HISTORY OF MEDIEVAL CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY
Learning outcomes of the course unit
This course will reinforce the students' tools for critical, informed and
independent judgment, and their skills for communication and continuing
education. In particular, after this course, students will develop the
following abilities of acquiring knowledge and understanding (Dublin
Descriptor I): students will be made able to know the philosophical,
theological, and scientific thought of the Middle Ages; to read and
understand the classical texts of medieval philosophy; to acquire the
terminology of medieval philosophy and of the different philosophical
methods required for the discussion of topics and the interpretation of
medieval texts; to be acquainted with and assess the historiography of
medieval philosophy. After this course, students will also develop the
following abilities to apply the acquired knowledge and understanding
(Dublin Descriptor II): students will be made able to compose clear,
documented and argumentbased papers; to apply knowledge in
interdisciplinary fields; to reconstruct and follow the genesis and
development of a concept, a doctrine and/or a philosophical debate; to
explain the connection of ideas between the history of medieval
philosophy and other areas of science and philosophy, in particular
ancient, late-antique and early-modern philosophy as well as theology; toreconstruct and assess a cultural and/or inter-cultural context, with
particular attention to the interplay of the different positions that are
involved. Finally, after this course, students will develop the following
communication and learning skills and abilities of making independent
judgments (Dublin Descriptors III - IV - V): students will be made able to
critically evaluate a philosophical text, both from a historical and a
philosophical, philological and/or textual point of view; to assess the
arguments used in a philosophical debate and/or text in order to decide a
claim, to resolve a problem and/or to defend a thesis; to criticize a
philosophical position, an argument and/or a topic, by
correctly setting it in its proper historical and/or textual context; to assess
concepts as to their developments and their relations, also with regard to
other disciplinary areas; to know how reconstructing and following,
historically as well as philosophically, the genesis of a concept, a problem
and/or a philosophical debate; to communicate the acquired knowledge
and ablities of analysis and judgment in a clear, documented, complete
and logically consequential and well-organized way, both orally and
through written papers; to evaluate accurately and to reconstruct
completely their learning process and the skills, abilities and knowledge
they have acquired.
The course is addressed to students already acquainted with medieval
philosophy. It is recommended, moreover, the knowledge of Latin and a
good acquaintance with the history of philosophy in general and with the
history of ancient and medieval philosophy in particular.
Course contents summary
Title: "Peter Damian and the omnipotence of God". The course
proposes to illustrate the theme of God's omnipotence in the later Middle Ages. Starting from the reading of Peter Damian's "De divina omnipotentia" (11th Century), the various philosophical and theological questions that revolve around the notion of omnipotence will be discussed.
For medieval authors, divine omnipotence is primarily a theological issue. It is a question of determining what God, considered omnipotent, can do and what He cannot do. But it also has a number of philosophical implications, involving the modal notions of possibility and impossibility, the logic of temporality or the doctrine of possible worlds. In "De divina omnipotentia" Damiani begins by raising a question: "Can God restore virginity to a woman who has lost it?". But the real goal is to investigate the nature and the possible limits of divine omnipotence through the discussion of two more fundamental questions: whether God can undo the past and whether God can make the contradictories to exist at the same time. More generally, the theme of omnipotence allows Damiani to reflect on the relationship between faith and reason, between the logic of our world and the logic of God.
1) Pier Damiani, "Sull-onnipotenza divina", a cura di Roberto Limonta, La Vita Felice, Milan 2020.
2) G. d'Onofrio (direzione di), "Storia della teologia nel Medioevo", vol. I: I princìpi, Piemme, Casale Monferrato (AL) 1996, pp. 339-470.
Students interested in deepening the knowledge of Peter Damian's work are recommended to read the following articles:
3) I. M. Resnick, "Peter Damian on the Restoration of Virginity: A Problem for Medieval Theology", in "The Journal of Theological Studies" 39/1 (1988), pp. 125-134.
4) R. Gaskin, "Peter Damian on Divine Power and the Contingency of the Past", in "British Journal for the History of Philosophy" 5/2 (1997), pp. 229-247.
5) T. J. Holopainen, "Necessity in Early Medieval Thought: Peter Damian and Anselm of Canterbury", in P. Gilbert - H. Kohlenberger - E. Salmann (eds.), "Cur Deus homo. Atti del Congresso anselmiano internazionale, Roma, 21-23 maggio 1998", Pontificio Ateneo S. Anselmo, Roma 1999, pp. 221-234.
Students interested in deepening the knowledge of the context of Peter Damian's work are recommended to read one the following studies:
6) A. Cantin, "Fede e dialettica nell'XI secolo", Jaca Book, Milano 1996.
7) C. Martello, "La dottrina dei teologi. Ragione e dialettica nei secoli XI-XII", CUECM, Catania 2008.
Any other didactic material used or distributed during the lessons will be uploaded on the ELLY platform.
Oral lessons. During the classes the topics that will be discussed are
those of the general contents of the course. Classes could be
supplemented by seminars devoted to the reading and discussion of
medieval texts, to which students are invited to attend actively.
Seminars may be also in collaboration with external professors.
Lessons will be blended (in presence and in streaming on Teams). Lessons will be video recorded. The links for the videos will be indicated on the ELLY platform.
Assessment methods and criteria
Students' knowledge and understanding skills, and their abilities to apply
them, will be verified through a final oral exam.
Average duration of the exam is about 30 min.
The types of questions are determined by the features of students’
education and learning that need to be verified.
In particular, the oral exam aims to verify: 1) the degree of students’
historical and philosophical formation and preparation, both with respect
to the primary sources and the secondary literature; 2) students’ ability
to assess and compare texts, interpretations of texts, and
historiographical theses; 3) the ability to understand, analyze, and
contextualize philosophical texts.
If students wish, they may submit a written paper on the text indicated in the bibliography for discussion in the final exam.
The final score (on scale 0-30) is the result of the written paper and the
The oral exam will be evaluated according to three criteria: 1) speech
clearness and accuracy; 2) critical thinking and independent judgment; 3)
ability to analyze and contextualize a philosophical text and/or a problem.
The exam is passed if the minimum grade of 18/30 is reached.The final mark will be awarded according to the following scheme: 30 and
praise: excellent; solid preparation and extensive knowledge of medieval
philosophy, excellent expressive skills, capacity of comprehension and
analysis of texts, concepts, topics and/or arguments of medieval
philosophy complete and exhaustive; 30: excellent; complete and
adequate knowledge, excellent analysis skills, correct and well articulated
expression; 27-29: very good; more than satisfactory knowledge,
adequate analysis skills and essentially correct and structured
24-26: good; good but not complete knowledge, satisfactory analysis
skills and not always correct expression; 21-23: discrete; discrete
knowledge although superficial, sometimes unsatisfactory analysis skills
and sometimes inappropriate ability to express; 18-21: sufficient;
acceptable but very superficial knowledge, unsatisfactory analysis skills,
often inappropriate expression; 0-18: insufficient; the preparation has
important gaps in terms of content, lack of clarity in exposition, inability
to understand and analyze texts, concepts, topics and/or arguments of
Two or three dates are scheduled for every session of exams, as indicated
in the official calendar.