Transcript: 200. Jill Kraye and John Marenbon on Medieval Philosophy

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

Note: this transcription was produced by automatic voice recognition software. It has been corrected by hand, but may still contain errors. We are very grateful to Tim Wittenborg for his production of the automated transcripts and for the efforts of a team of volunteer listeners who corrected the texts.

Peter Adamson: The first thing I wanted to ask both of you about is the chronological boundaries of medieval philosophy. I guess that when people think about the medieval world, they probably think mostly about, say, the 10th, 11th, 12th centuries. But sometimes figures from late antiquity are taught in medieval philosophy classes, for example, Augustine and Boethius. And at the far end, you might wonder, where is the boundary between medieval philosophy and Renaissance philosophy? So starting with you, John, could you say something about the boundary between medieval philosophy and late antiquity, so the early boundary?

John Marenbon: Yes, indeed. I think a good place to start is with Plotinus, so starting in the third century. Now, of course, in a way, you can't say that's medieval philosophy. But if you're talking about dividing up the whole of philosophy, I like to work with this notion that I call 'long Middle Ages.' But I'm not trying to be imperialistic about the Middle Ages just for want of a better term, but starting roughly with Plotinus and going on roughly to Leibniz. Leibniz just gets us into the early 18th century. So that seems to be a sensible way to carve things up.

Peter Adamson: That's a very long way. So the third to the 18th century. That's a pretty long Middle Ages.

John Marenbon: It is long, and I say, I don't wish to put anything on the term Middle Ages, but I think that's a good way to start. And then there are lots of smaller subdivisions within that. I don't think any very useful subdivision corresponds to what's very often thought of as medieval philosophy. So sort of starting circa 800, thinking about the Latin tradition in the court of Charlemagne and going on up til, I don't know, 1500, but we're going to discuss that later.

Peter Adamson: That's where I've just started, actually, in this series on medieval philosophy. And so maybe I should say how I thought about it, and then you can tell me why I'm wrong. The way I thought about it was that there are figures who are still culturally within the Roman Empire, even if the Roman Empire is kind of fading away. And so that's why in the Latin tradition, the last person I've covered in late antiquity was Boethius. In fact, we did an interview with you about him. And then I thought, well, I could start sort of around the court of Charlemagne, because now the Roman Empire is really a thing of the past. And so we've got a kind of new cultural context for philosophy. Does that make sense? Or is that not really a very good way of cutting up the historical periods?

John Marenbon: Well, I think that's unhelpful if you want to think about the way in which there's more than one tradition of medieval philosophy, which is something that you especially would be aware of. So you have a tradition in Islamic countries, an Arabic tradition, which seems to sort of tack on much more closely to late antiquity. Though, of course, you also in a sense have a discrete starting point for that, because you can start to see when people first do this sort of work in Arabic. But there's also the Byzantine or Greek tradition. And even this idea of culturally within versus culturally not within the ancient world is perhaps a bit strange. So indeed, I remember our interview about Boethius. And the odd thing is that Boethius is much more culturally within the ancient world than Augustine roughly a century earlier. So there are odd things happening there. Then think about one of the most important early medieval philosophers, John Scotus Eriugena, who lived in the ninth century. Well, there's an enormously strong connection between him and Byzantine philosophy: Maximus the Confessor, Pseudo-Dionysius going back. And is there really a break from antiquity there?

Peter Adamson: Right. So I think that's another thing we could maybe think about is being what is characteristic of medieval philosophies, which sources are they drawing on. And here, maybe I should say that when I talk about medieval philosophy, I'm really thinking about only the Latin Christian tradition, just because that's what I'm covering now. I mean, I've already done philosophy in the Islamic world as kind of its own story. So if we just concentrate on the Latin-using Christian sphere, it does seem like there's a remarkable thing that happens here, even between, say, Boethius and the court of Charlemagne or Eriugena, which is that Greek works in Latin translation - or not - mostly fall away, and they mostly are using Boethius, for example, for access to Aristotelian logic. Or Boethius is in a position to read Plato, but someone like Alcuin isn't, right, with some exceptions.

