CC + tutorial: Great Themes of Late Antique, Byzantine and Medieval Philosophy

Course Description: 

The course intends to give a more or less systematic introduction to some of the main problems and their treatment in the late antique and medieval philosophy schools. The historical starting point is 176 AD, when Emperor Marcus Aurelius founded four chairs of philosophy in Athens, and the end of the period is set (arbitrarily) to the thirteenth century. Instead of a purely historical approach, after an introductory part dealing with the historical and social framework of philosophizing, the course focusses on certain main problems, themes that occupied the minds of the philosopher-theologians.


Twelve lectures will be given in four modules. I. The historical and social background of late antique and medieval philosophy; II. Organon: the methods and instruments of philosophizing; III. First philosophy: ontology and epistemology; IV. Anthropology and natural philosophy.


A selection from the great philosophical texts of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages will be given for reading in English translation. At the tutorials/seminars these texts will be read and discussed with reference to the subjects and the secondary literature discussed at the lectures. Ideally, students will be required to prepare discussion papers about each reading, the presentation of which will be followed by a debate moderated by the instructors.

Learning Outcomes: 

Students will become acquainted with the structure of philosophical teaching, inherited from Classical Antiquity, of philosophical learning in the Late Antique Mediterranean, and as it was continued in Byzantium and in the Latin West, with a modicum of insight into medieval Muslim and Jewish philosophy. They will gain an insight into philosophy as a universal elite culture spreading across religious beliefs and will be confronted to divergent and conflicting historiographic views in the secondary literature. The course intends to present the philosophical schools as different methods of investigation and school curricula instead of presenting them as dogmatic systems. The course particularly aims at helping the students to increase their critical acumen. 

Also, students will acquire familiarity with the fundamental philosophical and theological problems and developments of the four main theoretical cultures of the medieval period, such as transcendence, immanence, concepts of knowledge and science, time, creation and matter.


Students will be acquainted with some of the foundational texts of the philosophical heritage of the three main areas covered: Late Antique, Byzantine and Medieval Latin philosophy, with some addition of medieval Muslim and Jewish philosophical texts. They will be able to assess independently the place of those texts in the general philosophical culture and to assess critically the individual philosophical themes treated.


Reading assignments, class summaries and questions accounted for by weekly class journals 75%; class participation: 25%.


Active participation in the classes and discussions: 50%; presentation of discussion papers: 50%.