Copenhagen, Leuven, Budapest, etc.

The University of Copenhagen has announced two 2-year postdoc positions, both focused on twelfth-century logic. Applications are due October 15, 2021. Details here.

KU Leuven–more specifically, Christophe Geudens and Nicola Polloni–have organized a two-day seminar on Knowability and the Limits of Knowledge. It will be partly medieval in focus, and partly a general discussion of epistemology. It’s on Zoom, this Thursday and Friday (September 2-3, 2021), starting at 4pm in Leuven.

The energetic folk at Leuven have also organized a series of medieval colloquia, running through the fall and spring, and especially highlighting junior scholars. The format is hybrid, in person and on zoom.

Still more, there’s a large conference, which I don’t seem to have previously announced, on Aristotle’s De sensu in the Latin Tradition 1150-1650. It’s also a hybrid event, live and on Zoom, running from Pavia to Leuven. (September 13-14, 2021, in Pavia; September 17-18 in Leuven)

There are two major conferences on the Eucharist getting underway, in September, in Budapest. First there’s a philosophical conference, on the Metaphysics and Theology of the Eucharist, which starts tomorrow! (September 1-4, 2021). It’s another hybrid event, with the schedule available here. Then there’s the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress (September 5-12, 2021), which is aimed at a much wider audience.

The American Cusanus Society is holding their biennial conference in a month, on the theme of Mystical Theology and Renaissance Platonism in the Time of Cusanus (September 24-26, Gettysburg and Zoom). Information is on Twitter!

There’s a special issue in the works, for History of Philosophy and Logical Analysis, on Revisionary Metaphysics in the Middle Ages. The guest editors are Stephan Schmid (Hamburg) and Sonja Schierbaum (Wuerzburg), and they’ve put out a call for proposals. (The deadline is April 23, 2022.)

OUP’s Prestige Monopoly

In reading through the 2020 volume of The Philosophical Review, I noticed a funny thing: every book they reviewed was published by Oxford University Press. Well, not every book but, to be exact, 23 out of 25. That’s not how I remember things being back when I was a student, so I went back and looked. In 1990, OUP was also the leading recipient of reviews in The Philosophical Review, but accounted for just 12 of the 61 reviews. Books from 21 other presses were also reviewed, and Blackwell and Cambridge were tied for runner-up, with 7 entries apiece.

I asked my own student, Colton Kunzeman, to go through the intervening years, and he produced this illuminating chart:

A quick look at some other philosophy journals that publish a significant number of book reviews turned up these numbers for 2020:

  • Mind: 23 of 36 reviews (64%)
  • Australasian Journal of Philosophy: 13 of 15 (87%)
  • Analysis: 24 of 26 (92%)
  • Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews: 70 of 167 (42%)

The NDPR rate is significantly lower, I think, because they review so many books. They can in effect review all of OUP’s philosophy monographs and still have room for a lot of other presses. As for Mind’s rate of 64%, if that seems comparatively unimpressive, bear in mind that the remaining 36% is split among all other presses. To put that in perspective, Mind in 2020 reviewed roughly 10 times more OUP books than books from any other publisher.

What’s going on here?

What these numbers suggest, and what anyone who’s paying attention will have noticed to some degree already, is the extent to which OUP is increasingly the dominant publisher in philosophy. It’s not the case, to be sure, that OUP dominates all parts of philosophy publishing. With regard to textbooks, guidebooks, and translations, they have lots of competition. But when it comes to scholarly monographs, OUP has secured for itself a near monopoly on the field: not a monopoly in terms of absolute numbers, since plenty of other presses are publishing monographs in philosophy, but a prestige monopoly. If you aspire to publish the sort of book that will get reviewed in a top journal, you had better get your book accepted at OUP.