John Marenbon: Well, I'd like to correct that in the sense that they're not using Boethius in the ninth century mostly. That's more something which characterizes the late 10th century onwards. I mean, I think where you are pointing to something which is obviously so is the fact that, if you're thinking about the Latin tradition, then we do have to admit a gap - even though you're doing philosophy without the gaps - roughly between Boethius and the 790s in anything that one might really consider to be philosophical. It's not that people stopped writing in Latin, but I really would challenge anybody to find the slightest philosophical reflection in Old Helm or in the Hispereca Famina written in Ireland or so on. There are some exceptions. I mean, there are some bits of philosophical speculation in some of these bits of Irish Latin from the seventh century. But insofar as you get a gap, you do. But it's only a gap in the Latin tradition.

Peter Adamson: Right. And I didn't do Anglo-Saxon philosophy either, for example.

Jill Kraye: I would say that people in the Renaissance, especially the 15th century, would support your view about Boethius because they were very keen on writing good classical Latin. And they thought Boethius was the last of the Romans, the first of the barbarians. They didn't like the kind of Latin that he introduced. And they would say, 'he's really the end of that tradition.' So they would certainly support your view if you're looking purely from a kind of stylistic, formalistic point of view - which in the 15th century was an important issue.

Peter Adamson: So they would have associated Boethius in a way with the medieval tradition just because of the way he wrote.

Jill Kraye: That's because the people they were reading from the Middle Ages, whom they didn't like, were using the Boethian translations and commentaries. And they were really very keen that if you wanted to think well, you had to write well. If you wanted to think as a classical philosopher, you had to write as a classical philosopher. And they thought that he introduced a lot of jargon, a lot of terms that were later picked up and developed. And he's really the cutoff point for them. So they would endorse your view.

Peter Adamson: So they would say if you want to read good Latin, read Cicero or something like that.

Jill Kraye: Absolutely. And they might include Augustine because of the Christian element. And they thought that. But Boethius is really where they drew the line.

Peter Adamson: So we've just been talking about with John the fact that there's a lot of continuity between what I guess I'm describing as early medieval philosophy in Latin Christendom and what had been happening in late antiquity or in the Byzantine world. So for example, the influence of Pseudo-Dionysius on Eriugena is a really nice example of that. And I guess that if there's a lot of continuity at the beginning end, is it going to be the case that there's a lot of continuity at the tail end? And in fact, something that I'm worried about in terms of the future of the podcast is that I sort of have to at some point say, 'OK, now we're moving from medieval philosophy into Renaissance philosophy' just because I have to change heading, as it were. So where should I put the boundary between medieval philosophy and Renaissance philosophy?

Jill Kraye: Well, just as John has a long period that goes from late antiquity to Leibniz, I have a long Renaissance. And I think there's a good argument for saying that the Renaissance, which we think of as the rebirth of ancient and classical ideas, really begins in the 12th century. And this is where you start getting interest in Plato. You start getting new translations of Aristotle. And those continue to be the dominant philosophical tradition, at least until the middle of the 17th century. So I would also argue for a long period. But the problem with the term "Renaissance" is that it's something that people think of most often in art history or in literature. And these have a different chronology. So for instance, the Renaissance in art begins with Giotto in the early 13th century. And we look at the Renaissance in Humanism with Petrarch, who lives in the 14th century. But in terms of philosophy, you don't really get anything that's new, that's novel, until perhaps the 15th century, as I was mentioning, where people start saying, 'we don't actually like these medieval translations of Aristotle. We don't like the medieval translations of Plato. We want to have new translations. We want to have new commentaries. We want to get access to philosophical Greek texts that weren't available.' So I think you could make an argument, depending on how you slice it up - either to start, as I suggested, in the 12th century, or if you're thinking about what's really new, something new that comes in - then maybe about 1400 would be the beginning of a tradition of re-evaluating the medieval philosophical tradition. It's still there. Aristotle still remains at the center until the middle of the 17th century. And I think that's the key element of continuity, because even many of the new Greek texts that come in are ancient Greek commentaries on Aristotle. So I would say that there's a continuity, but there are fluctuations within that continuity, where new waves come in and things change. And another issue is that if you're looking at universities, which are foundations that really begin in the 13th century, the university education in philosophy stays pretty stable from that period to the 17th century. You get people like Hobbes complaining about using medieval Aristotelian commentators in philosophy in the 17th century. So there are changes. There are new translations. New things come in. But on the whole, and especially in the university tradition, there's a really large block of continuity.

