Medieval Philosophy and Religious Thought

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 January 2024) | Viewed by 11052

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Philosophy Department, University of St. Thomas, Houston, TX 77006, USA
Interests: philosophy of religion and ethics

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Medieval philosophy is a vital engine of religious thought that combines the revelation received through sacred texts with the conceptuality of ancient philosophy. Fundamental questions raised by the medievals are relevant to philosophers and theologians: the existence and attributes of God, the divine providence, the problem of evil, the world's creation, the nature and end of the human person, the divine foundation of moral life, among others.

The last decades saw a growth in the scholarship on medieval philosophy, creating vibrant contemporary debates on religious thought, particularly in the Abrahamic traditions. This Special Issue invites papers that contribute to these debates by exploring medieval philosophy through the lens of the contemporary analysis of religious questions. We welcome papers that pertain to any religion and belong to any branch of philosophy and religious thought: metaphysics and systematic theology, anthropology, moral and political philosophy and theology, philosophy of nature, philosophy of religion, and aesthetics.

Prof. Dr. Mirela Oliva
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • medieval philosophy
  • medieval religious thought

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Research

22 pages, 394 KiB  
Article
Durand of Saint-Pourçain’s Refutation of Concurrentism
by Jean-Luc Solère
Religions 2024, 15(5), 558; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15050558 - 29 Apr 2024
Viewed by 463
Abstract
The Dominican theologian Durand of Saint-Pourçain (ca. 1275–1334), breaking from the wide consensus, made a two-pronged attack on concurrentism (i.e., the theory according to which God does more than conserving creatures in existence and co-causes all their actions). On the one hand, he [...] Read more.
The Dominican theologian Durand of Saint-Pourçain (ca. 1275–1334), breaking from the wide consensus, made a two-pronged attack on concurrentism (i.e., the theory according to which God does more than conserving creatures in existence and co-causes all their actions). On the one hand, he shows that the concurrentist position leads to the unacceptable consequence that God is the direct cause of man’s evil actions. On the other hand, he attacks the metaphysical foundations of concurrentism, first in the version offered by Thomas Aquinas and Giles of Rome, and then in a more general way. Against Thomas and Giles, he challenges Neoplatonic assumptions about causality and being. More generally, he establishes that God’s action and a creature’s action can be neither identical nor different, and thus cannot both be direct causes of the same effect. Without claiming that Durand’s series of objections are definitely unanswerable, we may at least observe that they have generally been underestimated (which earned him the lowly role of the mere foil of the concurrentist view in the history of philosophy) and are able to do considerable damage to concurrentism. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medieval Philosophy and Religious Thought)
37 pages, 511 KiB  
Article
Why Can’t Angels See Our Future? Aquinas’s View of the Relation between Continuous and Discrete Time
by Francis Feingold
Religions 2024, 15(4), 441; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15040441 - 31 Mar 2024
Viewed by 701
Abstract
Aquinas’s account of angelic cognition presents an intriguing puzzle. Aquinas denies, for both theological and philosophical reasons, that angelic natural knowledge extends to future contingents. Yet Aquinas also insists, strictly for philosophical reasons, that angelic life is measured by a “discrete time” radically [...] Read more.
Aquinas’s account of angelic cognition presents an intriguing puzzle. Aquinas denies, for both theological and philosophical reasons, that angelic natural knowledge extends to future contingents. Yet Aquinas also insists, strictly for philosophical reasons, that angelic life is measured by a “discrete time” radically distinct from our physical universe’s continuous time. How can two times share the same “now,” such that what is future for us would also be future for the angels? Aquinas does little to address this problem, but I propose two possible solutions. Both solutions argue that angelic instants, like the instants of aeviternity and eternity, can be simultaneous with physical time periods, but only if the corresponding act aims at physical things. This means the angel cannot “skip” physical time, and so determinately aligns angelic instants with physical times. The solutions diverge over whether the extensionless angelic instant is simultaneous with the physical time period all at once, like God’s eternity, or successively, thanks to a temporally extended simultaneity-relation. The first solution prevents angelic natural foreknowledge of what follows an angelic intervention, since intervention requires a new angelic instant. The second solution prevents angelic natural foreknowledge tout court by tying “all-at-once” simultaneity to causal knowledge, which is God’s unique privilege. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medieval Philosophy and Religious Thought)
16 pages, 266 KiB  
Article
Does God Intervene in Our Lives? Special Divine Action in Aquinas
by Mirela Oliva
