Centre for Continuing Education

Philosophy Course: The Late Middle Ages and Renaissance

Philosophy. Study the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence.

COVID-19 update: arrangement of our courses

We are now delivering courses online and in-person. Please check the delivery format of each class before enrolling.

Please note that course materials (excluding prescribed texts) are shared electronically within 48 hours of course commencement. Printing is not available.


In this course, we will consider the literature of Dante and the role of sex and sin in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (1387–1400). Together, we will enter into the strange world of the medieval mind, walking with angels and beasts.

We will also consider the contribution of Islamic and Jewish philosophy; much of the science done in the Middle Ages comes from non-Christian thinkers. In the area of political philosophy, we will consider a range of thinkers from Aquinas to Machiavelli. Finally, we will explore the rise of universities from the 12th century, and Renaissance Humanism in the 14th and 15th centuries.

We will discuss major philosophers including Anselm, Bonaventure, Duns Scotus and Ockham.

Aims

The aim of this course is to enter into the strange world of the medieval mind, walking with angels and beasts.

Outcomes

By the end of the course, you should be able to:

  • identify the main aspects of philosophical ideas in the Medieval period
  • situate the philosophical ideas in their historical contexts
  • discuss some of the issues raised by the Scholastic and Humanist philosophers.

Content

Introduction to Medieval history, ideas and philosophy

This week’s class introduce some of the key thinkers in the course and historically situates their development. The contribution of Boethius is discussed.

Walking with angels and beasts: Narratives of time and space

We will attempt to understand the unfamiliar world of the medieval mind and experience through art and literature. Dante’s literature is considered, and Augustine’s theory of time.

How Greek were the Medieval philosophers?

The rediscovery of Aristotle is a key aspect of medieval philosophy. Conversely, the Medieval philosophers share very little with Greek ways of thinking about the cosmic order, politics or the human condition.

Islamic and Jewish philosophy in the Middle Ages

Both traditions produce major thinkers in their own right. We will look at the way in which these two traditions intersect with Christian philosophy. Much of the science done in the Middle Ages comes from non-Christian thinkers.

Philosophical Chaucer: Love, sex and agency

Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales are a fascinating (and fun) way to understand the more secular aspects of Medieval life. Chaucer both mirrors but also critiques his world.

Political Philosophy: Aquinas to Machiavelli

Feudalism and the ‘divine right of kings’ are underwritten by a Christianised version of Aristotle’s theory of the ‘natural order’: we will consider a range of views on power and political authority.

Rise of the universities and the 12th century revival

We will discuss philosophers including Anselm, Bonaventure, Duns Scotus, Ockham, and Aquinas.

The role of science in the early Renaissance

How is science reanimated and how does it relate to theology in the 13th and 14th centuries?

Renaissance Humanism in the 14th and 15th centuries

What do they have to be so optimistic about?

Renaissance Philosophy

We will consider a range of thinkers on ethics, metaphysics, ontology and language.

Intended audience

Anyone with a general interest in philosophy and the course themes.

Delivery style

Lecture/seminar

Materials

Course notes are provided electronically.

Features

  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

Philosophy Course: The Late Middle Ages and Renaissance

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