Part of the reason for this, perhaps, is that there’s been a steadily smaller market for monographs in recent years, and as a result academic presses generally devote fewer resources to this than they used to. (On that subject my colleague at Norlin Library, Frederick Carey, recommends this article and this book, esp. ch. 5.) Still, obviously, there are plenty of presses that are publishing monographs in philosophy, and the reality seems to be that OUP is just outcompeting them, at least in this segment of the market. I asked Peter Momtchiloff, the OUP-UK editor for philosophy, if he was willing to comment on this situation, and he responded: “I think we have worked hard on philosophy publishing for a long time, aiming to cover all the areas that are typically covered in research-oriented philosophy departments, and responding to what philosophers think is good rather than trying to impose external ideas of what philosophy research publishing should be like. Apologies if this sounds boastful or ingratiating.” To me that sounds excessively modest. For decades now, Peter has worked like no other editor in the field to cultivate relationships with both young and established scholars. He makes people feel as if OUP really wants their books, and over time these relationships have paid off. (Peter Ohlin, the OUP-US editor, has a similarly longstanding presence in the field and receives rave reviews from those who work with him.)

Yet although this story is in part one of triumph for OUP, it also should leave philosophers feeling a certain amount of concern. Even if OUP’s monopoly is benevolent and well-earned, we should ask ourselves whether it is in the interests of the field. One way in which it would not be is if OUP were doing an inferior job editing and publishing its books. To gauge this situation, I reached out to 10 senior scholars in the field who recently published books with OUP and asked them for their impressions. All were kind enough to reply, and most were wholly enthusiastic. Typical responses were “wonderful experience,” “really excellent,” “always been really happy,” “extraordinary positive,” “uniformly good experiences.” So this perhaps can be added to the story of why OUP has become so dominant: that they do very good work publishing books. And to this it might be added that their books are reasonably priced and generally available in paperback.

To the extent that the scholars surveyed had reservations, those concerned the process of copy editing, proofreading, and typesetting.  One scholar spoke of the “train wreck” of the typeset page proofs that had to be straightened out over a “bazillion hours.” I myself have noticed that OUP books are not always edited as carefully as one would like. In one short but prominent recent OUP book, I managed to find—simply by reading through the book in the usual way—51 typos, as well as countless stylistic infelicities of the sort that any decent copy editor ought to have fixed. I asked Peter Momtchiloff whether there might have been some decline in OUP’s production standards, and he passed this query on to the production department and got the response one would hope for, that “our quality standards haven’t changed.”

Be that as it may, the production process has certainly changed. A decade ago, books went through a multi-stage production process: copy editing, which was then reviewed by the author, followed by typesetting, which was then proofread by the author and the press. Of late, however, those stages have been compressed into one. Books are copy edited and typeset and then sent to the author, who is expected at that point to cope with any difficulties that have arisen in either the copy editing or the typesetting stage. The scholar quoted in the previous paragraph blamed the “train wreck” on this compression of stages. As for proof reading, that same scholar was frankly perplexed by the question, having seen no sign of any proofreading. This, too, was how the other author responded when I forwarded my list of 51 typos: not by blaming OUP for the mess, but with self-blame for being terrible at proofreading.

With these thoughts in mind, last month I asked the production manager of the latest volume of Oxford Studies in Medieval Philosophy whether this book would be proofread. Writing from India, he replied: “We do have the service for proofreading and I can check with editorial for the possibility on this if you prefer to hire one…. Kindly note inclusion of this new service could have an impact on the overall schedule and incurs additional cost for proofreading.” When I expressed surprise to him that OUP itself wouldn’t proofread the book, he replied, “We do the in-house proofread by default for all OUP books at our end.” Now, I’ve had generally excellent experiences with the people to whom OUP outsources their production, and with this production manager in particular. Even so, this exchange left me not altogether confident in the ongoing rigor of OUP’s quality standards.

I asked Peter M. a few more questions. He told me that the OUP philosophy editors publish around 200 academic books a year, split fairly evenly between the UK and US offices. He said they do not keep statistics on acceptance rates, but that “most unsolicited proposals are rejected.” (It would be interesting to know more about this, since, notoriously, acceptance rates at the top journals in the field are now under 5%.) To a query about whether it might be desirable to evaluate submissions blind (as do most good journals), he replied that while, like other publishers, they do not judge submissions anonymously, still “decisions about publication are based on expert review of material submitted, not on the author’s standing or track record.” (Perhaps one should add that with a monograph, unlike with a single paper, it’s not likely that an expert in the field would be unable to discern the author’s identity.)

