Personal profile


Formerly publishing as Catherine Osborne, from 1979 to 2011.

At Cambridge  I took both parts of the Classics Tripos, specialising in Ancient Philosophy in Part II, together with an option paper in Patristics. My first philosophy teachers were (Sir) Geoffrey Lloyd, G.E.L. Owen, and Myles Burnyeat.

My PhD, in the Cambrige Classics Faculty, was interdisciplinary between Classics and Patristic Theology, supervised by Christopher Stead, the Ely Professor of Divinity. I attended ancient philosophy seminars with G.E.L. Owen (until his death) and Myles Burnyeat, and Patristic seminars in the Theology Faculty with Henry Chadwick, Rowan Williams and Christopher Stead. The PhD thesis, on Hippolytus of Rome and the Presocratics, was subsequently published by Duckworth, as Rethinking Early Greek Philosophy.

In 1984 I took up a Junior Research Fellowship at New Hall in Cambridge, and in 1987 I moved to Oxford to a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship (in the Philosophy Faculty), with a Senior Research Fellowship at St Anne's College. During these years I worked on the idea of erotic love in Plato and other thinkers, leading to my second book, Eros Unveiled published by Oxford University Press.

In 1990 I moved to a lectureship in the Philosophy Department at Swansea. It was there that I became a philosopher and not just a classicist and patrologist. My role had been formerly held by Rush Rhees, and included 60 lectures on the Presocratics, compulsory for second years. The Swansea Department was large, having grown as a result of the closure of two other Welsh departments, and besides DZ Phillips there were several other Wittgensteinian philosophers, such as H.O. Mounce, Ilham Dilman, and R.W. Beardsmore. It was probably the strongest Wittgensteinian department in the UK, and was to expand further over the next few years, recruiting a number of young lecturers from the same tradition. Unfortunately, not all the Wittgensteinians in Swansea agreed on philosophical or academic values, and the department was racked by bitter and often tragic internal strife throughout the nineties. It was eventually destroyed by its own forces of self-destruction. Nevertheless, in its heyday it was an inspirational School, and changed my life and my philosophical outlook for good.

During my time in Swansea I was commuting weekly from Oxford, where I was fortunate to be able to take some part in the philosophical scene. In particular I was a member from its earliest days of the legendary Friday morning De anima seminar run by David Charles and attended by Michael Frede.

In 2000 I left Swansea, along with some other members of that department. For three years (2000 to 2003) I was Reader in Greek Culture at the University of Liverpool in the Classics Department (part of the School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology), where I taught Intermediate Greek, Tragedy, Women, and Myth to students taking degrees in Classical Studies and Ancient History. The fruits of my years in Swansea and in Liverpool emerged in my 2007 book Dumb Beasts and Dead Philosophers.

In 2003 I moved to UEA as a Lecturer in Philosophy, promoted to Reader in 2006 and to Professor in 2008. I held an AHRC Fellowship for the Autumn semester 2004, and a Leverhulme Research Fellowship from 2007-9. I was Head of School from 2005 to 2008, during which I oversaw the growth of the School from 5 to 11 research-active staff, the development of a lively Wittgensteinian research group, the introduction of two new Masters programmes, and an expansion of the undergraduate and graduate provision in ancient philosophy. 

I served on the REF panel for REF 2014, and I served on the Leverhulme Advisory Panel for 8 years. I have also served as a Member of the AHRC Peer Review College, and as a Strategic Peer Reviewer for the AHRC. I currently serve on the European Science Foundation College of Experts and undertake evaluation and reviews of grant applications for various European countries.

In May 2019 I was elected to the European Parliament as the Green Party MEP for the Eastern Region, and served the first seven months of the five year term for which I was elected. Due to the UK leaving the EU, this came to an end in January 2020. I now divide my time between research in philosophy and free lance political work including speaking engagements around the UK and elsewhere in the world. 




