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04 July 2023

King's awards first MM McCabe Prize for best dissertation

Quanzhi Liang wins the Mary Margaret McCabe prize for best King's undergraduate dissertation in ancient philosophy.

Professor Raphael Woolf, Dr Will Wootton, Head of Department, Classics, Quanzhi Liang (on screen), John Meltzer, trustee of the Foundation for Platonic Studies.

The new prize was founded in honour of Mary Margaret ('MM') McCabe FBA, Professor of Philosophy Emerita at King's, and former head of the Philosophy Department, in recognition of her inspirational teaching of ancient Greek philosophy, particularly Plato, to generations of students. Quanzhi Liang has won this year's prize, for a dissertation entitled 'Aristotle's Realism about Perceptual Qualities', on Tuesday June 13 in the Council Room as part of the Katie Lentakis Memorial Fund Award Ceremony.

The prize is generously funded by the Foundation for Platonic Studies, a charity devoted to promoting the study of Plato and the Platonic tradition.

My dissertation defends the traditional interpretation of Aristotle as a realist of perceptual qualities. Against the anti-realist interpretation popular in recent decades, I argue that, for Aristotle, colours, sounds, odours, etc., are real features of the world and can exist unqualifiedly without being perceived. (For example, if we see a red apple, the apple is really red, and the apple is red when it is not being seen, just like when it is seen, while according to the contrary interpretations, for Aristotle, the unseen apple is not red or red in the same way as the apple being seen.)

Quanzhi Liang on his dissertation

“I am indebted to many people for their help and support in writing the dissertation. Professor Raphael Woolf, my supervisor, was superb at spotting weaknesses of my paper, prompting me to produce new ideas and arguments; at the same time, Raphael was always very kind and gave me a lot of encouragement. I could not have produced the dissertation as it is now without Raphael’s guidance and patience. I am also grateful to Dr Shaul Tor for his insightful comments, which significantly helped me improve the dissertation. Lastly, special thanks to Professor Victor Caston. It was through taking his course on Aristotle during my year abroad at Michigan I developed a genuine interest in Greek philosophy and became especially interested in Aristotle’s philosophy of perception—the topic of my dissertation.

I very much enjoyed my studies at King’s—I am particularly grateful for the various opportunities King’s offered me to enrich my experience (like studying abroad).“
-Quanzhi Liang, winner.


Quanzhi is now looking forward to starting his PhD studies in Philosophy at Princeton University in the autumn.

In this story

Will Wootton

Reader in Classical Art and Archaeology

Raphael  Woolf

Professor of Philosophy

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