One recent very positive development at OUP is an upgrade at Oxford Scholarship Online. In the past, as I’ve bitterly complained, Oxford books have been available online only in a fairly wretched reformatted version, unpleasant to read and full of errors. Those bad old versions are still there, but new books, at long last, are appearing in OSO as glorious digital images of the typeset book. Here is the first page of Peter Adamson’s new book on al-Rāzī, downloaded from OSO:

Yay! No one I’ve queried knows anything about this change, but it’s something to celebrate. OUP’s previous way of making material available electronically was amateurish in the extreme.

I remarked a while back that philosophers might be concerned by OUP’s dominance in the field, and that led to these reflections on the quality of OUP as a publisher. Despite my criticisms, I think the overall news there is quite good. As a profession, we’ve benefited quite a lot from OUP’s consistently high-quality presence in the field. Still, one might think that this line of inquiry misses what is most concerning in all of this. One of the scholars I surveyed wrote: “The thing that seems bad about the monopoly to me is that people have only one shot at publishing their books with a prestigious publisher.  It would be like if there was only one prestigious journal.” Here’s how I would elaborate on that remark. It may be that OUP’s prestige monopoly has progressed to such a point that to publish a book with any other press is immediately a mark against it. It’s easy to imagine, for instance, that when the editors at The Philosophical Review or Analysis look at an OUP book, they immediately lean toward reviewing it, whereas for any other book they immediately lean away (pending further considerations)? What about hiring and tenure decisions? Will a book published anywhere other than OUP immediately look second-rate on a CV? Well, one might say, that’s just how reputational judgments get made all the time, in all sorts of ways. OK, but if OUP is the only high-prestige publisher, and if so much accordingly rides upon its publication decisions, then this is concerning. Even though they publish a lot every year, and even though the scholars I surveyed are enthusiastic about their editorial procedures, it’s problematic if a career can be made or unmade on the report of just a single reader for a press.

I myself don’t think the situation, as it stands, is quite so dire. In the fields I work in, there’s important work coming out from all sorts of presses, and I don’t feel any sense that one must either publish with OUP or perish. But I do wonder whether, in parts of philosophy closer to what’s perceived as the mainstream, the field could be coming close to this sort of alarming situation. Philosophy would benefit, at any rate, from a frank discussion of this issue.

(The Post Previously without a Title)

Deadlines are approaching for various SIEPM initiatives:

  • The application for one-to-one stipends is the end of this week (May 1, 2021). These are stipends for junior scholars to work directly with senior individual scholars.
  • Submissions for the annual SIEPM junior scholar award are due June 1, 2021.
  • You also have until June 1 to nominate your favorite senior scholar for an SIEPM Lifetime Achievement Award.

All this and more can be found at the SIEPM website.

Juhana Toivanen is advertising a three-year postdoc position at the University of Jyväskylä. The project concerns the social and political dimension of moral vices from medieval to early modern philosophy.

The SMRP is advertising its annual Founder’s Prize, aimed at younger scholars. The deadline for submissions is June 1, 2021. There doesn’t yet seem to be up-to-date information on the web, but I am told the deadline is June 1, 2021.

A conference next month in Stockholm, on the history of final causation, has succumbed to the inevitable and is going online. But that means anyone can listen! May 20-22, 2021, details here.

Olivier Boulnois (Paris) will be giving the Stanton lectures, virtually, at Cambridge University, throughout May 2021. His topic will be Paul and Philosophy.

The Journal of the History of Ideas is searching for a new co-executive editor to join the current editorial team. Applications should be received by June 1, 2021.

The 23rd European Symposium of Medieval Logic and Semantics has been postponed: it will now be meeting in June 2022, still in Warsaw.

The 43rd Kölner Mediaevistentagung will take place September 5-9, 2022. The topic will be consensus. Proposals, with a brief abstract, are due July 31, 2021.

Congratulations to Khaled El-Rouayheb (Harvard), whose won the 2020 best-article prize at the British Journal for the History of Philosophy, for a paper on “The Liar Paradox in Fifteenth-Century Shiraz.”

Although I don’t generally announce new publications individually, I cannot refrain from calling to your attention the beautiful new two-volume tribute to Irène Rosier-Catach, published this spring by Aracne. By my count, it contains chapters from 87 different scholars!

Oxford Studies in Medieval Philosophy

It’s nearly ten years since I began editing OSMP, and I’ve decided that volume 10, for which I’m currently accepting submissions, will be my last.

