Philosophy 210 — Medieval Philosophy                                9:00-10:00 MWF,   MI 213

D. Vessey                                363-2146 (Office)                   Office Hours: 210 MI                 368-9612 (Home)                   MW  10:00-11:00, 2:00-3:00

                                                                                                T 3:00-4:00

                                                                                                and by appointment


Required Texts:

            Hyman and Walsh, Philosophy in the Middle Ages

            Copleston,   A History of Philosophy, Medieval Philosophy

                                    A History of Philosophy: Late Medieval, Renaissance

            Additional Photocopied Readings


Course Content

            Around 374 St. Augustine wrote “That which we believe, we desire to know and understand” thereby inaugurating intense philosophical investigation into the nature of God and the creation; around 1324 William of Ockham wrote that God’s freedom and power are so absolute that “He can, if he wills, dispense with all order in awarding man final glory” thereby dispensing with the possibility of using reason to approach any matters divine.  Between these figures lies the period of Western philosophy called “medieval” philosophy.  Although issues of philosophy of religion dominate the period, tremendous advances were made in ethical theory, epistemology, and logic. 



Course Method

            This course has one and only one focus: understanding the philosophical views of Western, Medieval philosophy.  Since reading and interpreting the texts will be the central focus of the course, the assignments will focus on facilitating an understanding of the reading.  There are only three assignments: Motivated Questions, presentations, and ten page final paper.   Every night before class by 9:00PM everyone must post a motivated question based on the reading on the phil210 listserv (phil210-l).  Either the night before or the morning of the class everyone must read everyone else’s motivated questions.  The class will use these questions as starting points for the discussion. The motivated questions can range from questions of interpretation to criticism but either way they must be more than mere questions (e.g. “What does Aquinas mean by “the first of all created things is being”?).  Instead they must show a knowledge of the context and importance of the question.  (e.g. How can Aquinas say both that being is created and that being is the proper name of God. It would seem that nothing created can serve to refer to something itself uncreated. )  In addition to the daily questions, everyone must sign up for one of the eight reoccurring themes of the course: Universals, Theories of Happiness, Natural Law Theory,  Soul/Intellect, Predication of God, Epistemology, Faith and Reason, Proofs of God’s Existence.  Each of these topics occurs four times during the semester and the student will prepare a presentation of the main ideas and arguments of the reading on the appropriate day.  This presentation will include a two page handout containing a concise summary of the views presented in the reading. The presenter is also responsible for addressing the motivated questions on that day. The final paper will be a presentation and evaluation of the various positions taken on the selected theme. The typo policy (lose one grade for every four typos) applies to the presentation handouts and the paper.  There will be no exams.


General Issues:


Universals: Class days 4, 19, 36, 30

Ethics—Happiness: Class days 7, 12, 27, 39

Ethics—Law: Class days 13, 17, 28, 34,

Soul/Intellect: Class days 5, 11, 14, 25

Predication of God: Class days 8, 16, 24, 31

Epistemology: Class days 3, 26, 33, 37

Faith and Reason: Class days 15, 21, 22, 38

Issues in Phil. Theology (Proofs of God, Creation): Class days 6, 18, 23, 32



Motivated Questions and Class Participation: 40%

Presentations:                                                  30%

Final Paper:                                                                 30%



1. Wed, Jan. 14           Introductions, Augustine’s Life


2. Fri, Jan. 16              Augustine  — Epistemology

                                                Reading: H&W 26-33;  Copleston 51-67




3. Mon, Jan. 19           Augustine  — Epistemology

                                                Reading: H&W 33-52


4. Wed, Jan. 21           Augustine  — Free Will

                                                Reading: H&W 52-68


5. Fri, Jan. 23              Augustine  — The Soul

                                                Reading: H&W 68-74; Copleston 74-80




6. Mon, Jan. 26           Augustine — God

                                                Reading: H&W 75-79; Copleston 68-73


7. Wed, Jan. 28           Augustine — Ethics

                                                Reading: H&W 89-111; Copleston 81-90


8. Fri, Jan. 30              Pseudo-Dionysius     The Problem of Predication of God

                                                Reading: “On the Divine Names” (Handout)




