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Summer School in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy


Marenbon J. A.

Docente titolare del corso

Marmodoro A.

Docente titolare del corso


In this Summer School, we shall be looking at the metaphysics of relations in ancient and medieval philosophy, keeping in mind contemporary approaches to the same area.


Understanding how the philosophers of classical antiquity have conceived of what we would call the metaphysics of relations has been a challenge for scholars, who usually approach the topic as part of the metaphysics of properties. While the ancients acknowledge relational statements, as we do, there is a fundamental difference between us and them about the ontology of their truth-makers. Among the ancients, we shall explore Plato and Aristotle. Aristotle introduced an influential approach to the ontology of relations, as (so-called) monadic properties (rather than as polyadic ones), which can each belong only to each of the individuals which are related. Just as this book has the particular qualitative accident of being black, which belongs to it alone, so it, alone, also has the particular relational qualification of being older than that book. In turn, that book, alone, will have its own particular relational qualification of being newer than this book. For ancient philosophers, the difficult question about relations is whether they (e.g. x being equal to y) do anything more than simultaneously qualify each of their relata (e.g. as equal). So we shall try to understand how the ancients dealt with the relational metaphysical role of relations, over and above their qualification role.


According to a widely held view, medieval philosophers followed Aristotle and viewed relations as monadic properties. But recent work, especially but not exclusively on earlier medieval philosophy, shows that the range of views was far wider. We shall look both at authors who fit the traditional interpretation, such as Abelard and Aquinas, and those who do not, such as Boethius and Eriugena, continuing the discussion of the two metaphysical roles of relations: relational and as qualifications.


The teaching will be arranged into more formal morning lectures with discussion, run jointly by Anna Marmodoro and John Marenbon, and informal, directed discussion classes in the afternoons. The Summer School will end with a short conference on Relations in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy, followed by one on Relations in Contemporary Metaphysics.


Further details available on the webpage of the summer school.