John Marenbon: Yes. I think Jill has just said quite a lot of what I would want to say in justification for this sort of 'long Middle Ages' as an overarching period. And I've no disagreement either, if you want to think then in terms of sub periods, with either of these two sort of renaissances, a long renaissance or a short renaissance, because both of those ideas bring out important themes. I suppose about your longer renaissance, going back to the 12th century, but then you might even want to go back earlier, because of this whole business of ninth century humanism - people being very interested in the classics then, and so on.

Peter Adamson: I think one thing that this whole discussion raises is the question of what is distinctive about medieval philosophy, if anything, that differentiates it from late antiquity or late antique philosophy on the one hand and renaissance philosophy on the other hand. I think it's interesting that from the renaissance point of view, one of the distinctive features of medieval Latin philosophy might have just been style. Actually the way that they write, the kind of terminology they use, the fact that they don't use nice Latin, so to speak.

Jill Kraye: And they use a scholastic framework of questions and disputations, very formalistic. You set up, you have a very standard way you set up a problem, you argue against it, you then argue against that. And for the humanists who are modeling themselves in the first instance on Cicero, later on Plato, this is very inelegant. They like the more literary discursive framework. They like to play around with irony and things like that. So for them, they regarded the scholastic tradition, this very formalistic tradition, as rather clumsy and not something you want to read for pleasure - and they thought philosophy should also be something that you could read almost as a literary and rhetorical genre as well.

Peter Adamson: So is there anything we could say about the actual philosophical content though of these - of works produced in all of these periods that would help us to differentiate medieval philosophy in the middle from what came before and what came after? I mean, are there any really sort of telltale signs about medieval philosophy? There's sort of certain issues that they get interested in or even certain texts that they're concentrating on? Or is it really just going to be a matter of the same kinds of issues popping up across the centuries?

John Marenbon: I think it's probably the latter. But in order to answer your question, I need to know what "medieval philosophy," that term, is supposed to refer to, especially since I think that not only would Jill not disagree, but in a sense what she's been saying is, that the humanism she's been talking about doesn't belong to a given chronological period. So when you were talking about the attitude to philosophy, to style, wanting to be able to read philosophy with pleasure - all of that would apply to something like John of Salisbury in the 12th century, for instance. None of it really would apply to Suarez.

Whose often considered a Renaissance philosopher?

Kraye and Marenbon together: He is a Renaissance philosopher!

Jill Kraye: He's not a medieval philosopher! I would insist on that.

Peter Adamson: Finally, a point of clarity! Whatever else we say Suarez is a Renaissance philosopher, that's good to know.

Jill Kraye: But on this question of issues, a good example of this is one of the debates that's very important in the Middle Ages and continues to be in the Renaissance is intellect versus will. And this is something that people debated about, Franciscans versus Dominicans. And a philosopher whom I'm interested in the late 15th century, Marsilio Ficino, the first man who translated all of Plato into Latin, the great reviver of the Platonic tradition. And this is a difference, by the way, with the Middle Ages, which had very little of Plato and after Ficino they had the entire corpus. When he's writing about Plato, his commentary on the Philebus, and whether or not Plato believes in the intellect or the will, he draws on Thomas Aquinas. And people are still debating the same issues. They're still looking back. The texts they use sometimes are the same, but then they add new texts, like adding Plato into the mixture.

John Marenbon: But then we shouldn't want to say that interest in the intellect and will and their relations is something which typifies the medieval and the Renaissance periods, because then you take our most famous early modern philosopher, Descartes, and this is absolutely central for him too.

