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Medieval Philosophy



The course is designated as an in-depth analysis of the topics of being and time in the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, starting from some insights of Frege’s philosophy.



“Does God exist?”, “Does wisdom exist?”, “Does paleness exist?”, “Does evil exist?”, “Do negations exist?”
All these questions have the verb "to exist” in common. Yet, is the sense of this verb the same in all of the sentences? This very question has been at the heart of philosophical debate since the times of Aristotle's Metaphysics (Book V), and has made a very strong return in contemporary analytical philosophy, especially after the works of Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell and Willard Van Orman Quine.
The course addresses this question and analyses the answers given by some medieval philosophers such as Richard Rufus of Cornwall, Adam of Buckfield, Roger Bacon, Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas, Henry of Ghent, Siger of Brabant.
The course is also thought as an introduction to some typical issues of medieval metaphysics concerning being, essence and the transcendentals.



The course consists of a series of lectures alternating with presentations given by students and general discussions. The students will be required to submit regular written work and produce a research paper at the end of the course.


Assessment methods

Students will submit regular written work and a longer research paper at the end of the course (70% of their final grade). Students are also expected to participate in discussions and give a presentation during the course (30% of their final grade).




- Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Blackfriars edition (Latin-English), some quaestiones

- Other works available in English:


- Translations from the Philosophical Writings of Gottlob Frege., trans. and ed. P. Geach and M. Black (Oxford: Blackwell, 1952, 1960).

- The Foundations of Arithmetic: A logico-mathematical enquiry into the concept of number., trans. J. L. Austin (Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1980).

- The Basic Laws of Arithmetic: Exposition of the System, Volume I., trans. and ed. M. Furth (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1964).

- Gottlob Frege: Posthumous Writings., trans. Long and White, ed. Hermes, Kambartel, and Kaulbach (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1979).

- The Frege Reader., ed. Michael Beaney (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997).


- "On Function and Concept" in The Frege Reader, ed. Michael Beaney, 1997, pp. 130–148

- On Sense and Reference. Zeitschrift für Philosophie und philosophische Kritik, C (1892), 25-50.

Reprinted in Geach and Black.

- On Concept and Object. Vierteljahrsschrift für wissenschaftliche Philosophie, XVI (1892), 192-205. Reprinted in Geach and Black.


Further reading on Aquinas:

- Giovanni Ventimiglia, Is the Thomistic Doctrine of God as "Ipsum Esse Subsistens" Consistent? in European Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 4 (2018), 161-191

- Giovanni Ventimiglia, Aquinas on Being: One, Two or Three Senses of Being? in Quaestio. Yearbook of the History of Metaphysics, 2018 (forthcoming)

- Gyula Klima, Aquinas’ Reception in Contemporary Metaphysics, to be published in Levering M. and Plested M. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the Reception of Aquinas, OUP: Oxford, 2018

- Giovanni Ventimiglia, Transcendentals and Syncategoremata: the Case of Thomas Aquinas (forthcoming)

- Anthony Kenny, "Quidditas and anitas after Frege", Giornale di Metafisica 38 (2016) 1, 109-118;

- Gaven Kerr, "Thomist Esse and Analytical Philosophy", International Philosophical Quarterly, 55, 217 (March 2015), 1, 25–48.

Giovanni Ventimiglia, Idem re differunt ratione. Frege "interprete” di Tommaso d’Aquino a proposito della distinzione fra essenza ed esistenza, "Rivista di Filosofia neo-scolastica", 107 (2015), 1-2, 195-215 (peer-reviewed)

Giovanni Ventimiglia, I trascendentali tommasiani ens, unum, multiplicitas nel cosiddetto "tomismo analitico” "Alpha Omega", 17 (2014), 2, 289-321.

- Werner Sauer, Being as the True: From Aristotle to Brentano, in D. Fisette – G. Fréchette (eds.), Themes from Brentano, Rodopi, Amsterdam-New York 2013, 193-226

-Alejandro Llano, "Metafisica tommasiana e filosofia analitica del linguaggio: i sensi dell’essere", Rivista di Teologia di Lugano 17 (2012) 3, 339-348;

- Stephen Brock, "Thomas Aquinas and What Actually Exists”, in ed. P.A. Kwasniewski, Wisdom’s Apprentice. Thomistic Essays in Honor of L. Dewan O.P. (Washington: The Catholic University of America Press, 2007), 13-39;

- David Braine, Aquinas, God and Being, in eds C. Paterson – M.S. Pugh, Analytical Thomism. Traditions in Dialogue (Aldershot-Burlington: Ashgate, 2006), 1-24;

- Alejandro Llano, Metaphysics and Language, English transl. by J.W. Albrecht (Hildesheim–New York: Olms, 2005);

- Anthony Kenny, Aquinas on Being (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002);

- Gyula Klima, "Aquinas's Theory of the Copula and the Analogy of Being", in eds U. Meixner – A. Newen, Philosophiegeschichte und logische Analyse – Logical Analysis and History of Philosophy, (Paderbon: Mentis, 2002), 159-176;

- Alejandro Llano, "The Different Meanings of  'Being' According to Aristotle and Aquinas", Acta philosophica 10 (2001) 1, 29-44;

- Christopher Martin, "The Notion of Existence used in Answering an est?", in Christopher Martin, Thomas Aquinas. God and Explanations (Edimburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1997), 50-79;

- Norbert Bathen, Thomistische Ontologie und Sprachanalyse (Freiburg-München: Alber, 1988);

- Hermann Weidemann, "The Logic of Being in Thomas Aquinas", in eds S. Knuuttila – J. Hintikka, The Logic of Being. Historical Studies (Dordrecht et al.: Reidel, 1986), 181-200;

- Anthony Kenny, Aquinas (New York: Hill and Wang, 1980); 

- Hermann Weidemann, "'Socrates est'/'There is not such thing as Pegasus': Zur Logik singulärer Existenzaussagen nach Thomas von Aquin und W. Van Orman Quine", Philosophisches Jahrbuch 86 (1979), 42-59;

- Peter Geach, "What Actually Exists", Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes 42 (1968), 7-30;

- Peter Geach, "Aquinas", in Elisabeth Anscombe - Peter Geach, Three Philosophers (Oxford: Blackwell, 1961), 65-125;

- Peter Geach, "Form and Existence", Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, New Series 55 (1954-1955), 251-272, repr. in Peter Geach, God and the Soul (London-Henley: Routledge-Kegan Paul, 1969, 42-64).


Further reading:

- Sergio Galvan, Quantificatori ed esistenza, “Rivista di Filosofia Neo-Scolastica”, 1-2 (2015)

- Kris McDaniel, 2017 The Fragmentation of Being, OUP,

- Colin McGinn, « Existence », ch. 2 Logical Properties. Identity, Existence, Predication, Necessity, Truth, Oxford UP, 15-68

- Barry Miller The Fullness of Being. A New Paradigm for Existence (Notre Dame IN: Notre Dame University Press, 2002);

- Barry Miller, "Existence", in ed. Eduard Zalta, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2002 (Fall 2009 Edition);

- Kevin Mulligan, Forms of life or ways of life?, “Rivista di estetica”, 24 (2003/3), 103-105.

- Kevin Mulligan, Modes of being and the mind, in M. Szatkowsky (ed.), Quo Vadis, Metaphysics?, de Gruyter (forthcoming)

- William Vallicella, 2002 A Paradigm Theory of Existence. Onto-Theology Vindicated, Dordrecht: Kluwer.



Ventimiglia G.

Course director

Additional information

Fall, Spring
Academic year
Master of Arts in Philosophy, Core course, Core Course, 1st year