Dr William Desmond

Ancient Classics

Senior Lecturer
On sabbatical for 2023-2024

Arts Building


William Desmond is originally from Cork but was educated mainly in the US. He has a BA in classics and philosophy (Loyola, MD), a BSc in mathematics (Open University) and a joint MA and PhD in classics and philosophy (Yale). He was a lecturer at Yale for two years before returning to Ireland where he lectured in UCD, TCD and Milltown, before taking up a permanent post in Maynooth in 2007.

Research Interests

Dr Desmond’s research centres on intellectual history, particularly in the Greek Classical period and certain modern receptions of antiquity; recurrent areas of interest include virtue ethics, political thought, historiography and metaphysics. In addition to individual articles on a range of subjects, he has published four monographs and edited (or co-edited) three volumes.

His doctoral dissertation on classical Greek ideas about wealth was awarded a Whiting Dissertation Fellowship. Its published version, The Greek Praise of Poverty: Origins of Ancient Cynicism (Notre Dame, 2006), was awarded the NUI Centennial Prize in Academic Publishing in Languages, Literature & Linguistics (2008). Exploring prevalent associations of poverty with the canonical virtues in various spheres—work (temperance, justice), war (courage), and philosophy (wisdom)—it argues that the strands of a latent Classical “praise of poverty” converged and became explicit in the Socratic schools, and most radically in the first Cynics.

Philosopher-Kings of Antiquity (Bloomsbury/Continuum, 2011, pbk. 2013) explores the Platonic political ideal—the union of power and wisdom—and its more important variations, refractions, and perversions in antiquity and beyond. It includes chapters on sacred kingship, Plato, Plutarch, Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor Julian, and concludes with a survey of later figures such as Frederick the Great, Thomas Jefferson and others who have been variously associated with Plato’s ideal.

Hegel's Antiquity (Oxford, 2020) explores the importance of the Greek and Roman worlds to Hegel's systematic philosophy, with separate chapters on politics, art, religion, philosophy, and historiography. Building on this, Dr Desmond’s current research remains interdisciplinary, focusing on receptions of Plato and Platonism in the "long" nineteenth century, particularly in English- and German-language literature and philosophy.

Other active areas of research include Homer and epic, Herodotus, Whitehead and modern process thought. He has edited (with Michel Weber) the two-volume Handbook of Whiteheadian Process Thought (de Gruyter, 2008).


Year Publication
2024 Will Desmond (2024) Ancient Greece in 30 Hours. Amazon: Amazon Kindle Services. [Link]
2020 Will Desmond (2020) Hegel's Antiquity. Oxford, UK: Oxford University.
2011 Will Desmond (2011) Philosopher-Kings of Antiquity. London: Bloomsbury.
2008 Will Desmond (2008) Cynics. Berkeley: Acumen Press & University of California Press.
2006 Will Desmond (2006) The Greek Praise of Poverty: Origins of Ancient Cynicism. South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.

Edited Book

Year Publication
2008 Will Desmond, Michel Weber (Ed.). (2008) Handbook of Whiteheadian Process Thought, Vol. 1: Thematic Entries. Frankfurt: Walter De Gruyter,
2008 Will Desmond, Michel Weber (Ed.). (2008) Handbook of Whiteheadian Process Thought, Vol. 2: Thematic and Bibliographical Entries. Frankfurt: Walter de Gruyter,
2008 Will Desmond (Ed.). (2008) Yearbook of the Irish Philosophical Society. Maynooth, Ireland: Irish Philosophical Society,

