Medieval Philosophy

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Medieval Philosophy

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study

    Philosophy

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations

    Upper

    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

    6
  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
    3
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
    4
  • Overview

    COURSE OBJECTIVE
    Students who complete the course should have acquired a fundamental knowledge of the main philosophical theories elaborated by Augustine, Boethius and the most important medieval thinkers (including Anselm, Peter Abelard, Avicenna, Averroes, Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, William of Ockham). They should also have gained a general understanding of the main issues of medieval philosophy.

    To be more precise, the students who follow the course should have acquired a thorough knowledge of the themes we discuss philosophically, the philosophers who wrote about them and the place of those philosophers in the historical development of philosophy. The focus of the course will be metaphysics, but some attention will be devoted also to the other aspects of medieval philosophy (e.g. ethics, theory of knowledge).

    They should also have attained a general understanding of the most important conceptual issues related to the history of medieval philosophy.

    COURSE CONTENT
    The course is divided into two parts.
    The first part is mostly (but not exclusively) prepared independently by the students themselves and deals with the history of philosophy (nevertheless aspects of some key figures will be discussed in class). A monograph and the indication of study material for this part (see the bibliography below) is available on Canvas.

    The second part focuses more specifically on a philosophical text (or texts) and includes reading selected passages and/ or an entire text, discussed in class (if necessary, in working groups). In other words, each class (or unit) will deal with a particular aspect and/or a particular author of the medieval philosophical tradition (see Canvas), including the meaning of some fundamental issues of philosophical terminology (see ‘Terms’ on Canvas) and the reading (and discussion) of a text. The text(s) will be made available to the students at the appropriate time via Canvas.

    TEACHING METHODS
    Lectures, discussion, reading of primary texts

    TYPE OF ASSESSMENT
    Oral and written assignments during the course, written final exam.

    ENTRY REQUIREMENTS
    No previous knowledge is obligatory but a general knowledge of the history of ancient philosophy (Pre-Socratic philosophy, Plato, Aristotle and Neo-Platonism in particular) is certainly an advantage for those who are about to attend this course. Therefore, it is suggested that students attend this course after attending the course on the History of Ancient Philosophy.

    RECOMMENDED BACKGROUND KNOWLEDGE
    A general knowledge of the history of ancient philosophy (Pre-Socratic philosophy, Plato, Aristotle and Neo-Platonism in particular) is certainly an advantage for those who are about to attend this course. Therefore, it is suggested that students attend this course after attending the course on the History of Ancient Philosophy.

    REMARKS
    This introductory course presents a history of the philosophy that scholars call ‘medieval’ (comprehending roughly 1000 years, depending on where one decides to set the limits). Medieval philosophy is generally thought to have developed on the basis of Ancient Greek philosophy as it appeared in the Latin West and in Latin in a period extending from 300 to 1300 or, according to another classification, 500 (476) to 1492. Important influences were exerted by other philosophical traditions (Arabic, Jewish, and Byzantine). An essential aspect of medieval philosophy is reflection on God and theological questions related to the Christian faith. The main sources of medieval authors were Aristotle, Plato and certain Neoplatonic texts. Then there is a great watershed: until the 12th century only some logical works of Aristotle and a few Platonic dialogues were known. But in the 12th century, the physical and metaphysical works of Aristotle were translated (from Greek into Latin and from Arabic into Latin), along with a number of Arabic interpretations of Greek texts. The work of assimilation and elaboration continued till the 13th century, which was a crucially important period: the influence of authors who wrote in Arabic, such as Avicenna and Averroes, was enormous; universities were founded, commentaries and philosophical dissertations about those Arabic interpretations were written, censorship and convictions were revealed. The 12th century had sown the seeds of a new philosophical era.

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

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