Texts of the Middle Ages

Module Leader:
Nada Zecevic
2016-2017 Autumn
Immersion 1
Arts and Humanities

Philosopha est ancilla theologiae (Philosophy is the maid of theology) – with this sentence, medieval scholasticism best expressed its typical perception of theoretical thinking. With rare exceptions (e.g. Avicena or Averroes), philosophers were usually related to the pagan Greco- Roman antiquity. Yet, even with such a reservation, the intellectuals of the time still used some ancient methods and logical techniques to address their interpretations of the world. In this module, we shall read and discuss the major genres of medieval theoretical texts that reflect the key positions of medieval philosophy. We shall also examine the main channels of its reception from the antiquity and further transmission to the modern era. To understand these processes and foster contextualizing their role in the formation of the European historical and socio-political heritage, the topics we shall explore some key fields of medieval philosophy (definitions of time, good and evil, compatibility of divine attributes and free will), metaphysics (the questions of existence, causality and individuation), and logics (the theories of modality and of singular terms, insolubilia, and obligations, etc.). Due attention will also be paid to the philosophy of mind and ethics, the fields concerned with divine illumination, mental representation and demonstration, but also the questions of conscience, practical reason and so called “natural law” that was eventually built into the political theory of the time. The selected exemplary texts will be analysed from their modern critical editions in English language. Assessments will be based on weekly assignments, which will require home readings of the texts and their recent modern scholarly interpretations. In the classroom, individual presentations and group discussions on various standpoints will be organized, with a stress on the interpretation problems and instances of distorted and abused reception/transmission. Apart from general skills of examining medieval primary sources, through this module the will enhance their ability to critically analyse and understand basic medieval theory, as well as its models and tools that affected the transfer of these ideas to our modern notions of the world