovative and influential, yet widely neglected contributions the history of Western political thought has to offer. Not only does Cicero’s law-centred conception of justice, both within and between states, mark a significant departure from the virtue-centred conceptions of justice typical for earlier, Greek theories, it also paved the way for what has come to be known as the Constitutionalist Tradition in political thought, as well as for the emergence of natural and international law in early modern Europe. In order to fully appreciate its massive impact in the long term, the project will trace Cicero’s conception of justice as it is first and foremost expressed in the famous Carneadean debate in the Republic through four historical inflection points: (i) its inception in the late Roman Republic; (ii) its transmission by the Christian writers Lactantius and Augustinus; (iii) its use by Alberico Gentili and other early modern thinkers engaged in debates on international politics and the law of nations; (iv) its effect on 18th century Enlightenment thought, as mediated by early 17th century natural law theorists. In connecting these four inflection points, which designate the four main themes of the project, JustCity pursues a longue durée intellectual history of one of the most fundamental and controversial concepts of Western political thought. The project is methodologically innovative and shows how the reception of classical antiquity can be operationalized and made fruitful for a long-term perspective in the history of ideas.
The successful candidate will be assigned the subproject Justice and Skepticism: Cicero’s Roman Theory of Justice and the Carneadean Debate, which is linked to inflection point (i) and designed to examine Cicero’s notion of justice as elaborated in the Republic, the Laws and On Duties, as well as in some of his speeches. Research topics that shall be addressed include an accurate determination of the ways in which Cicero’s conception of justice differs from, and may be at odds with, the ones of his Greek predecessors; an account of the conspicuous legal, rather than ethical, nature that Ciceronian justice displays; and an assessment of the extent to which Cicero’s views on what constitutes a just commonwealth were shaped by his experience of the breakdown of political order during the ongoing crisis of the late Roman republic. At the end of the appointment, the successful candidate shall publish his research findings as a monograph, which may be submitted as a doctoral or postdoctoral thesis; in addition, she or he is expected to publish at least one peer-reviewed project-related journal article per year in a major international journal; further responsibilities involve the participation in the regular meetings of the research team as well as the attendance of research-related conferences in Zurich and abroad.
Applicants must hold a master’s or doctor’s degree in History, Classics, Philosophy or Political Science, should have expertise in ancient philosophy and an interest Roman law. Excellent command of written and spoken English as well as good knowledge of Latin are imperative; basic Greek reading comprehension would be an asset.
Please submit your application by uploading a PDF file containing:
• a detailed CV with your academic track record
• a motivation letter
• scans of all supporting documents