Book Chapter

Year Publication
2020 Will Desmond (2020) 'Diogenes of Sinope' In: Early Greek Ethics. Oxford : Oxford University Press.
2020 Will Desmond (2020) 'Hercules among the Germans: From Winckelmann to Hölderlin' In: The Modern Hercules. Leiden : Brill.
2018 Will Desmond (2018) 'Diogenes and the Meaning of Life' In: The Meaning of Life and the Great Philosophers. London : Routledge.
2018 Will Desmond (2018) 'Between gods and mortals: The Piety of Homeric Kings' In: Homer and the Good Ruler in Antiquity and Beyond. Leiden : Brill.
2016 Will Desmond (2016) '“Aristotle on peace: Biological, political, ethical, and metaphysical dimensions”' In: Peace and Reconciliation in the Ancient World. Abingdon-on-Thames : Routledge.
2016 Will Desmond (2016) 'Gulliver’s Travels and Philosopher-Kings' In: Jonathan Swift and Philosophy. Lanham, MD : Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group.
2016 Will Desmond (2016) 'Gulliver among the Cynics' In: Jonathan Swift and Philosophy. Lanham, MD : Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group.
2015 Will Desmond (2015) 'Eleos' In: Lexicon historiographicum Graecum et Latinum. Pisa : Edizioni della Normale.
2014 Will Desmond (2014) 'Diogenes' In: Simple Living in History: Pioneers of the Deep Future. Melbourne : Simplicity Institute.
2014 Will Desmond (2014) '“Antisthenes and Hegel' In: Antisthenica, Cynica, Socratica. Prague : Oikoumene.
2012 Desmond W. (2012) 'Low Philosophy' In: The Oxford Handbook of Hellenic Studies. [DOI]
2008 Desmond W. (2008) 'Facts and events: Towards a Whiteheadian philosophy of history' In: Applied Process Thought. Berlin : Ontos/De Gruyter. [DOI]
2006 Desmond, Dr. William (2006) 'Towards a Whiteheadian Philosophy of History' In: M. Dibben and T. Kelly(Eds.). Proceedings for 2005 CAPT Conference, Chromatiques Whiteheadiennes. : Ontos.
2005 Desmond, Dr. William (2005) 'The Hybris of Socrates' In: Yearbook of the Irish Philosophical Society. : Irish Philosophical Society. [Full-Text]
2020 Desmond, W. (2020) 'Diogenes of sinope' In: Early Greek Ethics. [Link] [DOI]

Peer Reviewed Journal

Year Publication
2022 Desmond W. (2022) 'Herodotus, Hegel, and knowledge'. Intellectual History Review, 32 (3):453-471. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2015 Will Desmond (2015) 'The Five Paragraph Essay'. Arion - Journal of Humanities and the Classics, 23 (2 (Fall)):111-116. [Full-Text]
2011 WIll Desmond (2011) 'Ancient Cynicism and Modern Philosophy'. Filozofia, 66 :571-576. [Full-Text]
2011 Dr. William Desmond (2011) 'Hegel, Homer, Heroism'. Yearbook of the Irish Philosophical Society, 1 :1-16. [Full-Text]
2007 Desmond, William (2007) 'The Silence of Socrates: Dialectic and the Platonic Good'. MILLTOWN STUDIES, 58 :73-99. [Full-Text]
2006 Desmond, Dr. William (2006) 'Lessons of Fear: A Reading of Thucydides'. Classical Philology, 101 :359-379. [Full-Text]
2004 Desmond, William (2004) 'Punishments and the Conclusion of Herodotus' Histories'. Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies, 44 :19-40. [Full-Text]

Other Journal

Year Publication
2020 Will Desmond (2020) 'Hamartia, evil, and deity in Archaic and Classical Greek Thought' Communio: International Catholic Review, 47 (1) :1-36. [Link] [Full-Text]
2009 Desmond, William (2009) 'Wisdom of the Ages' In Character: A Journal of Everyday Virtues, 5 :4-13. [Full-Text]

Conference Publication

Year Publication
2018 Desmond, W (2018) HOMER AND THE GOOD RULER IN ANTIQUITY AND BEYOND Between Gods and Mortals: The Piety of Homeric Kings [DOI]