Peter Adamson: Yeah, I think actually when I eventually get to early modern philosophy, in a way these same issues will arise, because despite all the rhetoric that you find in Descartes about getting rid of the scholastic burden of the past, in fact, he is reproducing a lot of arguments that already turn up in medieval texts, whatever we mean by "medieval," and he's reacting to scholastic philosophy in a much more nuanced and engaged way than just chucking it all out the window. So far we've seen that chronologically speaking, we've got a very kind of complex, blurry picture and it sounds to me like, at best, if we can say that there are certain features that are very notable about, say, Renaissance philosophy, we're probably going to find at least examples of the same sorts of things in the so-called medieval period. So chronologically it's difficult, but I'll do my best. I was actually thinking of 1400 as a good cutoff point.

Jill Kraye: I also would make the point that there's a geographical issue here as well, because somebody like Nicholas of Cusa, one of the great philosophers of the 15th century, was born in medieval Germany, because at the period he was born, Germany was very much in the Middle Ages, but then he came to Italy, which was in the full flow of the Renaissance. And he was a contemporary of Leon Battista Alberti and Cosimo de' Medici, and somebody like Cardinal Bessarion, who is another great Platonic philosopher of the 15th century, was born in the medieval Byzantine Empire - but then came to Italy and was a great Renaissance figure. So we have to cut it up in different ways there as well.

Peter Adamson: Yeah, when I was covering the history of Jewish philosophy, I actually mentioned the Abravanel family and said that I was treating the father as a medieval Jewish philosopher, and I was going to be treating the son later on as a Renaissance philosopher because the family moved to Italy.

Jill Kraye: Yeah, but I think somebody like Nicholas of Cusa had one foot in the Middle Ages and one foot in the Renaissance - and you can tell that by his Latin, because in some ways he discovers new texts of Plautus, he's in some ways a humanist - but he doesn't really write with the elegance of the Italian humanists, so he never really overcomes that background. So the Renaissance is something that develops in different places at different times.

Peter Adamson: So anyway, let's move on to, I think, a different dimension of this question of what medieval philosophy is - sort of taking it for granted now that the chronological question is a difficult one. I guess that when people think about medieval philosophy, what they will expect to hear about is, first of all, a lot about God, and then maybe kind of abstruse theological questions of the kind of cliche would be "how many angels dance on the head of a pin" or whatever. And since I'm pretty early now in this series on medieval philosophy, I thought this would be a nice chance to get into the question of what sorts of things we should consider as falling under the heading of medieval philosophy. Pretty obviously the kind of scholastic texts that you mentioned before, Jill, so disputed questions about the nature of truth or the soul. Commentaries on Aristotle. No one would dispute that these are medieval philosophy. But what should we say about the range of philosophical topics that get covered in the medieval period and how far we can push our notion of what philosophy is? So for example, should we consider theology to be part of medieval philosophy on the one hand? And then the other hand, to what extent do we need to consider whole other disciplines? So the sciences, for example, or text and mysticism, or magic and alchemy. To what extent should those things be factored into our understanding of what medieval philosophy is? John, do you want to say something about that first?

