Medieval Teaching Resources?
April 6, 2005 — 19:17

Author: Jeremy Pierce  Category: Teaching  Comments: 3

I’m going to be teaching an ancient and medieval course for the first time this summer. I think I’ll be fine on the ancient stuff. I’m planning to use Julia Annas’ anthology that organizes readings by topics. I’m required to cover Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, and Descartes(!), but I’d like to focus a good deal on the Hellenistics and Augustine as well, and I hope to do a bit on the pre-Socratics as well. I think I’m good on the ancients and ok on Augustine, as long as I can find my notes from the Hellenistic seminar Bonnie Kent did in her one graduate course in her one year at Syracuse (she spent the last two weeks on City of God).
What I don’t have much of a sense with is what to do with the medievals beyond Augustine or how to integrate him with the others (besides the Hellenistics, which I could do passably). Does anyone know of any good resources for teaching medieval philosophy, preferably online? Does anyone have any ideas as to how to integrate the later people with the earlier ones? Annas’ book organizes topically, and I’d prefer to do the whole course that way and not just for the ancient portion and then by philosopher from then on. I refuse to do the theory of forms or problem of universals in an introductory course, and much of what people talk about is related to that. Any ideas? I’m also interested in any insight into particular sections of Augustine or Aquinas that would tie in with the other philosophers I’ll be dealing with, so if anyone knows of a convenient list of those I’d appreciate it.

  • Paul Vincent Spade, Professor here at Indiana, has a professional website on medieval logic and philosophy here. In the “Download” section down at the bottom there’s a PDF entitled “A Survey of Mediaeval Philosophy, Version 2.0” that is more or less the materials for an entire survey course (476 pages in all).
    I don’t have the expertise myself to give you advice in detail, unfortunately. Of course, when in doubt, there’s always Copleston.

    April 7, 2005 — 9:09
  • Heath White

    My own strategy teaching A&M last year was to center on ethics and human nature. I taught Plato, Aristotle, Hellenists, Augustine, Aquinas–I’d rather do fewer thinkers than spread them too thin. You can present Aquinas pretty well as a synthesis of Aristotle and Augustine on these topics. Also, it was useful to present Augustine as offering Christianity as a competing philosophy to the philosophies current in his day, measured by much the same terms: whether the philosophy led to happiness. Book 19 of COG is good in this regard.

    April 8, 2005 — 9:29
  • Go to the Philosophy department page at Catholic University of America and look at some of the philosophy faculty publications there, I think many of them have contributed to anthologies or medieval philosophy readings.
    I think the most relevant medievals in the west would be Augustine, St Anslem, Aquinas and Scotus. One way to treat the theme is to take a theme like faith and reason, which is basically the theology v Philosophy distinction.
    Augustine launched the “I believe therefore I understand” thing and Anselm took it up, especially in his Monologion and Proslogion. Then Aquinas specifically takes on the faith reason questions in his clear fashion and each one is dialoging with the predecessor. So Anslem stands explicitly on Augustine, and Aquinas is using Anselm and Augustine as guides. Then there’s Duns Scotus who is a late contemporary of Aquinas and extremely complicated. I don’t know that there is an easy way to cover him, but he is usually used as the contrasting view to Aquinas.
    Besides the faith and reason thing, you could go with the “subject matter” of philosophy discussion. For Aquinas it was God, I think, for Scotus it was being qua being, I think.
    There’s also the “proofs for God’s existence” direction, which may be the most interesting. I think you might find Augustine’s in his On Christian doctrine (I can’t recall now), Anselm in proslogion, Aquinas’ has a bunch all over the place, and Scotus has proofs that are “followable”. And you can cap it with Descartes’ proofs.
    One last thing is that Aquinas and Scotus take sides in the Averoes v Avicenna (the Arab philosophers) debate and are influenced by each one. So that may be useful.
    I hope I haven’t muddied anything. I’m not a philosopher, otherwise I’d have much more concrete offerings. Good luck.

    April 8, 2005 — 15:32