I am delighted to report, however, that the series will continue on in the sure hands of Peter King and Martin Pickavé. They’ll take charge this fall. Until then, the current system for submissions remains in place.

And, I might add, I still have plenty of room in my final volume for good papers!

More of What We’ve Come to Expect from 2020

Silvia di Donato (CNRS Paris) has organized, this Thursday, a daylong conference on La prophétie et la révélation dans les traditions philosophiques arabo-islamique et juive. It’s a mix of French and English papers, all online of course (December 10, 2020).

Antoine Côté (Ottawa) has organized a great series of online talks for this spring, starting with Scott MacDonald (Cornell) on January 15, 2021. Details here.

Next fall, the Sociedad de Filosofía Medieval will hold its 8th International Congress on the subject De cognitione (Porto, September 6-8, 2021). The cfp deadline is March 15, 2021.

Schabel and Duba have concluded their editorship at Vivarium with an issue that seems perfectly suited to 2020. When I unwrapped my hard copy yesterday, I swear that a little smoke came off the thing. It begins with a series of Retraction Notices and ends with an extended review by Mark Thakkar (St. Andrews) that forecasts “a gathering crisis in medieval studies.” I won’t be publishing reader comments here—this isn’t that sort of blog—but suffice it to say that volume 58:4 is a memorable read.

The Medieval Text Consortium

For a long time I’ve wanted to organize a better way to publish texts in the history of philosophy. A group of us have now come together to do just this. Here is the announcement:

The Medieval Text Consortium is an association of leading scholars formed to make works of medieval philosophy available to a wide audience. Our goal is to publish texts across all of Western thought between antiquity and modernity, both in their original languages and in English translation.

In collaboration with Open Book Publishers, we provide a rigorously peer-reviewed platform for the dissemination, in printed and electronic form, of the finest scholarly work in the field. Publications will be open-access in their electronic form and available in print at an affordable price.

For the time being, our focus is Latin texts. We are open to publishing works of various kinds, from critical editions to editiones minores intended to provide scholars with a provisional working text. We will not ordinarily consider publishing bare transcriptions of a text, but we are open to various possibilities regarding how much editorial work is appropriate in a given case.

We are likewise open to translation proposals of all kinds, including translations of a whole text, partial and abridged translations of a text, and collections of shorter texts on a single subject. The open-access electronic format, combined with affordable print prices, makes us an ideal place to publish material with classroom applications, but at the same time we are not constrained by commercial considerations.

Authors may choose to publish an edition alone, a translation alone, or the two together side by side, along with whatever level of accompanying commentary seems appropriate. We are open to a wide range of formatting possibilities, and the flexibility of the electronic format makes it possible to present the text in multiple different and innovative ways.

Among our goals is to facilitate publication in cases where a definitive critical edition, or a complete translation, is at present impractical. We hope that scholars, who might otherwise have watched a project languish for years, will be encouraged by this initiative to bring to press work that is of substantial scholarly value without having yet been brought to a definitive state of critical perfection. In keeping with that objective, authors who wish to make subsequent improvements to their work may do so either through the MTC or with another press.

Projects will be accepted for publication only after rigorous review by the editorial board. No subvention from authors is required, although contributions to the cost of publication are welcomed and will help sustain the project. Authors interested in exploring a relationship with us should begin by contacting the editor with an informal proposal.

 

Editorial Board

Robert Pasnau (University of Colorado)

Monica Brinzei (CNRS Paris)

Russell Friedman (KU Leuven)

Guy Guldentops (University of Cologne)

Peter King (University of Toronto)

John Marenbon (University of Cambridge)

Christopher Martin (University of Auckland)

Giorgio Pini (Fordham University)

Cecilia Trifogli (University of Oxford)

Rega Wood (Indiana University)

Medieval Books 2019

I am sorry to have to add to your confinement blues, but my annual list of books in medieval philosophy — below — comes with two pieces of bad news. First, this is not as comprehensive a list as in previous years. (For various reasons, I was unable to call on the research help that I have previously relied on.) Second, I have decided that this is the last such list I am going to generate. It turns out to be a tedious and unending process to hunt down new books published in the field. Having done it since 2012, I have decided to stop pushing this particular rock up this particular hill. (On to other rocks and other hills!)

If others are interested in taking over this public service, I would of course be delighted to share their work in this forum.

