Professor Melissa Lane

'In Eco-Republic Melissa Lane succeeds wonderfully not only in separating the useful in Plato from the useless, but also in demonstrating that the useful contains a surprising amount of what we need if we are to survive. . . . Lane demonstrates that the humanities, so far from being negligible, can play a vital role in averting environmental catastrophe."
Times Literary Supplement

'A virtuoso performance by one of our best scholars of ancient philosophy, Eco-Republic elevates the discussion of the moral and political questions surrounding environmentalism to a completely new level.'
Richard Tuck, Harvard University

Melissa Lane is the Class of 1943 Professor of Politics at Princeton University, and director of the University Center for Human Values. She is also an associated faculty member in the Department of Classics and the Department of Philosophy. She is co-convenor of the Climate Futures Initiative, supported by the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, the Princeton Environmental Institute, and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, and is a member of the Climate Change Working Group of the Social Sciences Research Council, as well as a member of the executive committee of Princeton's Program in Classical Philosophy, and a trustee of Princeton University Press, the editorial board of which she is chairing in 2018-19. She was awarded a 2015 Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Prize at Princeton University.

Melissa Lane’s work has focused on the history of political thought and political philosophy, with distinctive strength in ancient Greek political thought, while spanning both the ancients and the moderns. Her expertise in the area of ancient political theory is internationally recognized, and she is also well known for bringing ancient political thought and ethics to bear on modern questions.

Melissa Lane has delivered the following named lectures: the Carlyle Lectures (University of Oxford); the Sir Malcolm Knox Memorial Lecture (University of St Andrews, Scotland); the Fifth Annual Joint Lecture of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Royal Institute of Philosophy (Edinburgh, Scotland); the Philip Hallie Lecture, Wesleyan University; the Gerald F. Else Lecture in the Humanities, University of Michigan; and the Charles McCracken Distinguished Guest Lecture, Michigan State University. She also served as the Lucy Shoe Merritt Scholar in Residence (American Academy in Rome). Similar honors in the recent past include delivering the keynote lecture for the 2016 London Graduate Conference in the History of Political Thought; the annual public lecture of the Centre for Political Philosophy at the University of Leiden; the 2015 Chapman Lecture at the University of Auckland; and the 2015 Hood Lecture, also at the University of Auckland. She has received a Fellowship of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation in the field of classics.

Recent public contributions include a seminar for the Civil Service Leadership Academy in London; a panel discussion at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles co-sponsored by the J. Paul Getty Museum and Zócalo Public Square; and periodic participation in the BBC Radio Four series 'In Our Time' with Melvyn Bragg, most recently discussing Cicero's political philosophy. 

Books by Professor Melissa Lane

Greek and Roman Political Ideas: A Pelican Introduction

Rights : Penguin (World), Princeton University Press (US)

In Greek and Roman Political Ideas, acclaimed classics scholar Melissa Lane introduces the reader to the foundations of Western political thought, from the Greeks, who invented democracy, to the Romans, who created a republic and then transformed it into an empire. Tracing the origins of political philosophy from Socrates to Cicero to Plutarch, Lane reminds us that the birth of politics was as much a story of individuals as ideas.

Eco-Republic: What the Ancients Can Teach Us about Ethics, Virtue, and Sustainable Living

Rights : Peter Lang (World), Princeton University Press (NA)

An ecologically sustainable society cannot be achieved without citizens who possess the virtues and values that will foster it, and who believe that individual actions can indeed make a difference. Eco-Republic draws on ancient Greek thought--and Plato's Republic in particular--to put forward a new vision of citizenship that can make such a society a reality. Melissa Lane develops a model of a society whose health and sustainability depend on all its citizens recognizing a shared standard of value and shaping their personal goals and habits accordingly. Bringing together the moral and political ideas of the ancients with the latest social and psychological theory, Lane illuminates the individual's vital role in social change, and articulates new ways of understanding what is harmful and what is valuable, what is a benefit and what is a cost, and what the relationship between public and private well-being ought to be.

Eco-Republic reveals why we must rethink our political imagination if we are to meet the challenges of climate change and other urgent environmental concerns. Offering a unique reflection on the ethics and politics of sustainability, the book goes beyond standard approaches to virtue ethics in philosophy and current debates about happiness in economics and psychology. Eco-Republic explains why health is a better standard than happiness for capturing the important links between individual action and social good, and diagnoses the reasons why the ancient concept of virtue has been sorely neglected yet is more relevant today than ever.