Key Research Interests

My recent work has been on Plato. I am currently working on a number of papers relating to Plato's Republic, and to the use of so-called "genealogy" methods in political and moral philosophy. I have recently published on the Noble Lie and the Myth of the Metals, and I have plans for further papers on the Republic. My recent book Knowledge and Truth in Plato, published by Oxford University Press, in 2018 examines central and important texts of Plato relating to knowledge, including the Meno, Republic, and Theaetetus. My earlier work on Plato includes attention to the place of love in Plato's thought (see Eros Unveiled and some other articles), and his cosmology. I regularly return to these issues. Among the areas I intend to pursue next are some work on Plato's Symposium relating to the way in which it envisages poetry and philosophy as rival routes to accessing truth and beauty, a paper on friendship and politics in Plato's Crito, and some work on the Timaeus.

I maintain a longstanding interest in Early Greek Philosophy (that is Presocratic philosophy from Thales to the Sophists) which was the subject of my first book. My work on Empedocles is particularly widely discussed, especially for the suggestion that Empedocles wrote just one poem, and the way in which the cosmic and demonic cycles are to be integrated. My initial work to prove that this was required antedated by ten years the identification of the Strasbourg papyrus (which many have taken as confirmation of the hypothesis, though actually it is much less secure than the evidence available from the sources I was using). In more recent work I have been challenging the traditional assumption that thinkers after Parmenides were aware of Parmenides and responding to him, and questioning the relation of Heraclitus and Parmenides.I have also done some work on mathematics in the early Pythagorean period, and on Pythagorean political thought. My current interests in Plato also include some attention to his thoughts on geometry and the exact sciences.

Much of my work on Aristotle has been around issues of mind, soul and imagination, some of it related to my work on animal minds (in Dumb Beasts and Dead Philosophers). I have worked on the De anima and De sensu, Ethics, Metaphysics and Physics. I am interested in Aristotle's work on perception, memory, self awareness, teleology, animal minds, the scala naturae and self-love (among other things).

In the philosophy of late antiquity I range widely in Middle Platonism, Neoplatonism, and early Christian thought. In the Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca I have focused primarily on the Alexandrian Christian Neoplatonist John Philoponus, completing two volumes in the Greek Commentators series. I have written on Clement of Alexandria for the Cambridge History of Philosophy in Late Antiquity.

In history of modern philosophy I have explored how the Cambridge Platonist Ralph Cudworth uses Presocratic philosophy in The True Intellectual History of the Universe. As mentioned above, I have an occasional interest in the history of science and mathematics.

In contemporary philosophy I am interested in recent work in epistemology, the concept of truth, rule-following and ethical dilemmas, various issues in metaphysics including the notion of 'matter' and the location or usefulness of 'values', and in the role of the imagination and literary sensitivity in ethics. I have some plans for work on parts of Wittgenstein's On Certainty, and I have explored the relation between Wittgenstein's opposition to essentialism and Plato's.

Research Projects

"Plato on Knowledge and Truth." My work on Plato's concept of knowledge and the related concept of truth  was funded by the AHRC (Research Fellowship, 2011) and the Leverhulme Trust (Research Fellowship 2007-9).

I have been a contributor to the Ancient Commentators on Aristotle project, in which I am responsible for the English translation, introduction and notes for two volumes of Philoponus (Commentary on Physics I).

At UEA I take part in the following research groups: The Wittgenstein Workshop; The Philosophy Research Seminar; Ancient Philosophy Reading Group; Ecology research group; Environment, Space and Place research group.


Key Responsibilities

Professor Rowett does not have any current leadership roles in the School.

Key Research Interests

Ancient philosophy; Plato's Republic; Plato's Symposium; Presocratic Philosophy; Empedocles; Pythagoras and Early Pythagoreanism; love in the ancient world; ancient views on animals and vegetarianism.

Teaching Interests

Teaches:  Ancient Philosophy, World Philosophies, Foundational Texts of the Great Civilisations, Aesthetics, Philosophy and Literature.

Areas of Expertise

Ancient Philosophy; Ancient Views On Animals And Vegetarianism; Love In The Ancient World


  • Christianity
  • Philosophy (General)
  • Classical philology
  • Mediterranean / Greco-Roman History