John Marenbon: Yes. I mean, suppose we start, because it's simpler and clearer, with the big medieval universities, so Paris and Oxford in the 13th and 14th centuries. There you have a rather clear division between the arts faculty and the theology faculty. And there are also other faculties, which like the theology faculty, are considered to be higher faculties. You have to study in the arts faculty first. So medicine or law. The arts faculty, by about 1250, is a faculty of Aristotelian studies. And that embraces just about the whole Aristotelian corpus. So covering a lot which we would now consider to be science rather than philosophy. Added to that is a lot of logic, and not just Aristotelian logic, but branches of logic which get developed, which go beyond anything in Aristotle. Now, you could propose just looking at those faculties. One of the uses of the word "philosophia" was to refer to what went on in the arts faculties. It was also sometimes used to refer to ancient philosophy. And in a sense, the arts faculties were the continuation of that. However, if you restricted yourself in that way, you'd miss out much of the most interesting philosophical speculation which went on in the course of doing theology. So you'd miss out on most of what Aquinas and almost all of what Scotus and Occam and the most famous medieval figures did. I think that the best way to make a choice is to start from what we consider now to be interesting philosophical questions. And trying to define things in that way. To look back and see where you find those questions being dealt with, which might be in the arts faculty, might be in theology. But then to place these discussions within their context. So you have to go beyond treating those narrow questions. You're not just pulling out something for contemporary interest. You are going back and re-placing it within its context, which often means doing quite a bit of theology. But as a historian of philosophy, one wouldn't want to be asking about a theological question for its own sake. So as a historian of philosophy, you're not interested in such in the Trinity, and how it can be that something can be both three and one. But in fact, you'll find yourself dealing with lots of questions about the Trinity because that's where people discussed a lot of their basic metaphysics.

Peter Adamson: Yeah, they talk about parts and holes, for example, when they're doing the Trinitarian question. In fact, I'm having an interview later in the series about theories of parts and holes. And one of the things that comes up is that they talk about that in the context of doing theology basically. So maybe we should draw a distinction between how people in that period used the word philosophy or cognate words and how we might want to use the word philosophy. So if we say we're interested in the history of medieval philosophy, then that roughly, according to you, and I guess I agree with this, would mean something like, 'well, what I'm interested in is anything that seems philosophically interesting from this period, which for the sake of argument, I'm calling medieval.' And do you think that's a sort of legitimate way of proceeding?

John Marenbon: I think that's right. But then I think you have to, as I say, re-place things within the context of discussion. So I'm suspicious of the approach which would just take a discussion about mereology, for example, about parts and holes, which takes place within a Trinitarian context without telling you anything at all about this theological context, because that often has a great effect on the arguments that people are putting forward.

Peter Adamson: Right, it motivates the arguments and constrains the sorts of arguments that would be acceptable.

John Marenbon: Exactly.

Jill Kraye: I come from a history background rather than a philosophy background. So I tend to take the view, which is a little different from John's, which is that we should look at what they thought at the time, what they considered to be philosophy. And that is a much broader and more capacious term. And after all, science, at least in the Renaissance and I think in the Middle Ages as well, was called "natural philosophy." It was considered to be a very normal branch. Psychology, all these other areas, even astronomy, astrology, were part of what you studied in philosophy. And I think philosophy changes in the 17th century, becomes more narrow, more epistemologically and logically focused, whereas it had a much broader framework. And as John said, if you wanted to study anything, theology, medicine, law, you first studied philosophy. It was the background you needed to study anything. So I'd be happier with a notion that really included everything, including biology, psychology, music, astronomy and astrology - even medical questions. For instance, the Merton School, which was a very technical mathematical school of natural philosophy in 14th century England, they applied mechanical ideas to medicine. They applied it to theology. And I'd like to see philosophy as being the kind of core discipline that led you more or less to any other learned discussion in the period. So it's a slightly broader idea.

Peter Adamson: Is there a danger though, by defining it that way, I mean, that sounds really good - but is there a danger that now when I say I'm doing the history of medieval philosophy, that's what I'm covering in this podcast, but it could also arise for people who aren't doing podcasts. So if you're teaching classes about it or trying to write books about it, is there a danger that the history of medieval philosophy just becomes the history of all intellectual endeavor in the medieval period? Or should we welcome that maybe?

Jill Kraye: Well, I'm not sure we shouldn't welcome it. I think it might be good. But for instance, look at Dante. I mean, Dante is the great literary figure of the Middle Ages. There's a lot of philosophy in there. I'm quite happy for Dante to be in a philosophy course. I see no real problem with that. And therefore, if he's there, why shouldn't theologians be there? Why shouldn't great astronomers be there? Why shouldn't somebody like Nicole Aurem, a French philosopher who translated Aristotle into French, but also did very important astronomical work? If we chop him up and say, 'well, this bit of him is philosophy, and in this bit he's a translator, this bit is astronomy,' I think it doesn't make sense. I think we need to look at people in their context. But again, that's thinking of it historically rather than from a philosophical point of view.

