Philosophy | Medieval Philosophy
P515 | 25314 | Spade


This will be a course devoted entirely to a single towering medieval
thinker: Anselm of Bec and Canterbury, 1033-1109. Anselm is best
known as the author of the famous so called "ontological argument"
for the existence of God, surely one of the most mind-bending
arguments ever contrived. Be he did much more than that, and was in
fact one of the most important philosophical and theological minds of
the entire Middle Ages. His views were innovative and influential in
logic, the philosophy of language, philosophical theology, ethics,
philosophical psychology and many other areas. We will study all of
it.

Anselm is in many respects the ideal author for introducing
nonspecialists to medieval philosophy. He presents clear though
subtle arguments with identifiable premises and conclusions, unlike,
say, Augustine, whose views often need to be distilled from highly
rhetorical contexts and whose arguments are sometimes hard to state
precisely. On the other hand, unlike later Scholastics like Thomas
Aquinas or Duns Scotus, Anselm does not yet have the highly
intimidating technical vocabulary that is so discouraging to
students. And to top it off, Anselm’s views are just plain
interesting!

Readings will be from (1) Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works
(Oxford), containing virtually all of Anselm's writings, except for
the purely "devotional" ones and most of the letters; (2) Brian
Davies & Brian Leftow, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Anselm, a
thematically arranged volume of articles covering all aspects of
Anselm's thought; (3) additional readings in the secondary
literature, to be found either on e-reserves or on physical reserve
in the Wells Library.

Course requirements will include a series of weekly quizzes over
points of terminology and theory, a full-dress term paper, and a
series of short "discussion reports" over items in the secondary
literature. Undergraduates taking the course under the P401 number
will be required to submit three such discussion reports, graduate
students taking the course as P515 will do five. Undergraduates are
reminded that this course has a pre-requisite of six hours of
philosophy.