Early Medieval Philosophy

The first group of episodes on medieval philosophy in Latin Christendom looks at authors and texts from the beginning of the medieval period, with Alcuin, Eriugena and other Carolingian thinkers, down to 12th century figures like Abelard, Alan of Lille, John of Salisbury and Hildegard of Bingen. Despite the reputation of the early medieval era as a "dark age" these thinkers put forth brilliant ideas concerning logic, language, metaphysics, ethics, and political philosophy. Look out for interviews with Andrew Arlig, Kent Emery, Stephen Gersh, Caroline Humfress, Jill Kraye, John Marenbon, and Eileen Sweeney.

Further Reading

In addition to the general bibliography on medieval philosophy provided here see for the early period:

• A.H. Armstrong (ed.) The Cambridge History of Later Greek and Early Medieval Philosophy (Cambridge: 1967).

• P. Dronke (ed.) A History of Twelfth-Century Western Philosophy (Cambridge: 1988).

• S.C. Ferruolo, The Origins of the University: the Schools of Paris and their Critics, 1100-1215 (Stanford: 1985).

• C. Giraud, A Companion to Twelfth-Century Schools (Leiden: 2020).

• D.E. Luscombe, The School of Peter Abelard (Cambridge: 1970).

• J. Marenbon, Early Medieval Philosophy (480-1150): an Introduction (London: 1988).

• R.McKitterick, Carolingian Culture: Emulation and Innovation (Cambridge: 1994).

• R.W. Southern, Scholastic Humanism and the Unification of Europe, volume 1: Foundations and volume 2: the Heroic Age (Oxford: 1995 and 2001).

196. Arts of Darkness: Introduction to Medieval Philosophy

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Peter launches the series of podcasts on philosophy in medieval Latin Christendom with a look ahead at what’s to come.

197. Charles in Charge: The Carolingian Renaissance

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Alcuin leads a resurgence of interest in philosophy and the liberal arts at the court of Charlemagne.

198. Grace Notes: Eriugena and the Predestination Controversy

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John Scotus Eriugena debates free will with his rival Gottschalk, arguing that God predestines the saved but not the damned.

199. Much Ado About Nothing: Eriugena's Periphyseon

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Eriugena delves into the Greek tradition to produce his masterpiece of metaphysics and theology, the Periphyseon.

200. Jill Kraye and John Marenbon on Medieval Philosophy

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We celebrate reaching episode 200 with a special double interview on the problem of defining medieval philosophy.

201. Stephen Gersh on Medieval Platonism

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Stephen Gersh (who was Peter's doctoral advisor!) joins him to discuss the sources and influence of Platonism in the Middle Ages.

202. Philosophers Anonymous: the Roots of Scholasticism

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Little-known authors prepare the way for scholasticism with glosses on logic, metaphysical debate, and a poem about a cat.

203. Virgin Territory: Peter Damian on Changing the Past

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Peter Damian takes up a question with surprising philosophical implications: can God restore virginity to a woman who has lost it?

204. A Canterbury Tale: Anselm's Life and Works

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Anselm offers more than his famous ontological argument, including a subtle account of human freedom.

205. Somebody's Perfect: Anselm's Ontological Argument

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The most famous argument in medieval philosophy is Anselm’s proof for the existence of God. But how was it supposed to work?

206. Eileen Sweeney on Anselm

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Anselm expert Eileen Sweeney discusses his approach to philosophy and the devotional aspect of his works.

207. All or Nothing: The Problem of Universals

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Peter Abelard and other logicians of the 12th century argue over the status of universals: are they words or things?

208. Get Thee to a Nunnery: Heloise and Abelard

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Peter Abelard and Heloise prove themselves to be fascinating thinkers as well as star-crossed lovers.

209. It’s the Thought that Counts: Abelard’s Ethics

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Peter Abelard sets out an innovative ethical theory that identifies intentions as the core of moral life.

210. John Marenbon on Peter Abelard

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John Marenbon returns to the podcast to discuss Abelard's views on necessity and freedom.

211. Learn Everything: the Victorines

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Hugh of Saint Victor and other scholars of the same abbey combine secular learning with spirituality.

212. Like Father, Like Son: Debating the Trinity

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Discussion, debate and denunciation of philosophical attempts to explain the Trinity in Abelard, Richard of St Victor and Bernard of Clairvaux.

213. On the Shoulders of Giants: Philosophy at Chartres

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The controversial role of Chartres in the philosophical Renaissance of the twelfth century.

214. The Good Book: Philosophy of Nature

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As early medieval science blossoms, Bernard Silvestris and Alan of Lille personify Nature in their philosophical prose-poems.

215. Medieval History Podcasters

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In this special episode, Peter chats with the hosts of the History of the Crusades, History of Byzantium, and British History podcasts.

216. One of a Kind: Gilbert of Poitiers on Individuation

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Gilbert of Poitiers proposes a unique way to explain how each individual is the individual it is.

217. Andrew Arlig on Parts and Wholes

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Andrew Arlig joins Peter to discuss medieval discussions of mereology (the study of parts and wholes).

218. Two Swords: Early Medieval Political Philosophy

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The “Investiture Contest” between church and state and the first major work of medieval political philosophy, John of Salisbury’s Policraticus.

219. Law and Order: Gratian and Peter Lombard

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Gratian and Peter Lombard help bring scholasticism to maturity by systematizing law and theology.

220. Caroline Humfress on the Roots of Medieval Law

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A discussion about Roman law and its reception in the medieval period, with ancient law expert Caroline Humfress.

221. Leading Light: Hildegard of Bingen

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The life, visions, political intrigues and scientific interests of Hildegard of Bingen.

222. Rediscovery Channel: Translations into Latin

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Greek and Arabic sources are rendered into Latin in a translation movement that will revolutionize medieval philosophy.

223. Straw Men: The Rise of the Universities

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The emergence of universities in Paris, Oxford, Bologna and elsewhere provide the main setting for medieval philosophy in the 13th century and beyond.

224. Kent Emery on Institutions of Learning

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Kent Emery joins Peter to discuss the effects of monastic and university culture on medieval philosophy.