Virtual Colloquium 3, featuring Dominik Perler

I am pleased to announce that Dominik Perler (HU Berlin) will be the speaker at the next virtual colloquium.

Title: “Olivi on Personhood.”

Abstract: Following Boethius, most medieval philosophers defined a person as an individual substance of a rational nature. However, in the late thirteenth century Peter John Olivi presented a new definition, characterizing a person as an entity that “fully returns to itself and abides in itself or that perfectly reflects upon itself.” In my paper I intend to shed light on this new definition. I will first examine Olivi’s account of reflection, analyzing it against the background of his general theory of cognition. I will then look at the role he assigns to the will in the process of reflection, paying particular attention to the function of the will as a self-moving power. My aim is to show that Olivi did not simply give up the Boethian definition. He rather reinterpreted it by giving a new account of rationality: a person is an individual substance of a volitional nature.

Time: Thursday, April 9, 18:00 in Berlin (10am in Boulder).


The event is open to all and, for those able to watch live, there will be a Q&A afterwards. The talk will also be recorded, and the link to the recording will be posted here.


The Virtual Dissertation Workshop

You’ve read about the Virtual Colloquium, but now here’s something more: I’d like to see whether I can help create a virtual medieval dissertation workshop.

The prime focus is people who are writing PhD dissertations in medieval philosophy. But in principle these groups might include a slightly larger group: people writing MA theses; people doing graduate-level work but not yet writing a dissertation; people who have recently completed a dissertation but would still value being part of this kind of community; people writing dissertations not quite in medieval philosophy, but whose interests are close enough to want to be involved.

My role in this is simply to use this blog to connect interested parties. So, if you’d like to be involved, send me the following information:

Academic Institution
Stage of Career
Dissertation Topic
Preferred Language(s)

I will put all of this information into a spreadsheet and circulate it.


Virtual Colloquium 2, featuring Peter Adamson

This week’s Virtual Colloquium features Peter Adamson (LMU Munich):

Time: Thursday, April 2, 18:00 Munich / 10am Boulder

Watch the recorded talk here.

Title: ‘Averroes’ “Decisive Treatise” as a Dialectical Work.’


Perhaps the most famous text from the Islamic world that combines the themes of philosophy and law is the Decisive Treatise (Faṣl al-Maqāl) by Averroes (Ibn Rushd, d. 1198). As is routinely noted by scholars, the Treatise is a legal determination of the role of philosophy within Islam: it argues that Muslims are enjoined to do philosophy insofar as they are capable of doing so. In making this case, Averroes sets out a famous distinction between three levels of discourse, inspired by Aristotle’s logical corpus: demonstration, dialectic, and rhetoric. The central question of my paper is what sort of discourse is being used in the Treatise itself. Discussing this work alongside the closely related Kashf (Exposition), I argue that Averroes is consciously adopting a dialectical mode of argumentation. This may seem strange, since Averroes often seems to use “dialectic” as a term of abuse, as when he convicts the mutakallimūn of engaging in dialectical argumentation. I argue however that he sees an important positive role for dialectic in clearing the ground for proper, demonstrative, philosophical discourse, and that techniques recommended in Aristotle’s Topics are being put to good use in both the Treatise and the Exposition.

Virtual Colloquium Update

A request about this week:  The first virtual colloquium is this Thursday, with Eleonore Stump.  See the previous post for details and the Zoom link.  Although it’s hard to say how many will turn up to watch live, I am concerned that the number may be large. So I would like to ask that, if you have invited your undergraduate students to join us, you ask them to wait and watch the recorded video. Perhaps this precaution will prove unnecessary, but if 10 professors ask their classes to watch live — and of course we are all searching for online content! — then we might quickly find ourselves with not enough virtual space.

An announcement about next week: I’m very pleased to report that Professor Peter Adamson (LMU Munich) will be our next speaker, on Thursday, April 2, 18:00 Munich, 10am Boulder. His topic will be ‘Averroes’ “Decisive Treatise” as a Dialectical Work.’

The Virtual Medieval Colloquium, featuring Eleonore Stump

In lieu of my usual conference announcements, I am writing to announce a very special virtual colloquium — an opportunity to connect across the globe at a time at which many of us are feeling disconnected and disconcerted.

So, I am hereby announcing — beginning this Thursday — the Virtual Medieval Colloquium.

The inaugural speaker in what I hope will be a weekly series will be Eleonore Stump, the Robert J. Henle Professor of Philosophy at St. Louis University.

Her topic will be “Aquinas on the image of God in human nature and its perfection in the afterlife.”

You can watch live and participate in the Q & A this Thursday (March 26, 2020), at 6pm in Paris / 12 noon in St. Louis, by following this Zoom link: (There is no need to contact me directly. All are welcome to join the meeting, up to whatever Zoom permits, which may be 300.)

A recording of the talk is available here.

Thanks to the Institut d’Etudes Avancées de Paris for providing the infrastructure to make this event possible.

Purdue etc.

The main news I have to share is that the three-year postdoc in medieval philosophy at Purdue University is, all of a sudden, being advertised for next fall. The deadline is very soon — March 1st, 2020.  Details here.

A few other items:

  • The Avicenna Study Group is meeting June 3-5, 2020, at Trier University. Small travel grants are available to students interested in attending. Students seeking a grant should directly and immediately contact Andreas Lammer.
  • St. Bonaventure University (New York) has announced its summer programs for 2020. They’re very theological in orientation, but perhaps of interest.