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Medieval Philosophy


Philosophy in the Long and Broad Middle Ages

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. Among the philosophers whose work I shall discuss are Porphyry, Augustine, Boethius, Avicenna, Anselm, al-Ghazali, Abelard, Averroes, Maimonides, Suhrawardi, Aquinas, Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, Gersonides, Adam Wodeham, Gregory of Rimini, Hasdai Crescas, Pietro Pomponazzi, Descartes, Locke, Spinoza and Leibniz.


In particular, the (provisional) syllabus of the 14 sessions (of two hours each) is the following:

1a. Why study history of philosophy?

1b. ‘Western Philosophy’ in the broad sense, and the Long Middle Ages

2. A sketch of philosophy in the Long Middle Ages

3a. Universals. The Latin problem as presented by Porphyry and Boethius.

3b. Avicenna

4. Abelard and twelfth-century discussions of universals

5a. Duns Scotus and Ockham on universals.

5b. Nominalisms: ibn Taymiyya and Locke

6a. Time and modality in Boethius’s defence of contingency in Consolation Book 5

6b. Time and modality in Aquinas

7a. Duns Scotus: modality and contingent volition

7b. 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


Marenbon J. A.

Docente titolare del corso

Offerta formativa