Religions 2024, 15(4), 417; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15040417 - 28 Mar 2024
Viewed by 614
Abstract
Does God intervene in our lives? In this paper, I respond “yes” and work out a Thomistic account of special divine action in human life. I argue that God intensifies His action in moments that are particularly significant for our salvation. In such [...] Read more.
Does God intervene in our lives? In this paper, I respond “yes” and work out a Thomistic account of special divine action in human life. I argue that God intensifies His action in moments that are particularly significant for our salvation. In such moments, God intervenes in a contingent mode and reorients our lives for the sake of our final good. First, I present Aquinas’ terminological choice of specialis and intervenire and address concerns expressed in the contemporary divine action debate against the term “intervention”. Second, I discuss the special divine action as a subtype of the special providence that rules over human beings. The special providence mirrors the special place of humans in the created order on account of their reason and freedom. Third, I show that divine interventions occur through irregular contingency. I refer to several interventions: test, habitual grace, God’s moving of the will, God’s enlightenment of the intellect, and punishment. Since it occurs contingently, the special divine action can be known through interpreting signs (a kind of conjectural knowledge). Fourth, I show that not all contingencies are divine interventions. To differentiate between them, I introduce an orientational criterion of interpretation: the transfiguration of a person’s life toward her final good. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medieval Philosophy and Religious Thought)
19 pages, 294 KiB  
Article
Articuli Temporis: St. Augustine and Phenomenology on the Temporal Syntax of God’s Self-Disclosure
by Scott Roniger
Religions 2024, 15(4), 384; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15040384 - 22 Mar 2024
Viewed by 644
Abstract
In this essay, I articulate an Augustinian “philosophy of history” by highlighting some important texts sprinkled throughout St. Augustine’s writings, especially his City of God. I concentrate on Augustine’s claim that there are “joints of time” that structure God’s self-disclosure to us [...] Read more.
In this essay, I articulate an Augustinian “philosophy of history” by highlighting some important texts sprinkled throughout St. Augustine’s writings, especially his City of God. I concentrate on Augustine’s claim that there are “joints of time” that structure God’s self-disclosure to us through sacred history, and I develop these Augustinian insights with the help of Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology. While Augustine enables us to see that God’s revelation is achieved in a sacred history that illuminates the deepest structure and order of the temporal flow of human events, Husserl’s phenomenology can be used to show that the structure and order of sacred history is fitting for our natural human mode of encountering being through successive stages of presence and absence. Husserl’s descriptions of the ways in which the identical thing is given to us in grades of fulfillment sheds light on the mystery of God’s revelation by highlighting the temporal dimension of our grasping of the being of things. Throughout the essay, I make use of Robert Sokolowski’s writings in the areas of Husserlian phenomenology and the theology of disclosure. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medieval Philosophy and Religious Thought)
15 pages, 259 KiB  
Article
Thomas Aquinas and the Qualification of Monastic Labor
by Jeffrey Hanson
Religions 2024, 15(3), 366; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15030366 - 19 Mar 2024
Viewed by 699
Abstract
Early monastic communities in Egypt were veritable laboratories for the practice of Christian virtue; perhaps surprisingly, they were also large-scale coordinated communities of labor. That manual labor should have been part of anchoritic life is not obvious; given that hermits were leaving the [...] Read more.
Early monastic communities in Egypt were veritable laboratories for the practice of Christian virtue; perhaps surprisingly, they were also large-scale coordinated communities of labor. That manual labor should have been part of anchoritic life is not obvious; given that hermits were leaving the cities and the usual occupations of life in the world, there might be a question as to why they would seemingly return to such occupations having sought the purity of living alone in the desert. Combining Platonic thought with radical Christianity, the monks found a way to make the maximally spiritual life also a worker’s life. The architects of this form of life saw manual labor as a means for achieving self-sustenance, an effective weapon against temptation, a resource for the support of the needy, and a vital component in the monks’ ascetic program. The argument of this paper is that this powerful cultural consensus on the centrality of work to monastic life endured for almost a thousand years before it came to be qualified, by Thomas Aquinas among others. When Thomas Aquinas writes on the purposes of manual labor he is entirely traditional. However, Aquinas ends up diminishing the extent to which the pursuit of the traditional goods gained by the practice of manual labor is obligatory for monastics. Aquinas’s discussion of manual labor as an element of monastic life is a definite departure from the tradition. In the typically polite fashion of a scholastic theologian, Aquinas shifts away from Augustine and re-interprets St. Paul in unprecedented fashion. His argument is influenced by his own commitment to a new form of monastic life, which was changing not just theologically but as a result of the evolving backdrop of the social and economic realities with which religious life necessarily interacted. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medieval Philosophy and Religious Thought)