Conference Contribution

Year Publication
2022 Will Desmond (2022) The Aesthetic Platonism of Iris Murdoch Irish Platonisms Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies, 28/10/2022-30/04/2022.
2020 Will Desmond (2020) Colloquium: Euripides’ Bacchae through the ages Colloquium with 4 speakers on Euripides' play and its legacy Arts and Humanities Institute, Maynooth University, 21/04/2020-.
2019 Will Desmond (2019) “Plato gone Wilde: Aesthetic Platonism from Winckelmann to Pater” Seminar Series, Classics Department Trinity College Dublin, 22/11/2019-.
2018 Will Desmond (2018) “Hegel and Herodotus: Knowledge and History Ancient Knowledges, Modern Knowledges Sheffield University, 22/06/2018-23/06/2018.
2018 Will Desmond (2018) “‘The biggest and best history that I know (believe me!)’: Superlative numbers in Herodotus Ancient Classics Seminar Series Maynooth University, 09/11/2018-.
2017 Will Desmond (2017) “Between the Classical and Romantic: Hegel on lyric poetry (Anti-) Classicism & (Anti-)Idealism University College Cork, 09/06/2017-10/06/2017.
2017 Will Desmond (2017) Plato’s mythology of reason Philosophy in its Beginnings: On the Conceptualisation, Criticism, and Justification of Philosophy in Antiquity Humboldt University, 21/07/2017-23/07/2017.
2017 Will Desmond (2017) “Hercules among the Germans” Hercules Project Conference Leeds University, 09/07/2017-11/07/2017.
2015 Will Desmond (2015) The Piety of the Homeric Kings” “Homer and the Good Ruler,” Ghent University Ghent University, 20/05/2015-22/05/2015.
2015 Will Desmond (2015) “Greek Aesthetic Democracy: Modern myths of the Greek polis “Ethics and Society in the Ancient World,” Royal Irish Academy Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, Ireland, 13/11/2015-14/11/2015.
2014 Will Desmond (2014) Aristotle on Natural Peace and the Statesman’s Imperative Celtic Classics Conference, Edinburgh University Edinburgh University, 25/06/2014-28/06/2014.
2014 Will Desmond (2014) Eternal Objects and Religious Intelligence: Science and God in Plato and Whitehead Invited Speakers Series, Philosophy Department, Maynooth University Philosophy Department, Maynooth University, 11/11/2014-.
2014 Will Desmond (2014) Aristotle on Peace Peace in the Ancient World, Maynooth University Maynooth University, Ancient Classics / Edward M. Kennedy Institute of Peace Studies, 06/06/2014-.
2013 Will Desmond (2013) Anacreon among the Germans: Appropriations of Ancient Lyric in the Time of Hegel Maynooth Classical Seminar Maynooth University, 13/12/2013-.
2012 Will Desmond (2012) Plato’s mythology of reason Mythos, Logos, Sophos, Prometheus Trust, Warminster Prometheus Trust, Ivy House, Warminster, 29/06/2012-02/07/2011.
2012 Will Desmond (2012) “Reason and the Holy: Plato and Whitehead” “Philosophical Thinking and the Religious Context,” Dublin City University 2012, 17/05/2012-19/05/2012.
2012 Will Desmond (2012) Philosopher-Kings Philosophy Society, All Hallows College, DCU Dublin City University, 02/05/2012-.
2011 Will Desmond (2011) Hegel, Homer, Heroism Maynooth Philosophy Seminar Series NUI Maynooth, 14/04/2011-.
2011 Will Desmond (2011) “Marcus Aurelius: Philosopher of Love?” Maynooth Patristics Symposium St Patrick's College, Maynooth, 26/02/2011-.
2011 Will Desmond (2011) Odysseus and the Sirens Mythic Links Group Arts Club, Dublin, 24/02/2011-.
2010 Will Desmond (2010) Plutarch’s Philosopher-Kings UCD Classics Seminar Series University College Dublin, 05/10/2010-05/10/2010.
2010 Will Desmond (2010) “Orwell’s Philosopher Kings” Research Colloquium, School of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures, Maynooth University Maynooth University, 31/03/2010-.
2010 Will Desmond (2010) Herodotus, Happiness, and World-History UCD Classics Seminar Series University College Dublin, 16/02/2010-.
2009 Will Desmond (2009) “The Secret Travels of Socrates the Athenian” Travels and Encounters: Journeys to the Known and Unknown in Greco-Roman Antiquity,” RIA Greek and Latin Studies Colloquium Royal Irish Academy, 20/11/2009-.
2009 Will Desmond (2009) Dialectic and the Platonic Good NUIG Philosophy Seminar Series NUI Galway, 16/11/2009-.
2008 Will Desmond (2008) Odysseus among the Lotus Eaters Eithne Ryan Memorial Lecture Alexandra College, 18/11/2008-.
2008 Will Desmond (2008) Odysseus among the Sirens Irish Classical Society University College Dublin, 17/04/2008-.
2007 Will Desmond (2007) Cynics and the Delphic Oracle Maynooth Classical Seminar Series NUI Maynooth, 07/12/2007-.
2007 Will Desmond (2007) An Open Society? The case of Classical Athens “The Open Society,” Irish Philosophical Society UCC, Ireland, 02/03/2007-.
2007 Will Desmond (2007) The Power of Names: Nietzsche and Ancient Thought “Nietzsche, Power and Politics, Friedrich Nietzsche Society, Leiden University Leiden University, Netherlands, 23/03/2007-25/03/2007.
2006 Will Desmond (2006) Dialectic and the Platonic Good Metaphysics and Belief (Annual Conference of Centre of Theology and Philosophy) Granada, Spain, 15/01/2006-18/01/2006.
2005 Will Desmond (2005) Plato's Perspectivism NUIG Philosophy Seminar Series NUI Galway, 16/11/2005-.
2005 Will Desmond (2005) Cities of the Mind: Utopias of the Ancient World TCD Public lecture series Cities of the Ancient World Trinity College Dublin, 01/11/2005-.
2005 Will Desmond (2005) Facts and Events: Towards a Whiteheadian Philosophy of History “Science and Process Philosophy Maynooth University, 11/05/2005-.
2004 Will Desmond (2004) The Hybris of Socrates UCD Philosophy Seminar Series University College Dublin, 02/11/2004-.
2002 Will Desmond (2002) Popular and Intellectual Reactions to the Athenian Epitaphios Logos Yale Greco-Roman Seminar Yale University, .

