Philosophy 257: Medieval Philosophy
Illinois State University
This class is a topical survey of Medieval Philosophy. The precise topics covered change each time I teach the course. But I always aim for a fun blend of metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, ethics, and philosophy of action. Some examples of topics that we might cover:
Is it possible that the world was created finitely long ago, so there is a first moment of its existence? Is it possible that the world has always existed, so there is no first moment of its existence?
What is necessity? Are there different kinds of necessity? Can there be more than one necessary being?
What is the will? What does it mean for the will to be free? What is it to have the power to make choices?
What is the self? How is the self related to the soul, and how is it related to the body? How do I know myself?
What faculties make up the mind? How is the understanding related to the senses? How do we manage to get knowledge of objects via the senses? Does cognition require some sort of special immaterial power, or it can it be explained wholly in terms of material powers?
How is singular cognition possible, and how does it work?
What are material objects? How do they persist through change? What makes one material object distinct from another?
What makes someone praiseworthy, and what makes them worthy of blame? Their actions? Their character? Their desires? Their intentions? All of the above?
What are the limits of what we can know through reason and experience? Are there some things that we can know only through divine revelation?
What is the meaning of a general term, like ‘horse’, and how do we grasp that meaning?
Readings will be drawn from both Latin and Arabic sources. Again, the choice of readings changes a bit each time I teach the course, but we will read works by some of: Augustine, Boethius, Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Ibn Rushd (Averroes), al-Ghazali, Ibn Tufayl, Anselm, Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides), Abelard, Heloise, Hildegard of Bingen, Aquinas, Henry of Ghent, Scotus, Ockham, Buridan, Nicholas of Autrecourt, Christine de Pizan, and Molina.