John Marenbon: Yes. It's one thing, I would say, to say that one needs to know about these other things people were doing. So that, for example, with Aurem, you would need to know about the whole range of his activities if you were writing a book on him. However, if somebody finds that a certain part of Aurem's work reflects interestingly on what we now consider to be philosophical problems, I can't see why you can't detach that and focus on it whilst putting it in its context. And it seems more correct, more useful, at least, to describe that as medieval philosophy than to describe astronomy as medieval philosophy - if it was a book labeled medieval philosophy and you go to the philosophy section of a bookshop, you don't expect lots of it to be about astronomy.

Jill Kraye: But some of it?

John Marenbon: Well, all right, I think you expect to be told that the same people might well have been interested in what we think of as philosophical questions and astronomical questions. There are going to be bits of medieval astronomy that you need to know about in order to understand the discussion of the philosophical issues. But I'm not sure that you would want - if what you're going for is medieval philosophy, if you want to find a large discussion of medieval astronomy there, you'd need to be warned in advance that this label "medieval philosophy" is misleading.

Peter Adamson: As you might imagine, so as the host of a history philosophy podcast without any gaps, obviously I'm very in favor of this broad approach. But let me play devil's advocate for a moment and pose an argument to both of you for a more restrictive understanding of what philosophy could mean. And this would take its cue actually from some medieval authors like Aquinas, who distinguished pretty carefully between what we can discover through human reason - the natural resources of human reason, and what we can't. And then you could say, okay, 'well, philosophy will be everything or maybe only part of what humans can discover through natural resources of their own minds.' And therefore we're going to exclude a lot of theology, because theology is stuff that you only know about through revelation. And by the same token, you might then argue that mystical authors, so Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, people like that - who I'm actually planning to cover - that this is an argument for not covering them. So you might argue, 'well, you don't need to cover these people because what they're interested in is truths you can acquire not through reasoning, an argument, but through some kind of mystical union with God.' So another route to God, which is somehow transcendent above what reason can provide. Would that be a justifiable way of demarcating medieval philosophy from other things that were happening in the medieval period?

Jill Kraye: I would say that your definition actually allows the capacious view of philosophy that I've been talking about because it wouldn't exclude astronomy, medicine, psychology, because these are all things that you do by reason. So from that point of view, I would agree with that. But I'd also like to include theology. And I think Meister Eckhart is a part of philosophy. And somebody like Nicholas of Cusa, who I mentioned, read him as a philosopher as well as a theologian. And I think that I wouldn't want to exclude somebody like Dionysius the Areopagite, whom people in the 15th century regarded as the prince of Christian philosophers. And yet he's a mystical author. He's drawing on Proclus, but he brings in a huge amount of mystical Christianity. So I, again, don't like to draw lines. I'd like to keep it open.

John Marenbon: I'd like to make a distinction between theology in the sense of working from revealed premises and just doing that, but then working using the tools of philosophy. And this is what, for the most part, Aquinas and especially people like Scotus and Occam did. And it would seem to be very strange to exclude all that work from the area of philosophy. Though, as I say, you need to attach it, I think, to the question which we find philosophical in itself. But if you wanted to exclude that, it would mean that you couldn't talk about contingency and necessity and Scotus or anything like that, because his whole understanding of this is based on revealed premises. So you have that on the one side. On the other hand, you have the sort of theology which seems to use methods very different from philosophy. And those are the mystics that you're talking about. But there again, I think I'm not really in disagreement with Jill, because there isn't a sharp distinction. Eckhart, after all, is a highly trained scholastic theologian and philosopher, as well as a mystic. And again, so Pseudo-Dionysius is somebody who's obviously steeped in Neoplatonism and there do seem to be arguments for his positions. It's just they're often not put in a very argumentative way.

