Week 1. The Scholastic Foundations


Scholastic philosophy from 1250 all the way to 1650 and beyond revolves around a highly technical, forbidding literary style. Its foundations lie in Aristotle, but with a massive overlay of Christian theology growing out of the Augustinian tradition. The first week of the Institute will provide a crash course in various aspects of that scholastic tradition, with an eye toward those aspects that would prove most contentious in later centuries (and that will accordingly be the focus of later weeks). We will begin the week by discussing the scholastic conception of knowledge (scientia), focusing on the ideal of a demonstrative syllogism as described in Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics. Subsequent days will work through the scholastic metaphysics of matter, soul, and cognition – all topics that became highly contentious in the seventeenth century. The core texts will be taken from the work of Thomas Aquinas, John Duns Scotus, William Ockham, and John Buridan, the four figures who, more than anyone in the first century of scholasticism, shaped how scholastic thought would subsequently be understood. 


Robert Pasnau. The Scientia Framework

Monday, July 6. Certainty and Evidence

How knowledge (scientia) is defined among scholastic authors; the role of certainty, and its relationship to probability; the rise of interest in epistemic states that fall short of certainty; the place of evidentness in late medieval theories

  • Handout
  • Video (Notes: The video cuts off the first 15 minutes of the lecture. The handout gives some sense of the missing material.)

Thursday, July 9. Essences

Essences as the goal of scientific inquiry; the character of substantial form; debates over the number of substantial forms; attacks on and defenses of substantial form against the rise of anti-Aristotelianism.


Calvin Normore. Realism and Nominalism

Tuesday, July 7. An Introduction to the Medieval Debates about Nominalism and Realism, and Debates over the Categories

Nominalsm and Realism were sometimes but not always actors categories during the Middle Ages. Curiously they were not during one of the periods which we now regard as central for the issues at stake. In this session we look at the medieval and early modern use of the terms 'nominalist' and 'realist'. One striking item is the stability in the lists of who is a nominalist and who a realist. One line of division running from late antiquity to the Early modern period is between those who took the Categories to reveal ontological clefts and those who took them to be classifications of terms. What is the relation between this division and that between Nominalists and Realists? We look at efforts by a series of thinkers to 'reduce' the Categories and resistance to such efforts.

Wednesday, July 8. Matter and Its Parts, Quantity, and the Theory of Truth

One characteristic of nominalist doctrines concerns the claims that matter is intrinsically extended, and that Quantity is not a real category of being. Another characteristic set of claims concerns truth. Ockham and Buridan both propose accounts of truth which, while differing in many ways, agree that truth is not a quality inhering in a truth-bearer. Walter Burley and Peter Aureol both hold that it is. Aureol is one of the few figures who appears both on lists of nominalists and on lists of realists. Is it because of his views about truth? 


Week 2. Natural Philosophy


Deborah Brown. After Form

Tuesday, July 14. Extension, Inertia and Organic Systems

The consequences of rejecting as explanatorily useful Aristotelian concepts of substantial form, potentiae (the potentialities of bodies to undergo specific kinds of changes) and finality in nature; Problems faced by early mechanists of the seventeenth century in attempting to explain organic systems, their boundaries and functions.

Wednesday, July 15. Causation and Its Enemies

The departure from the Aristotelian account of natural change demanded a rethinking of how substances interacted (if at all); Debates between interactionists and occasionalists.


Peter King. Psychology

Monday, July 13. Cognitive Psychology

General mental architecture and mental faculties; the analogy between perception and cognition; intuitive and abstractive cognition; the problem of transduction (abstraction/illumination); representation, internalism and externalism; the language of thought.

Thursday, July 16. Affective Psychology

Emotions (passions) and the will; the independence of the will; mind, body, and the ontology of mental faculties; habits and the nature of “scientific” psychology.


Week 3. Through the Renaissance


Christia Mercer. 

Monday, July 20. Early Modern Platonism/Finding Women in the History of Philosophy

Tuesday, July 21. Anne Conway


Edwin Curley. Toleration and Religious Liberty

(Notes: These slides represent a work-in-progress, an intermediate stage between a series of papers Professor Curley has been writing over the last several years -- which are available on his web site, http://sitemaker.umich.edu/emcurley/on_religious_liberty -- and a book that Professor Curley hopes to write on the history of religious liberty in the west, from the early days of Christianity to the end of the 18th C.)

Wednesday, July 22. Moderate Skepticism as a Defense of Toleration

Thursday, July 23. Radical Skepticism in Defense of Toleration


Week 4. The New Science and the New Philosophy


Daniel Garber. The Novatores and Francis Bacon

This week begins with a discussion of the various Novatores from the early seventeenth century, the innovators who paved the way for the so-called Scientific Revolution. We will then look in detail at one pivotal figure, Francis Bacon, who was enormously influential on the rise of the new science, but whose status as a philosopher has long been controversial.

Monday, July 27. 

Tuesday, July 28.


Alison Simmons. Human Being in Transition

The human being underwent metaphysical reconstructive surgery somewhere between Aquinas and Descartes, from a hylomorphic unity to a dualistic union. Or so the story goes. In fact, the transition from the Aristotelian matter/form hylomorphic metaphysics to a Cartesian body/mind dualistic metaphysics was not as dramatic as all that, at least so far as the metaphysics of the human being goes. Although the Aristotelian soul was the form of a body, the human soul was also capable of a separate existence apart from its body after death. And while the Cartesian mind was capable of a separate existence apart from the body, the human mind was united to the body in this life to such an extent that it couldn’t do much of anything without it—sense, imagine, undergo passions. What was transgressive was the way in which Descartes reimagined the concepts of body, life, soul and mind, and consequently the relations among them. If Descartes launched a revolution, it was a conceptual one rather than a metaphysical one.

Wednesday, July 29. Body and Life

After looking at Descartes’ transformation of body from the role of accident, part or genus of a (composite) substance to the very essence of (one kind of) substance, we’ll look at the way in which he employs this rather new conception of body as substance to mechanize what biology, physiology and much of psychology.

Thursday, July 30. Soul and Mind

Descartes is often said to have invented the modern mind. But what is that thing supposed to be? After looking briefly at Aquinas’ treatment of the relationship between soul and mind, we’ll look at Descartes’ conflation of soul and mind with an eye to the question just what the nature of this soulmind is supposed to be. Is it the Aristotelian mind lopped from the rest of the soul? Is it, as Rorty charged, brute consciousness? Or something yet different?


Bonus Track


This is the audio recording of the following session at the 2016 Pacific APA:

Society for Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy, Session 2: The Epistemic Turn and Its Pre-Modern History

Chair: Jason Aleksander (St. Xavier University)

Speakers: Robert Pasnau (University of Colorado, Boulder) "Why Modern Philosophy Turned Toward Epistemology"

                 Brian Copenhaver (University of California, Los Angeles) "A Turn in Logic After the Middle Ages: Epistemic or Psychological?"

Respondent: Calvin Normore (University of California, Los Angeles)