Gwilym Ellis Lane Owen

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Gwilym Ellis Lane Owen (18 May 1922 – 10 July 1982), who published as G. E. L. Owen, was a Welsh philosopher, concerned with the history of Ancient Greek philosophy. On May 12, 1958, he spoke on "Wittgenstein and Aquinas" at the Oxford Socratic Club.


From 1973 until his death Owen was the fourth Laurence Professor of Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. An undergraduate at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where after research at Durham he taught, he proceeded in 1966 to Harvard University, where his many distinguished students included Julia Annas, Gail Fine, Wilbur Knorr, Martha Nussbaum, and Nicholas P. White. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1969.[1]

He is known particularly for his ideas on the development of Aristotle.[2] He has been classed with J. L. Ackrill and Gregory Vlastos as influential in creating interest in the field, in the Anglo-American context.[3]

Allegations of Sexual Assault[edit]

In an article published in 2004, philosopher Martha C. Nussbaum describes Owen as a serial sexual harasser and an alcoholic, who harassed many women. This lengthy account is somewhat misleadingly summarized by Rachel Aviv as if it were a personal interview. Aviv does not mention the important fact, emphasized in the article, that Owen harassed many women and that his pattern was the same with all. Aviv writes:: [After Nussbaum entered the graduate program in classics at Harvard in 1969] "When her thesis adviser, G.E. L. Owen, invited her to his office, served sherry, spoke about his life's sadness, and reached over to touch her breasts, [Nussbaum] says, she gently pushed him away, careful not to embarrass him.... 'I managed to keep my control with Owen, and I never said a hostile word.'" [4] The real source for this material is not a personal interview, but the article by Nussbaum, "Don't Smile Too Much: Philosophy and Women in the '70's," published in Linda Martin Alcoff, ed., SINGING IN THE FIRE: STORIES OF WOMEN IN PHILOSOPHY, Routledge.

John Cooper, philosopher and former student of Owen's, acknowledged publicly at Princeton University's 2016 Classical Philosophy Conference that, despite his great scholarship, Owen was "a very bad man."

See also[edit]


  1. ^$002fagph.1983.65.issue-2$002fagph.1983.65.2.113$002fagph.1983.65.2.113.xml
  2. ^ Charlotte Witt, The Evolution of Developmental Interpretations, p. 74, in William Robert Wians (editor), Aristotle's Philosophical Development: Problems and Prospects (1996).
  3. ^ Bryn Mawr Classical Review 98.4.01
  4. ^ "The Philosopher of Feelings". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2016-07-24. 


  • Malcolm Schofield, Martha Craven Nussbaum (editors) (1982), Language and Logos: Studies in Ancient Greek Philosophy Presented to G. E. L. Owen

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
William Keith Chambers Guthrie
Laurence Professor of Ancient Philosophy Cambridge University
1973 - 1982
Succeeded by
Myles Burnyeat
Preceded by
President of the Aristotelian Society
1978 - 1979
Succeeded by