Fourteenth Century Philosophy

The final phase of medieval philosophy is hugely underrated. It was a time when university scholasticism achieved exquisite precision and explored philosophical issues that are still with us. Key figures here include William of Ockham, John Buridan, and Nicole Oresme. Philosophy also blossomed outside the university, with vernacular (non-Latin) authors like Dante, Meister Eckhart, and Julian of Norwich – only one of several female thinkers who worked during this period. Political philosophy becomes a major theme in several authors including Ockham and Marsilius of Padua. We will also see advances in the natural sciences and ideas that plant the seeds of the Protestant Reformation. This series features interviews with Susan Brower-Toland, Isabel Davis, Monica Green, Bob Pasnau, Dominik Perler, Martin Pickavé, Tom Pink, Sara Uckelman, and Jack Zupko.

Further Reading

• S. Brown, T. Dewender and T. Kobusch (eds), Philosophical Debates at Paris in the Early Fourteenth Century (Leiden: 2009).

• W.J. Courtenay, Schools and Scholars in Fourteenth Century England (Princeton: 1987).

• W.J. Courtenay, Changing Approaches to Fourteenth-Century Thought (Toronto: 2007).

• W.J. Courtenay, Ockham and Ockhamism: Studies in the Dissemination and Impact of his Thought (Leiden: 2008).

• D.G. Denery, K. Ghosh, and N. Zeeman (eds), Uncertain Knowledge: Scepticism, Relativism and Doubt in the Middle Ages(Turnhout: 2014).

• R. Friedman, Intellectual Traditions at the Medieval University, 2 vols (Leiden: 2013).

• R. Friedman and L.O. Nielsen (eds), The Medieval Heritage in Early Modern Metaphysics and Modal Theory, 1400–1700(Dordrecht: 2005).

• A. Hudson and M. Wilks (eds), From Ockham to Wyclif (Oxford: 1987), 89-107.

• E.A. Moody, Studies in Medieval Philosophy, Science, and Logic (Berkeley: 1975).

• H.A. Oberman, The Harvest of Medieval Theology: Gabriel Biel and Late Medieval Nominalism (Cambridge, MA: 1963).

• J. Verger, Men of Learning at the End of the Middle Ages (Notre Dame: 2000).

• A. Zimmermann (ed.), Antiqui und Moderni: Traditionsbewusstsein und Fortgeschrittenbewusstsein im späten Mittelalter(Berlin: 1974).

There are pages for many thinkers of this period on the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Episodes 265 - 300: Fourteenth Century

265. Time of the Signs: the Fourteenth Century

Posted on 20 November 2016

An introduction to philosophy in the 14th century, focusing on two big ideas: nominalism and voluntarism.

266. Tom Pink on the Will

Posted on 4 December 2016

A conversation with Tom Pink about medieval theories of freedom and action.

267. After Virtue: Marguerite Porete

Posted on 18 December 2016

Marguerite Porete is put to death for her exploration of the love of God, The Mirror of Simple Souls.

268. To Hell and Back: Dante Alighieri

Posted on 1 January 2017

Italy’s greatest poet Dante Alighieri was also a philosopher, as we learn from his Convivio and of course the Divine Comedy.

This episode is dedicated to John Kleiner, the inspirational teacher with whom I had my first experience reading Dante.

269. Our Power is Real: the Clash of Church and State

Posted on 15 January 2017

Giles of Rome and Dante on the rival claims of the church and secular rulers.

270. Render unto Caesar: Marsilius of Padua

Posted on 29 January 2017

In Defender of the Peace, Marsilius of Padua develops new theories of representative government, rights, and ownership.

271. Do As You’re Told: Ockham on Ethics and Political Philosophy

Posted on 12 February 2017

William of Ockham on freedom of action and freedom of thought.

272. A Close Shave: Ockham’s Nominalism

Posted on 26 February 2017

Ockham trims away the unnecessary entities posited by other scholastics with his famous Razor principle.

273. What Do You Think? Ockham on Mental Language

Posted on 12 March 2017

How the language of thought relates to spoken and written language, according to William of Ockham.

274. Susan Brower-Toland on Ockham's Philosophy of Mind

Posted on 26 March 2017

An interview with Susan Brower-Toland covering Ockham's views on cognition, consciousness, and memory.

275. Keeping it Real: Responses to Ockham

Posted on 9 April 2017

Walter Burley flies the flag for realism against Ockham and other nominalists.

276. Back to the Future: Foreknowledge and Predestination

Posted on 23 April 2017

Scotus, Ockham, and Bradwardine ask how we can be free if God knows and chooses the things we will do in the future.

277. Trivial Pursuits: Fourteenth Century Logic

Posted on 7 May 2017

The scholastics discuss the ambiguity of terms, the nature of logical inference, and logical paradoxes, and play the game of “obligations.”

