History of Medieval Philosophy(p) (2016/2017)

Course code
Name of lecturer
Carlo Chiurco
Carlo Chiurco
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
Sem. IIB dal Apr 24, 2017 al Jun 10, 2017.

Lesson timetable

Learning outcomes

The course of History of medieval philosophy aims to equip students with an in-depth knowledge of some of the most important topics of the philosophical reflection of the Middle Ages. In doing so, the course will privilege a dialogical stance towards the main philosophical issues of our time.
By the end of the course, students are expected to possess (a) a sufficient knowledge of all the subjects addressed during the lessons, (b) a sufficient capacity to critically read the texts, and finally, (c) sufficient communication skills that will enable them to critically master and express the concepts acquired and/or elaborated during the course, by means of using a correct and sophisticated philosophical language.


Desire, happiness, and good in medieval philosophy
The course will provide an in-depth analysis of these three key ethical notions, how they are inextricably intertwined, and how they are differently dealt with according to three great medieval authors: Augustine, Aquinas, and Boethius. Furthermore, the notion of desire will be also studied from a prospectival point of view, in a dialogue between medieval philosophers and contemporary authors, notably Lacan. Is desire actually bound to the fundamental category of relation? The answer to this question proves decisive in order to assess whether ethics are actually possible or not.

Classes will provide students with an in-depth analysis of the course topics. Manuals will not be used, therefore students are expected to already possess the basic competences in medieval philosophy provided by the second module of the course of History of philosophy 1. In order to analyze the course topics, the reading and the punctual commentary of medieval texts will prove essential. Texts can be read also in the original language, in which they were written. The course will also use the e-learning website of the university, where the audio files of the lessons and all the texts that are not part of the course bibliography will be uploaded. The audio files of the lessons are an essential and compulsory part of the course bibliography. Students are warmly encouraged to write a paper, which it will be read and discussed in the classroom.
Meeting hours for students are scheduled during the whole academic year: days and hours may be found at the personal webpage of the teacher, and are constantly updated. Fixing a personal appointment is not compulsory. Dates and hours of the single lessons as well as their topics are provided before the beginning of the course; any variation will be promptly communicated in the News section of the teacher’s personal webpage.
Students who will not attend classes can choose a more personal approach to the course (to be jointly decided with the teacher), if they wish so, and study one of more additional text(s) beside those listed in the course bibliography.
The subjects and the contents of the books listed in the general bibliography, as well as the lessons and tests possibly performed during the course, are coherent with the program. Further material may be uploaded on the e-learning website of the university.

Presumptive calendar of course lessons
9/5 – Introduction to the course subjects
10/5 – Augustine: the many forms of desire
11/5 – Shipwreck in front of an audience – The law of desire
15/5 – Enjoyment as the (homicidal) closure of the essential scission of desire: “The Silence of the Lambs”, by Jonathan Demme
17/5 – Lacan: enjoyment and law, 1
18/5 – Lacan: enjoyment and law, 2 – The transcendental nature of desire in the history of metaphysics: Plato
23/5 – The transcendental nature of desire in Plato’s Banquet
24/5 – From Plato’s Banquet to Augustine’s notion of homo capax Dei
25/5 – The transcendental nature of desire in Augustine: the meaning of the notion of God as the summum bonum
30/5 – Happiness in Augustine: the De beata vita
31/5 – Fallacies of happiness in Augustine
5/6 – The ethics of virtue in Aristotle and Aquinas – Aquinas: Good and being, good and God
6/6 – Aquinas: acting and its goal – What does happiness consist of?
7/6 – Boethius: happiness, desire, and self-discovering, 1
8/6 – Boethius: happiness, desire, and self-discovering, 2

Reference books
Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
Agostino La Città di Dio Rusconi 1998
Boezio La consolazione di Filosofia Einaudi 2010
Agostino La felicità. La libertà (Edizione 2) Rizzoli 1997
Jacques Lacan Scritti Einaudi 1974
Tommaso Summa Theologiae Edizioni Studio Domenicano 1985

Assessment methods and criteria

In order to pass the exam, students will need to show that:
- they possess a thorough knowledge of the authors and the subjects studied during the course;
- they are capable to read and comment a medieval philosophical text by operating autonomously and using an appropriate and precise philosophical language.
The competence of all students, either those who attended the course or those who didn’t, will be ascertained by means of an oral examination about the authors, the texts and the subjects discussed during the classes. The final score will be expressed in /30s.