Philosophy | Medieval Philosophy
P301 | 25129 | O'Connor


While medieval philosophy spans the late fourth to the early
fourteenth centuries, in this course we will focus on just a few
major themes in the writings of just three philosopher-theologians:
Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas.

One recent philosopher has aptly characterized philosophy as aiming
to understand how things (in the widest sense of that term) hang
together (in the widest sense of the term). Our chosen philosophers
pursue that end from the starting and controlling conviction that
the central 'thing' is God, who has revealed something of His nature
and purposes in the Bible. And so they saw their task as tying
together revealed truth and philosophical insight into one
comprehensive system of reality. This enterprise leads them,
firstly, to examine 'purely philosophical' matters such as (i) the
nature of human freedom and responsibility; (ii) the nature of human
intellect and our ability to know truths about our world; (iii) the
nature of God
-- His power, knowledge, goodness, and unity; (iv) how all of
reality other than God might exist and function in total dependency
on God.
They then attempt to understand, within received philosophical
categories, the revealed and distinctively Christian claims that (i)
God is three persons in one being; (ii) one of the divine persons
became incarnated as a fully human being without ceasing to be fully
divine; and (iii) the life, death, and resurrection of that God-man
served as an atonement ('at-one-ment'), making possible a restored
union between God and 'fallen' human beings.

We shall study how our philosophers treat both these two types of
questions. In reading these texts, we will seek to identify key
arguments which we will consider with great care. One of our goals
will be to understand sympathetically the authors' guiding framework
of assumptions and views, some of which may be quite alien to our
own. Another goal will be to decide whether or not there is reason
to think they are after all right at various points, or whether some
of the arguments and ideas can be refashioned and plausibly defended.

The course presupposes no background in the history of philosophy or
theology. However, you are likely to find it rather difficult if you
lack a solid course or two (at the 200-level or above) that covered
topics specifically in metaphysics or epistemology.