9. Mon, Feb. 2             The Origins of Jewish and Islamic Philosophy

                                                Reading: Koran


10. Wed, Feb. 4           The Origins of Jewish and Islamic Philosophy

                                                Reading: Palestinian Gemara


11. Fri, Feb. 6              The Beginnings of Jewish and Islamic Philosophy:

                                                AlFarabi on the Intellect

                                                Reading: H&W, 211-221; Copleston 186-190




12. Mon, Feb. 9           The Beginnings of Jewish and Islamic Philosophy

                                                AlFarabi on Philosophy and the Best Life

                                                Reading: H&W, 222-233


13. Wed, Feb. 11         The Beginnings of Jewish and Islamic Philosophy

                                                Saadia on Creation and Ethics

                                                Reading: H&W, 341-355


14. Fri, Feb. 13            The Height of Jewish and Islamic Philosophy

                                                Averroes on the Intellect

                                                Reading: H&W, 324-334 ; Copel., 196-200




15. Mon, Feb. 16         The Height of Jewish and Islamic Philosophy

                                                Averroes on Philosophy and Religion

                                                Reading:  H&W, 293-316


16. Wed, Feb. 18         The Height of Jewish and Islamic Philosophy

                                                Maimonides on Predication

                                                Reading: H&W, 369-390


17. Fri, Feb. 20            The Height of Jewish and Islamic Philosophy

                                                Maimonides on Ethics

                                                Reading: H&W, 403-419; Copleston, 201-204




18. Mon, Feb. 23         Anselm — The Cosmological Argument

                                                Reading: H&W,147-151; Copleston, 156-165


19. Wed, Feb. 25         Abailard — The Problem of Universals

                                                Reading: Copleston, 136-155; H&W, 186-188


20. Fri, Feb. 27            The Recovery of Aristotle






21. Mon, Mar. 9          Aquinas — Philosophy and Theology

                                                Reading:  H&W, 516-517; Copleston, 302-323


22. Wed, Mar.  11       Aquinas — The Role of Revelation in Philosophy

                                                Reading: H&W 517-522;


23. Fri, Mar. 13           Aquinas — Proofs for God’s Existence

                                                Reading: H&W 523-527; Copleston 336-346




24. Mon, Mar. 16        Aquinas — Predication and Divine Foreknowledge                                                                          Reading: H&W 527-537; Copleston 347-362


25. Wed, Mar. 18        Aquinas — The Soul

                                                Reading: H&W 541-550, Copleston, 375-387


26. Fri, Mar. 20           Aquinas — Epistemology

                                                Reading: H&W 550-558; Copleston, 388-397




27. Mon, Mar. 23        Aquinas — Ethics

                                                Reading: H&W 558-571; Copleston 398-411


28. Wed, Mar. 25        Aquinas — Law

                                                Reading: H&W 571-579; Copleston 412-422


29. Fri, Mar. 27           (No Class)




30. Mon, Mar. 30        Aquinas — Universals

                                                Reading: H&W 508-515; Copleston 332-335


31. Wed, Apr. 1           Scotus  — Predication of God

                                                Reading: H&W, 602-606; Copleston 518-534


32. Fri, Apr. 3              Scotus  — Proof of God’s Existence

                                                Reading: H&W 607-624




33. Mon, Apr. 6           Scotus  — Epistemology

                                                Reading: H&W 631-643 ; Copleston 487-499


34. Wed, Apr. 8           Scotus  — Ethics

                                                Reading: H&W, 643-646; Copleston 545-551


35. Fri, Apr.  10           Condemnation of 1277

                                                Reading: H&W, 582-591




36. Mon, Apr. 13         Ockham — Universals

                                                Reading: H&W, 662-670; Copleston, 56-61


    Wed, Apr. 15           No Class       



37. Fri, Apr. 17            Ockham — Epistemology

                                                Reading: H&W, 670-679; Copleston, 62-71




38. Mon, Apr. 20         Ockham — God and Voluntarism

                                                Reading:  Handout; Copleston, 80-95


39. Wed, Apr. 22         Ockham — Ethics

                                                Reading: H&W, 693-700, Copleston 101-110


40. Fri., Apr. 24           Dante and Humanism




41. Mon, Apr. 27         Philosophical Influences on the Protestant Reformation


42. Wed, Apr. 29         Review and Evaluations