278. Sara Uckelman on Obligations

Posted on 21 May 2017

Sara Uckelman soundly defeats Peter in the medieval logical game of "obligations."

279. Quadrivial Pursuits: the Oxford Calculators

Posted on 4 June 2017

Bradwardine and other thinkers based at Oxford make breakthroughs in physics by applying mathematics to motion.

280. Get to the Point: Fourteenth Century Physics

Posted on 18 June 2017

Ockham, Buridan, Oresme and Francis of Marchia explore cosmology, atomism, and the impetus involved in motion.

281. Monica Green on Medieval Medicine

Posted on 2 July 2017

An interview with Monica Green reveals parallels between medicine and philosophy in the middle ages.

282. Portrait of the Artist: John Buridan

Posted on 16 July 2017

The hipster’s choice for favorite scholastic, John Buridan, sets out a nominalist theory of knowledge and language, and explains the workings of free will.

283. Jack Zupko on John Buridan

Posted on 30 July 2017

Peter speaks to Jack Zupko about John Buridan's secular and parsimonious approach to philosophy.

284. Seeing is Believing: Nicholas of Autrecourt’s Skeptical Challenge

Posted on 13 August 2017

The debate between Nicholas of Autrecourt and John Buridan on whether it is possible to achieve certain knowledge.

285. Dominik Perler on Medieval Skepticism

Posted on 24 September 2017

The medievals were too firm in their beliefs to entertain skeptical worries, right? Don't be so sure, as Peter learns from Dominik Perler.

286. On the Money: Medieval Economic Theory

Posted on 8 October 2017

Changing ideas about money, just price, and usury, up to the time of Buridan, Oresme, and Gregory of Rimaini.

287. Down to the Ground: Meister Eckhart

Posted on 22 October 2017

The scholastic and mystic Meister Eckhart sets out his daring speculations about God and humankind in both Latin and German.

288. Men in Black: the German Dominicans

Posted on 5 November 2017

Dietrich of Freiberg, Berthold of Moosburg, John Tauler and Henry Suso explore Neoplatonism and mysticism.

289. A Wing and a Prayer: Angels in Medieval Philosophy

Posted on 19 November 2017

Be surprised by how many philosophical problems arise in connection with angels (how many can dance on the head of a pin is not one of them).

290. Martin Pickavé on Emotions in Medieval Philosophy

Posted on 3 December 2017

Martin Pickavé returns to the podcast to talk about theories of the emotions in Aquinas, Scotus and Wodeham.

291. Alle Maner of Thyng Shall be Welle: English Mysticism

Posted on 17 December 2017

Julian of Norwich’s Shewings and the Cloud of Unknowing lay out challenging paths to knowledge of, and union with, God.

292. Say it With Poetry: Chaucer and Langland

Posted on 31 December 2017

Philosophical themes in Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” and “Troilus and Criseyde,” as well as Langland’s “Piers Plowman.”

293. The Good Wife: Gender and Sexuality in the Middle Ages

Posted on 14 January 2018

Medieval attitudes towards homosexuality, sex and chastity, and the status of women. Authors discussed include Aquinas, Catherine of Siena, and Chaucer.

294. Isabel Davis on Sexuality and Marriage in Chaucer

Posted on 28 January 2018

Peter is joined by Isabel Davis to discuss marriage, sex and chastity in Chaucer, focusing on the Wife of Bath's speech.

295. The Most Christian Doctor: Jean Gerson

Posted on 11 February 2018

Jean Gerson’s role in the political disputes of his day, the spread of lay devotion and affective mysticism, and the debate over the Romance of the Rose initiated by Christine de Pizan.

296. Morning Star of the Reformation: John Wyclif

Posted on 25 February 2018

John Wyclif refutes nominalism and inspires the Lollard movement, which anticipated Reformation thought with its critique of the church.

297. The Prague Spring: Scholasticism Across Europe

Posted on 11 March 2018

New ideas and and new universities in Italy and greater Germany including Vienna and Prague, where Jan Hus carries on the radical ideas of Wyclif.

298. Renaissance Men: Ramon Llull and Petrarch

Posted on 25 March 2018

The Renaissance ideals of humanism and universal science flourish already in the medieval period, in the works of Petrarch and Ramon Llull.

299. Robert Pasnau on Substance in Scholasticism

Posted on 8 April 2018

Bob Pasnau joins Peter to discuss ideas about substance from Aquinas down to the time of Locke, Leibniz and Descartes.

300a. The Relevance of Ancient Philosophy Today

Posted on 22 April 2018

Three guests to celebrate 300 episodes! Rachel Barney, Christof Rapp, and Mark Kalderon join Peter to discuss the importance of ancient philosophy for today's philosophers.

300b. The Relevance of Medieval Philosophy Today

Posted on 6 May 2018

Peter King, Catarina Dutilh Novaes, and Russ Friedman discuss their approaches to medieval philosophy and its contemporary relevance.