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Ancient and Medieval Metaphysics


Marenbon J. A.

Course director

Marmodoro A.

Course director


This course introduces students to philosophy in the Long Middle Ages (c. 200 – c. 1700) in the four main branches of the Western tradition: Greek, Latin, Arabic and Jewish. I shall begin by considering briefly methodological questions (why study the history of philosophy and how best to do so) and providing a sketch of where and why philosophizing was done. I shall then examine how certain central topics were discussed, concentrating on metaphysics: universals; time, modality, determinism and freedom; truth and truthmakers; knowledge, immateriality and immortality.

The (provisional) syllabus of the 14 sessions (of two hours each) is the following: 1. Why study history of philosophy? ‘Western Philosophy’ in the broad sense, and the Long Middle Ages. 2. A sketch of philosophy in the Long Middle Ages. 3. Universals. The Latin problem as presented by Porphyry and Boethius. Avicenna 4. Abelard and twelfth-century discussions of universals 5. Duns Scotus and Ockham on universals. Nominalisms: ibn Taymiyya and Locke 6. Time and modality in Boethius’s defence of contingency in Consolation Book 5. Time and modality in Aquinas. 7. Duns Scotus: modality and contingent volition. Ockham’s critique of Scotus 8. Leaving room for Human Freedom, or not? Maimonides, Gersonides, Hasdai Crescas 9. Determinism and necessitarianism in Spinoza and Leibniz 10. Truth, facts and events: Anselm on Truth; Abelard on dicta; Ars meliduna on enuntiabilia 11. Truth, facts and events: Aquinas on truth and enuntiabilia; Adam Wodeham on the object of assent 12. Intellection, immateriality, immortality: Aristotle, Avicenna and Averroes. 13. Intellection, immateriality, immortality: Aquinas and Gersonides 14. Intellection, immateriality, immortality: Two critics of Aquinas, Pomponazzi and Descartes.

Properties and their Instantiation in Ancient Metaphysics 

What is it, metaphysically, for a universal to be instantiated in a concrete particular, or for a concrete particular to instantiate a universal? What is an instantiated universal to that universal? In this course, we will examine the ‘origins’ of the problem of instantiation of universals in Plato’s metaphysics, and its background in Anaxagoras’s metaphysics; and then come to study Aristotle’s position.

Intro: 1. Why do we study ancient philosophy today? And what’s the ‘best’ way to do it? 2. Properties: today’s view(s)

Part 1: 1. Anaxagoras’s opposites 2. The opposites’ natures 3. Parts of opposites 4. Opposites and objects 5. A proto-bundle theory of objects 6. Opposites as constituents and qualifiers of objects.

Part 2: 1. Plato’s Forms 2. Participation 3. Are Forms universals? 4. The Dilemma of Composition 5. The Third Bed Argument 6. The problem of resemblance (in Anaxagoras’ and Plato’s metaphysics).

Part 3: 1. Aristotle’s forms 2. Are forms universals? 3. The problem(s) of instantiation 4. The state of the art 5. A ‘neo-Aristotelian’ solution 6. Recurrence and resemblance revisited.



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In presence

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