Peter Adamson: Yeah, I guess that there's two things going on there. One is that, I mean, I mentioned Aquinas because he distinguishes so clearly between what you can get through reason and what you can get only through divine revelation. But that's kind of an exceptional case. I mean, if someone like Meister Eckhart or the Pseudo-Dionysius - who I already discussed back when I did Late Antiquity. These are people who seem to be sort of doing philosophy and then all of a sudden they're talking about mysticism, and then they kind of slosh back and forth. So it seems kind of artificial to impose a distinction between the mystical part of their output and the so-called philosophical part of their output. But I think something else that John just at least implied, and that I'd like to really emphasize, is that even if you don't care about any of this religion stuff - right, I mean, you might be a convinced atheist and sort of assume that you therefore won't be interested in medieval philosophy, and especially the parts of medieval philosophy that look more theological. A lot of the time, the advances that were made in the medieval period that are most relevant to contemporary philosophy, and that prepare the way for later philosophy to the most extent, happen in the context of talking about the Trinity or talking about God's relationship to the universe. And that example you mentioned is a really good one. Scotus's understanding of necessity and contingency, which as we'll see later on, is a huge step towards our modern understanding of necessity and contingency. That is something that he develops in large part in order to talk about God. So if you say, 'well, I'm just not going to take any of this stuff about God seriously as philosophy,' then you actually would miss some of the most important things that have a bearing on the later history of philosophy.

Jill Kraye: There is a way you can bring in that distinction. I was thinking in terms of, for instance, the secular Aristotelians in Italy in the 14th and 15th century who were very keen to say, 'well, if we listen to Aristotle, we think the world is eternal. We think the soul is probably mortal. And that is an argument we can develop as philosophers. Now, of course, there is the argument from Revelation, and that's for theologians, and we don't remotely doubt that it's true. But that's another question.' And they did try and do this, and this was something that was a very controversial, but very important thread, particularly within Italian philosophy. So they were trying to make this distinction: 'we want our autonomy as philosophers to be able to argue on Aristotelian premises, which lead us to conclusions which, as Christians and which theologians would not necessarily agree with or would disagree with. And so we keep them separate.' So in that point of view, I think you could make the kind of distinction that you're trying to draw, and it would be legitimate.

Peter Adamson: Yeah, actually, there's an irony here as well, which is that sometimes texts or events that we might think of as anti-philosophical, like the condemnations that were issued in the 1270s in Paris, they often get talked about as part of the history of philosophy because they have a bearing on all of these issues that we're describing. And so actually, we'll be seeing in this series something that also happened when I was doing philosophy in the Islamic world, which is that figures who attack philosophy and are critical of it, maybe Al-Ghazali or Ibn Taymiyyah, for example, in the Islamic world, I very happily devoted episodes to them. And in a way, what you were just saying could explain why that's a legitimate thing to do.

Jill Kraye: Another example of that is in 1513, there was a papal brief which came out saying, 'you must no longer make this argument of the so-called "double truth," and that all philosophers must argue that these theological doctrines are philosophically demonstrable.' So again, this is a papal brief. Is this part of the history of philosophy? Well, yes, it is. It's quite important. The pope is intervening. It's part of the Fifth Lateran Council. It's part of the history of Christianity, but it's also very crucial for the history of philosophy. So if we leave those kind of interventions out of the story we don't get the full story, from my perspective.

John Marenbon: Well, of course, you're going to have to talk about condemnations and prohibitions, which often seem to have exactly the opposite effect to that intended. So the business with the new Aristotle, new translations of Aristotle's monological works coming in to use the beginning of the 13th century, and lots of prohibitions of various sorts issued, and then a decade or two passes, and not only are they not-prohibited, but they're all compulsory.

Jill Kraye: And the Papal Bull of 1513 didn't work either.

John Marenbon: Yes, exactly.

Jill Kraye: It didn't have the effect, but it's important that they tried. But in fact, in the same way, you find that people decide that, no, this is not viable. We really have to follow our philosophical traditions.

Peter Adamson: So it looks like the history of philosophy itself is pretty much unstoppable. And so far, so is the podcast.


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