12 pages, 205 KiB  
Article
Creation and Grace: Understanding the Pre-Modern Frame of Aquinas’ Approach to Sanctification
by Reginald Lynch, OP
Religions 2024, 15(1), 2; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15010002 - 19 Dec 2023
Viewed by 916
Abstract
This article proposes a Thomistic account of graced human nature that emphasizes the importance of underlying developments in Aquinas’ doctrine of creation that inform his approach to the doctrine of grace. While post-Cartesian accounts of the human person often reduce the complex causal [...] Read more.
This article proposes a Thomistic account of graced human nature that emphasizes the importance of underlying developments in Aquinas’ doctrine of creation that inform his approach to the doctrine of grace. While post-Cartesian accounts of the human person often reduce the complex causal structure that marks the relationship between God and the human person in Aquinas’ pre-modern theological anthropology, this article recovers a more comprehensive account of Aquinas’ account of human sanctification and divine causality. Where modern and postmodern anthropologies are often marked by scientific determinism or subjectivism, Aquinas’s anthropology of grace refuses the modern dichotomization of immanence and transcendence, proposing instead an understanding of grace as the divinization of the human person as image of God that is marked not only by the supernatural finality of beatitude, but the intrinsic and personal immanence of divine indwelling. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medieval Philosophy and Religious Thought)
18 pages, 556 KiB  
Article
Everything, Everywhere, All at Once: Maimonides on the Afterlife—Updated
by Samuel Lebens
Religions 2023, 14(12), 1538; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14121538 - 14 Dec 2023
Viewed by 1012
Abstract
This paper examines the view of the afterlife that emerges upon a straightforward and literal reading of the works of Maimonides that pre-date his Guide to the Perplexed. This view, whether or not it truly reflects the underlying intentions of Maimonides, has a [...] Read more.
This paper examines the view of the afterlife that emerges upon a straightforward and literal reading of the works of Maimonides that pre-date his Guide to the Perplexed. This view, whether or not it truly reflects the underlying intentions of Maimonides, has a central place in Jewish philosophy to this day. The view has to face a number of well-known objections. I argue that once the background metaphysics and epistemology has been appropriately updated to reflect some of what we have come to know over the intervening centuries, an intriguing eschatology emerges. The result is a conception of the afterlife that is Maimonidean in spirit and which can face down the objections that plagued its intellectual predecessor. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medieval Philosophy and Religious Thought)
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17 pages, 675 KiB  
Article
Is God a Substance? Avicenna on Essence, Being, and the Categories
by Nathaniel B. Taylor
Religions 2023, 14(12), 1469; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14121469 - 27 Nov 2023
Viewed by 1033
Abstract
Avicenna scholars unanimously agree that Avicenna takes the position that God is not classifiable according to the Aristotelian scheme of the ten categories. However, Avicenna scholars are in little agreement about precisely why God evades categorial classification. Scholars report numerous and, at times, [...] Read more.
Avicenna scholars unanimously agree that Avicenna takes the position that God is not classifiable according to the Aristotelian scheme of the ten categories. However, Avicenna scholars are in little agreement about precisely why God evades categorial classification. Scholars report numerous and, at times, mutually inconsistent arguments purportedly made by Avicenna. In this study, I argue that Avicenna has only one argument as to why God is not in the category of substance—the Essence-Being Distinction Argument—and that he makes this argument consistently throughout his major philosophical encyclopediae. Having clarified this argument, two consequences follow. First, we can study this argument to learn not only about God in Avicenna’s philosophical theology but also about the nature and structure of the categories in Avicenna’s metaphysics. I argue that Avicenna’s Essence-Being Distinction Argument reveals a route by which one may arrive at a real distinction between essence and being from a philosophical, rather than a theological premise. Second, Avicenna’s Essence-Being Distinction Argument, along with the prevalence and consistency thereof, suggests that God has an essence for Avicenna and that texts, wherein Avicenna denies that God has an essence, are exceptional and should not govern our broader interpretation of Avicenna’s philosophical theology. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medieval Philosophy and Religious Thought)
15 pages, 927 KiB  
Article
Abolishing Anger: A Christian Proposal
by Brendan Case