As ever, the list is randomly organized, and begins with some books from 2018 that were left off last year’s list.

* * *

Johannes Hiltalingen von Basel, Lectura super quattuor libros Sententiarum: Tomus III, super secundum librum, ed. Venício Marcolino, Monica Brînzei, Carolin Oser-Grote (Cassiciacum, 2018)

Irene O’Daly, John of Salisbury and the Medieval Roman Renaissance (Manchester University Press, 2018)

E. Göransson, G. Iversen, and B. Crostini, eds. The Arts of Editing Medieval Greek and Latin: A Casebook (Brepols, 2018)

Carlos Steel, Steven Vanden Broecke, David Juste & Shlomo Sela (eds.). The Astrological Autobiography of a Medieval Philosopher: Henry Bate’s Nativitas (1280-81) (Leuven, 2018).

Maria-Jesús Soto-Bruna (ed.), Causality and Resemblance: Medieval Approaches to the Explanation of Nature (Olms, 2018)

Alexander Key, Language between God and the Poets: Ma’na in the Eleventh Century (University of California Press, 2018)

Amador Vega, Peter Weibel, Siegfried Zielinski (eds), Dia-logos : Ramon Llull’s method of thought and artistic practice (University of Minnesota Press, 2018)

Peter Adamson and Matteo Di Giovanni (eds.), Interpreting Averroes:  Critical Essays (Cambridge UP)

Daniel Schwartz, The Political Morality of the Late Scholastics: Civic Life, War and Conscience (Cambridge UP)

Thomas Williams (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Ethics (Cambridge UP)

Charles H. Manekin and Daniel Davies (eds.), Interpreting Maimonides: Critical Essays (Cambridge UP)

Norman Russell, Gregory Palamas and the Making of Palamism in the Modern Age (OUP)

Robert Grosseteste, Compotus, edited by Alfred Lohr and C. Philipp E. Nothaft (OUP) [Latin edition with facing English translation]

Robert Grosseteste, The Scientific Works, volume 1, edited by Giles Gasper, Cecilia Panti, Tom McLeish, and Hannah Smithson (OUP). [Edits De artibus liberalibus and De generatione sonorum. First of 6 projected volumes, including edition, English translation, and commentaries.]

Cristiano Casalini (ed.), Jesuit Psychology on the Eve of Modernity (Brill)

Bruce Foltz (ed.), Medieval Philosophy: A Multicultural Reader (Bloomsbury)

Stephen Boulter, Why Medieval Philosophy Matters (Bloomsbury)

Simon J.G. Burton, Joshua Hollmann, and Eric M. Parker, Nicholas of Cusa and the Making of the Early Modern World (Brill)

Thomas M. Izbicki, Jason Aleksander and Donald Duclow (eds.), Nicholas of Cusa and times of transition: essays in honor of Gerald Christianson (Brill)

Giannozzo Manetti, On human worth and excellence, edited and translated by Brian P. Copenhaver (Harvard University Press)

Michel Scot, Liber particularis. Liber physonomie, Édition critique, introduction et notes par Oleg Voskoboynikov (SISMEL)

Dominic D’Ettore, Analogy after Aquinas : logical problems, Thomistic answers (Catholic University of America Press)

Nicholas Kahm, Aquinas on emotion’s participation in reason (Catholic University of America Press)

Fabio Acerbi and Gudrun Vuillemin Diem, La transmission du savoir grec en Occident: Guillaume de Moerbeke, le Laur. Plut. 87.25 (Thémistius, in De an.) et la bibliothèque de Boniface VIII (Leuven)

Adelardo de Bath, Cuestiones naturales, Spanish tr. José L. Cantón Alonso (EUNSA)

Andrew Lazella, The Singular Voice of Being:  John Duns Scotus and Ultimate Difference (Fordham UP)

Lydia Schumacher, Early Franciscan Theology: Between Authority and Innovation (Cambridge UP)

Gaven Kerr, Aquinas and the Metaphysics of Creation (OUP)

Sophia Vasalou, Virtues of Greatness in the Arabic Tradition (OUP)

Claude Panaccio, Récit et reconstruction : Les fondements de la méthode en histoire de la philosophie (Vrin)