Book Review

Year Publication
2023 Will Desmond (2023) Review of Hegel’s Theory of Self-Conscious Life, by Guido Seddone. [Book Review] [DOI]
2016 Ronny Desmet (2016) Intuition in Mathematics and Physics: A Whiteheadian Approach. [Book Review]
2013 Mary P. Nichols (2013) Socrates on Friendship and Community: Reflections on Plato’s Symposium, Phaedrus and Lysis. [Book Review]
2012 Desmond, W (2012) Aesopic Conversations: Popular Tradition, Cultural Dialogue, and the Invention of Greek Prose. CHICAGO: [Book Review]
2004 Eva Brann (2004) The Music of the Republic: Essays on Socrates' Conversations and Plato's Writings. [Book Review]
2013 M. van Ackeren (ed.) (2013) A Companion to Marcus Aurelius. CAMBRIDGE: [Book Review] [DOI]
2012 L. Kurke (2012) Aesopic Conversations: Popular Tradition, Cultural Dialogue, and the Invention of Greek Prose . [Book Review]
2007 Corrigan, K. & E. Glazov-Corrigan (2007) Plato’s Dialectic at Play: Argument, Structure, and Myth in the Symposium. [Book Review]
2006 D. Brendan Nagle (2006) The Household as the Foundation of Aristotle's Polis . [Book Review]
2005 Kennedy, J.B. (2005) Space, Time and Einstein: An Introduction. [Book Review]
2004 Jon Mikalson (2004) Herodotus and Religion in the Persian Wars. [Book Review]
2002 V. Hanson, J. Heath, and B. Thornton (2002) Bonfire of the Humanities . [Book Review]

Video recording / TV

Year Publication
2019 Will Desmond (2019) The philosophy of cynicism. Ted-Ed Animations: [Video recording / TV] [Link]

Other Publication

Year Publication
2022 Will Desmond (2022) Cynicism.

Radio Presentation

Year Publication
2023 Will Desmond (2023) Cynicism (The Forum, BBC World Service). [Radio Presentation]
Certain data included herein are derived from the © Web of Science (2024) of Clarivate. All rights reserved.

Honors and Awards

Date Title Awarding Body
01/01/2008 NUI Centennial Prize in Academic Publishing National University of Ireland
01/01/2000 Whiting Fellowship in the Humanities Whiting Foundation
01/01/1995 Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities Andrew W. Mellon Foundation


Start date Institution Qualification Subject
Yale University PhD

Teaching Interests

In addition to language modules (mainly Greek, some Latin), I regularly teach the following modules.

GC 151 Introduction to Greek and Roman Civilization, I (Gods and Heroes: From Myth to History)
GC 213 Greek Mythology: Homer, Ovid, and the Trojan War
GC 218 Greek Philosophy: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle
GC 350 Essay Project (Homer's Iliad)
GC 637 Herodotus and his World
GC 642 Philosophy and Attic Tragedy
GC 644 Philosophy and Kingship in Antiquity

I welcome the opportunity to develop new modules on a range of ancient themes and genres, particularly those that resonate with student preferences and colleagues' interdisciplinary ventures.