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Ancient and Medieval Philosophy January 31, 2008

Posted by Will Thomas in History 174.

Cross-posted from my class blog for History 174 at UMD:

We went pretty quickly through lecture today. It’s sort of a bind–because in order to understand the context of science, as it starts to happen in the 1500s and 1600s, you really have to set up this philosophical background. Philosophy/Theology was the most important knowledge in that time period, and for people who studied natural philosophy using new methods (such as quantitative measurement, which, you’ll recall, was only an accidental quality in the main tradition), the primacy of these Platonic and Aristotelian philosophical traditions was something they 1) could draw inspiration from, but 2) had to contend with as something that was always going to overshadow whatever claims they made.

So, we cover it quickly as necessary background, which means your responsibility is to pick out the most basic issues, and to make sure you use section to come to a proper understanding of them. Why are things we consider important, like quantitative measurement, considered merely accidental? But, also understand why it made sense not to worry about them–because, in a world where things were thought to tend to happen, but did not necessarily have to happen, being precise wasn’t such a big deal, because the formal qualities of something were what explained their tendencies. It’s certainly confusing, so make good use of section.

Check out the online lecture notes from a full course on Ancient philosophy at the University of Washington: http://faculty.washington.edu/smcohen/320/320Lecture.html

I used these notes to help me prepare my lecture–they’re pretty detailed, and might help you make sense of the concepts. On the Medieval period, I can recommend for basic explanation as well as extracts from Christian, Islamic and Jewish traditions, Philosophy in the Middle Ages, by Arthur Hyman and James J. Walsh, which was the textbook used in a course I took on this topic (don’t ask me why) my freshman year as an undergrad. I relied on it heavily to make sure I wasn’t saying anything patently false about this profoundly esoteric topic.

Hope you’re having fun. It won’t all be this intense!




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