Manuel Lázaro Pulido, Francisco León Florido, Francisco Javier Rubio Hípola (eds.), Pensar la Edad Media Cristiana: San Buenaventura de Bagnoregio (1217-1274) (Sindéresis)

Ruedi Imbach, Minima mediaevalia. Saggi di filosofia medievale (Aracne)

James A. Diamond and Menachem Kellner, Reinventing Maimonides in contemporary Jewish thought (Littman Library Of Jewish Civilization)

Rudolf Schüssler, The Debate on Probable Opinions in the Scholastic Tradition (Brill)

Robert Pasnau, Oxford Studies in Medieval Philosophy volume 7 (OUP)

Zahra Ayubi, Gendered morality : classical Islamic ethics of the self, family, and society (Columbia University Press)

Bonaventure, Itinéraire de l’esprit jusqu’en Dieu, tr. L. Solignac (Vrin)

Jean-Baptiste Brenet et Olga Lizzini (eds.), La philosophie arabe à l’étude. Sens, limites et défis d’une discipline moderne (Vrin)

Antonia LoLordo (ed.), Persons (Oxford Philosophical Concepts) (OUP) [articles by Scott Williams, Anthony Shaker, Christina Van Dyke]

Etienne Gilson, Studies in medieval philosophy, translated by James G. Colbert (Cascade Books)

Jacob W. Wood, To stir a restless heart : Thomas Aquinas and Henri de Lubac on nature, grace, and the desire for God (Catholic University of America Press)

Taylor Patrick O’Neill, Grace, predestination, and the permission of sin : a Thomistic analysis (Catholic University of America Press)

Petrus Ioannis Olivi, Questions sur la foi, tr. Nicolas Faucher (Vrin)

Alfarabi, Book of Dialectic (Kitāb al-Jadal): On the Starting Point of Islamic Philosophy, translated by David M. DiPasquale (Cambridge UP)

James Carey, Natural reason and natural law : an assessment of the Straussian criticisms of Thomas Aquinas (Resource Publications)

Brian Donaghey, Noel Harold Kaylor, Jr., Philip Edward Phillips, Paul E. Szarmach ; with assistance from Kenneth C. Hawley. Remaking Boethius: the English language translation tradition of The consolation of philosophy (Arizona Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies)

Epistles of the Brethern of Purity, On God and the world. An Arabic critical edition and English translation of Epistles 49-51, edited and translated by Wilferd Madelung, Cyril V. Uy, Carmela Baffioni, Nuha Alshaar ; foreword by Nader El-Bizri (OUP)

Joshua S. Nunziato, Augustine and the Economy of Sacrifice: Ancient and Modern Perspectives (Cambridge UP)

David C. Kraemer, A History of the Talmud (Cambridge UP)

Nicolas Faucher, La volonté de croire au Moyen Âge: les théories de la foi dans la pensée scolastique du XIIIème siècle (Brepols)

Christopher Cullen & Franklin Harkins (eds.), The discovery of being & Thomas Aquinas : philosophical and theological perspectives (Catholic University of America Press)

William of Ockham, Dialogus Part 3, Tract 2, edited by Semih Heinen and Karl Ubl (British Academy)

Tom Angier (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Natural Law Ethics (Cambridge UP)

Elena Băltuță, Medieval Perceptual Puzzles: Theories of Sense Perception in the 13th and 14th Centuries (Brill)

José Maria Silva Rosa & Álvaro Balsas (eds.), Teorias Políticas Medievais (Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia vol. 75.3)

Ibn Ṭumlūs, Compendium on Logic, Arabic text edited by Fouad Ben Ahmed (Brill)

Joël Biard and Aurélien Robert (eds.), La philosophie de Blaise de Parme: physique, psychologie, éthique (SISMEL)

Matthew Levering, Aquinas’s eschatological ethics and the virtue of temperance (University of Notre Dame Press)

John Peter Radez, Ibn Miskawayh, the soul, and the pursuit of happiness: the truly happy sage (Lexington Books)

Peter Adamson, Medieval PhilosophyA History of Philosophy without any Gaps, Volume 4 (Oxford UP)

Various Opportunities

Here are some random opportunities and happenings that I’ve been collecting for a while now:

