Various Online Opportunities

  • Jeffrey Brower (Purdue) is giving an online talk tomorrow (May 26, 2020) at 15:30 in Berlin, to the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. For information about how to participate, contact
  • The Lumen Christi Institute is sponsoring an online panel discussion on Christians in Times of Catastrophe: Augustine’s City of God, featuring Jennifer Frey (Univ. South Carolina), Russell Hittinger (Lumen Christi Institute), and Michael Sherwin (Fribourg). That’s on June 9, 2020.
  • Lydia Schumacher‘s (King’s College London) conference on thirteenth-century Franciscans has moved online, and will run over a series of 4 Fridays in late July and early August. For details see here.
  • There’s a one-week online Latin paleography course being offered this July through the Central European University, for a reasonable tuition. It’s offered at both a beginning and an intermediate level, and there’s also two levels of Greek paleography available. July 6-10, 2020.
  • Scott Williams’ newly-published collection of papers on Disability in Medieval Christian Philosophy and Theology (Routledge, 2020), is available as a free ebook until June 11th, here.
  • There is — believe it or not — a Roger Bacon Research Society. Perhaps there has always been such a society, since 1292, and it has only recently emerged from its long occultation. At any rate, note that they sponsor an online reading group.
  • Definitely not in occultation is Christina Van Dyke (Calvin College), who has been making philosophical videos since March for her online courses. The chef d’oeuvre is perhaps part two of the Julian of Norwich series. Take-home quote: “She doesn’t need to be a Zombie queen to be interesting.”

Virtual Colloquium 10: Medieval Modal Spaces

Next week’s virtual colloquium features Simo Knuuttila (Helsinki), Damiano Costa (Lugano), and Robert Pasnau (University of Colorado / Paris Institute of Advanced Studies).

When: Thursday, May 28, 2020, 10am in Boulder, 6pm in Lugano, 7pm in Helsinki.

A recording of the talk is available here.

The slides to my (Bob’s) talk are available here.  The full paper, which I’ll be summarizing, is available here.

Topic: Theories of modality in the later Middle Ages.

Sponsored by the Paris Institute of Advanced Studies.

Virtual Colloquium 9, Scott MacDonald

The next Virtual Medieval Colloquium features Scott MacDonald (Cornell University).

When: Thursday, May 21, 12 noon in Brooklyn / 18h à Paris

A recording is available here.

The handout is available here.

Title: “Augustine’s Early, Abandoned Proof for the Immortality of the Soul”

Abstract: In three texts composed within a year of each other (386-87), Augustine presents several versions of an argument for the immortality of the soul. Despite his initial enthusiasm for it, Augustine abandons the argument almost immediately and without comment; after 387 we never see it again. The argument is deeply flawed in ways that make Augustine’s abandonment of it entirely understandable. But for all its difficulties, it provides an illuminating glimpse into Augustine’s early thinking about issues that will come, over the span of his career, to define his own philosophical system and his relation to his Platonist forebears. What must be the nature of mind, reality, and cognition if we are to know intelligible objects and truths? How are we to account for our cognitive contact with things eternal and immutable? Perhaps the mind must be immortal?

This talk, like previous ones, will be recorded. You can find a link to each recording on the original announcement page for each talk.

Sponsored by the Institut d’Etudes Avancées de Paris.


Virtual Colloquium 8, John Marenbon

The next Virtual Medieval Colloquium features John Marenbon (Cambridge University).

When: Thursday, May 14th, 5pm in England / 10am in Boulder.

A recording of the talk is here. The handout for the talk is here. (I am sorry to say that the first few minutes did not record, and further sorry that the recording shows all participants rather than showing a large image of John in “speaker view.”)

Title: “How to Write a History of Early Medieval Latin Philosophy?”

Abstract: Attenders of this splendid virtual seminar will already know, from Nadja Germann’s talk, of the book we are writing together about language and logic in early medieval philosophy. She provided a foretaste of her part, on the Arabic tradition. I shall be talking about mine, on the Latin tradition, but rather more broadly, since I also have looming before me another, vaster early medieval project: to write, in English, the 600-1100 Latin Philosophy volume for the new Ueberweg Grundriss.

In the first part of my talk, then, I want to think about some of the general questions raised by my title (and incidentally to explain why I shall not quite be able to follow my own prescriptions in either of these books!). What are the chronological limits of early Medieval Latin philosophy, and what is involved in carving up the history of philosophy into such periods? What material should count as philosophy, and what is the place of logic and language within it?

Some of the material about which I shall be writing will, like that discussed by Nadja, be rather unfamiliar to historians of philosophy. But, in the second part of my talk, I shall focus on three well-known writers, Augustine, Boethius and Anselm, looking at their treatments of language and how they relate to their views on attaining knowledge.

Sponsored by the Paris Institute of Advanced Studies.

Updates on Various Initiatives

Here’s what’s new:

  • First, don’t forget that Tianyue Wu’s talk tomorrow (Thursday, April 7, 2020) begins two hours earlier than usual.
  • Second, although I haven’t mentioned it in a while, the Virtual Dissertation Workshop is thriving. If you didn’t respond to my initial announcement, and would like to join, please contact Philip-Neri Reese, who is leading the group.
  • Third, I’ve gotten a great response to my post about language study. I’ve already got the makings of groups in
    • beginning Arabic;
    • an Arabic reading group;
    • a Latin reading group;
    • English conversation;
  • Plus I’ve gotten offers for two additional groups:
    • a Hebrew reading group;
    • introductory Latin paleography.
  • If you haven’t yet contacted me and you’re interested in any of the above, send me an email!

Virtual Colloquium 7, Tianyue Wu

This week’s Virtual Medieval Colloquium features Tianyue Wu (Peking University).

When: Thursday, May 7, 10pm Beijing / 16h Paris / 8am Boulder


A copy of the powerpoint presentation is available here.

Title: “Aquinas on Wrong Judgements of Conscience”

Abstract: Conscience can err. Yet an erroneous conscience still seems binding in that it is likely to be morally wrong to ignore the call of conscience. At the same time, it seems equally wrong to act according to such a wrong judgement of conscience. The moral dilemma of erroneous conscience poses a challenge to any coherent theory of conscience. In light of this, I will examine Aquinas’s reflections on the psychological mechanism of erroneous conscience in terms of the practical syllogism. I will argue that Aquinas offers a more sophisticated explanation of the obligatory force of erroneous conscience than usually acknowledged, in which the conscientious integrity of the agent is intimately integrated with the sovereignty of divine law. Then I will appeal to Aquinas’s distinction between the judgement of conscience (iudicium consentiae) and that of free decision (iudicium liberi arbitrii) to prove that the judgements pertaining to conscience are purely cognitive. This analysis will also help us specify in what sense we can tolerate conscience’s wrong judgments without falling into the trap of moral relativism.

Sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Studies of Paris.