Religions 2023, 14(11), 1427; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14111427 - 15 Nov 2023
Viewed by 1287
Abstract
In recent years, advocates of (so-called) righteous anger have become increasingly vocal and articulate, as is evident from a growing literature defending anger as a moral emotion and tool for social change. Righteous anger has defenders both among secular philosophers—notably Myisha Cherry in [...] Read more.
In recent years, advocates of (so-called) righteous anger have become increasingly vocal and articulate, as is evident from a growing literature defending anger as a moral emotion and tool for social change. Righteous anger has defenders both among secular philosophers—notably Myisha Cherry in her The Case for Rage and Failures of Forgiveness—and Christian theologians and activists, particularly, though by no means only, those drawing inspiration from Thomas Aquinas’s Aristotelian defense of anger. As a Christian theologian writing in the first instance for other Christians, I will argue in what follows that permissive attitudes to anger—even of the “righteous” sort—are fundamentally mistaken, not least because they are inconsistent with the universal obligation to love one’s neighbor as oneself. Christians instead ought to take something approaching an abolitionist approach to anger, as an emotion intrinsically opposed to charity. We can see this most clearly by beginning with the faults of a qualified defense of anger, which I reconstruct from Cherry’s work, and from the work of Thomas Aquinas, whose views on anger are interestingly convergent with hers. (This pairing has at least two advantages: it highlights the essentially traditional character of Cherry’s approach, and illustrates how relatively untutored Aquinas’s Aristotelian treatment of anger is by distinctively theological commitments.) I then sketch and defend the view, with a particular reliance on the Sermon on the Mount, that we ought to seek to abolish anger from our lives and defend that position against three apparent defeaters drawn from the Christian Scriptures. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medieval Philosophy and Religious Thought)
12 pages, 310 KiB  
Article
Religious Vocabulary on Creation: Eriugena, Hildegard of Bingen, Eckhart
by María Jesús Soto-Bruna
Religions 2023, 14(8), 1024; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14081024 - 10 Aug 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1446
Abstract
This paper departs from biblical images of creation (wisdom, word, mirror), and goes on to consider those images in three medieval thinkers from the Neoplatonist tradition. Firstly, Johannes Scotus Eriugena, who uses sapientia and in principio images. Secondly, St Hildegard of Bingen, in [...] Read more.
This paper departs from biblical images of creation (wisdom, word, mirror), and goes on to consider those images in three medieval thinkers from the Neoplatonist tradition. Firstly, Johannes Scotus Eriugena, who uses sapientia and in principio images. Secondly, St Hildegard of Bingen, in whose visions the images of wisdom and mirror-God appear. In third place, M. Eckhart, who refers in his Latin writings to God’s creation in se ipso. The article will try to show that a common feature regarding creatio can be found in all the three authors: the explanation of the origin of the world as manifestation of the first principle and the final return–union–to it. This subject has recently been partly dealt with by authors such as W. Beierwaltes, W. Otten or M. Marder. The present research follows the thread of previous studies, claiming at the same time to be an original contribution to the history of Neoplatonic thought about creation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medieval Philosophy and Religious Thought)
12 pages, 799 KiB  
Article
Necessary Existence and Necessary Mercy: Ibn ‘Arabī’s Reformulation of Ibn Sīnā’s Ontological Proof
by Ismail Lala and Reham Alwazzan
Religions 2023, 14(8), 1016; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14081016 - 8 Aug 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 832
Abstract
Abū ‘Alī ibn Sīnā (d. 428/1027) is regarded as the most influential philosopher in Islamic intellectual history. Of his numerous contributions, none has garnered more attention than his ontological proof for the existence of God, known as ‘the Demonstration of the Truthful’ ( [...] Read more.
Abū ‘Alī ibn Sīnā (d. 428/1027) is regarded as the most influential philosopher in Islamic intellectual history. Of his numerous contributions, none has garnered more attention than his ontological proof for the existence of God, known as ‘the Demonstration of the Truthful’ (Burhān al-ṣiddiqīn). In this proof, Ibn Sīnā argues that only one being can be ‘necessarily existent’ (wājib al-wujūd). He goes on to say that all the attributes of God mentioned in the Qur’an are derived from this primary attribute of necessity. The influential mystic, Muḥyī al-Dīn ibn ‘Arabī (d. 638/1240), is clearly influenced by this proof, but he reformulates it to suggest that the primary attribute of God is mercy rather than existence. However, this is not the type of mercy that entails forgiveness or the bestowal of favors; rather, it is a necessary mercy that brings everything into existence. All of God’s other attributes flow from this primary one of necessary mercy in the same way as all of God’s attributes flow from His necessary existence for Ibn Sīnā. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medieval Philosophy and Religious Thought)
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