  • Students who might be interested in pursuing a career teaching high school Latin in the United States should check out the Quintilian Society. (Thanks to Caleb Cohoe for the pointer.)
  • For some months now, Loome Booksellers in Stillwater, Minnesota has been running a Go Fund Me drive, in an effort to keep open the world’s greatest bookstore for medieval philosophy and theology. You can support it here.
  • There’s a new open access journal in the works, The European Journal for the Study of Thomas Aquinas. It is a joint initiative of  the Thomas Instituut Utrecht, the Faculty of Theology of Nicolaus Copernicus University of Toruń, and the Saint Thomas Aquinas Institute for Theology and Culture of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Fribourg. Issues will appear annually.
  • The Lumen Christi Institute has announced its slate of summer seminars, and as always there are things here for medievalists. There’s a seminar for undergraduates, led by Russell Hittinger, in Oakland, on Augustine on Self, God, and Society, and a seminar in Chicago, for PhD students, on Metaphysics and the Soul in Thomas Aquinas, led by Stephen Brock. Bear in mind that these programs offer generous funding. Details here.
  • UC Louvain is advertising a one-year postdoc, tied to their project studying commentaries on Avicenna’s Qaṣīdat al-nafs. Candidates must have strong Arabic and the ability to work with manuscripts. I have not found information on the web, but queries can be sent to cile Bonmariage.
  • The SIEPM has just announced an interesting initiative: “a stipend to support junior individual researchers (up to and including the postdoc level) to visit and work with senior individual researchers. Each year, two Stipends are available. The amount for each Stipend is € 1.500.” See further details here. Note that both scholars, junior and senior, must be members of SIEPM. Note as well that, if you’re a junior SIEPM member, and looking for a senior scholar to visit, I’m always glad to have visitors in Boulder! (Having said that, I guess I’d better pay up my membership.)

News of All Sorts

Here’s a bunch of news items I’ve been collecting for some time now, which means that some of these entries are rather old news:

  • As of this fall, Catarina Dutilh Novaes has left Groningen to take up a position at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam.
  • This past summer, Francis Feingold won the SMRP Founder’s Award (best paper by a younger scholar) for “Aquinas’s Discussion of Aristotle’s Claim That Knowing Does Not Alter the Knower.” Honorable mention went to Fedor Benevich, Joseph Stenberg, and Nicolas Faucher.
  • Also over the summer, the Vatican announced the opening of the digital Vatican Library, with 15,000 some manuscripts currently available (out of a total collection, in case you were wondering, of 80,000 codices).
  • Scott Williams has compiled an online bibliography for Henry of Ghent. It runs to 156 pages. (Actually, although the bibliography is what Scott asked me to advertise, it’s just one among many very useful things pertaining to Henry of Ghent that are assembled on this web page.)
  • Scott also said: just like Tobias Hoffmann’s online bibliography for John Duns Scotus. So check that out too. It runs to 396 pages.
  • While I’m on the subject of bibliographies, Thérèse Bonin continues to keep her Aquinas in English bibliography up to date, though it now has a new URL.
  • Someone else who’s been doing amazing work online is Jeffrey Witt (Loyola Univ. Maryland). A good place to start is with his Scholastic Commentaries and Texts Archive. But that’s really just the start. He’s working toward a comprehensive initiative that would enable cooperative open access publishing ventures aimed at scholastic texts.
  • For a very different sort of online presence, check out — if you haven’t already — Martin Lenz’s blog. He’s been steadily posting, for the last five months, on all sorts of topics, but especially on the history of philosophy.
  • I mentioned this a few years ago, but since it continues to grow, let me mention again that Dag Hasse and colleagues continue to build an online Arabic and Latin Glossary, aimed to offer a comprehensive guide to the vocabulary used in medieval Latin translations of Arabic texts (philosophical, medical, scientific).
  • Finally, in honor of Thanksgiving in this part of the world, our friends at the Franciscan Institute are offering 40% off all of their publications this weekend: Nov. 23 – Nov. 26. Use the code THANKS18. It’s a great opportunity to acquire some essential volumes in any medieval philosophical library.

The Medieval Survey Class pt. II: Textbooks

An obvious question about running a medieval survey class is whether or not to use a textbook. Of the 29 syllabi that we received, a bit more than half used some sort of published collection of readings. (I suspect the percentage would be higher if I could obtain a random collection of medieval syllabi from across all universities. Since here I’m talking mostly to experts in the field, it seems to me likely that my sample includes more folk with the expertise and enthusiasm to assemble their own set of readings.)

So what are people using? Here are the numbers:

  • Philosophy in the Middle Ages: The Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Traditions (3rd ed.) (Hyman, Walsh, and Williams): 10
  • Medieval Philosophy: Essential Readings with Commentary (Klima et al.): 3
  • Five Texts on the Mediaeval Problem of Universals (Spade):
  • Classical Arabic Philosophy (McGinnis and Reisman): 1
  • Basic Issues in Medieval Philosophy (2nd ed.) (Bosley and Tweedale): 1
  • Readings in Medieval Philosophy (Schoedinger): 1
  • The Longman Standard History of Medieval Philosophy (Kolak and Thomson): 1
  • Medieval Philosophy: An Introduction (Maurer): 1

(I should, at this point, thank Mark Boespflug for compiling these numbers. Mark is, in case you were wondering, writing a beautiful dissertation here in Boulder on the history of doxastic voluntarism.)

Obviously, the venerable Hyman and Walsh volume, from Hackett, has a dominant market share. That might be surprising if you’re thinking of the first or second edition, which always struck me as a rather dense and difficult set of texts. But if you look at the 3rd edition, you’ll find that Thomas Williams has done an amazing job of improving on the volume, adding material (often newly translated) that is both accessible and important. Williams is building, moreover, on the very solid foundation of non-Latin material that was the most striking feature of the original Hyman and Walsh volume. Twenty-five years ago, that heavy non-Latin influence struck me as idiosyncratic and mostly unhelpful. But I think it’s pretty obvious today that they were simply ahead of their time. (More on that theme in a later post.)

The only other general anthology to attract significant marketshare is the 2007 Blackwell volume edited by Gyula Klima, Fritz Allhoff, and Anand Jayprakash Vaidya. Again it’s not hard to see why this is a reasonable choice, if you look at the table of contents. As you would expect given the editors, this is a thoughtful attempt to pull together a wide range of important and accessible material. The most striking difference from the Hackett volume is that Islamic material has only a token presence here, and Jewish material no presence at all. Both the Blackwell and the Hackett volume, I might add, are priced very reasonably at around $50 in paperback.

Skipping over the two specialized anthologies on the list, we come to three less popular textbooks. Neither Kolak nor Thomson is an expert in the field, and their choice of readings is fairly amateurish. But when it comes to both the Bosley-Tweedale (Broadview) and the Schoedinger (OUP) volumes, the situation is quite different. These are both extremely erudite and creative collections of material, compiled by scholars with serious knowledge of the field. (I am sorry to see that Prof. Schoedinger has died in the 22 years since that volume was published.) If neither volume has managed to gain much traction in the field, this is perhaps because they are more admirable from a scholarly point of view than from a pedagogical point of view. So, for instance, though we may applaud Schoedinger’s inclusion of William of Sherwood in his anthology, how many of us would actually teach that material? And I cannot believe that anyone can successfully lead a group of undergraduates through the unrelentingly difficult readings on distinctions and universals that lie at the heart of the Bosley-Tweedale volume.

Returning to the theme of my previous post, it is not at all easy to come up with an anthology of medieval readings. (In contrast, an anthology in ancient or early modern is the easiest thing in the world.) It is not clear what topics deserve pride of place, and it is hard to find a path through this material that is genuinely accessible to students.

That brings me, finally, to the last item on the list, Maurer’s Introduction to medieval philosophy, first published back in 1962. This is of course not an anthology but a single-author narrative of the period. I mention it, though, because it is striking how few such attempts at synthesis there are, especially in recent years. John Marenbon attempted this, in two Routledge volumes, back in the 1980s, and a couple of years ago tried again in a “Very Short Introduction” for OUP. Anthony Kenny’s New History of Western Philosophy, also with OUP, contains an entire volume on the medieval period. Joseph Koterski has published an impressive Introduction to Medieval Philosophy (Blackwell). No doubt there are other things I don’t know or am not thinking of. But I think it’s safe to say there are far fewer attempts at this sort of thing than there are edited, multi-author anthologies/guides/companions to the field. Perhaps most of us don’t feel as if we can produce a coherent narrative.

Next time, detailed data on which texts we are actually assigning to our students.