28019 - History of Medieval Philosophy (1) (LM)

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Docente: Andrea Colli
  • Credits: 6
  • SSD: M-FIL/06
  • Language: Italian

Learning outcomes

The course aims to lead to a thorough understanding of medieval philosophical, theological and cultural reflections. The aim of the teaching is to lead students to recognize the coexistence and constitutive plurality of the traditions of thought of the centuries conventionally defined as medieval. The course of study is then intertwined with that of places, sources, translations and ways of reading, preserving and transmitting knowledge. In a broader perspective, the aim is finally to trace the paths of an intellectual history, marked by the discontinuities of the concrete historical dimension, which also opens to concepts, problems and ideas of modern and contemporary ages. The study of the topics covered is aimed at fostering the attainment of skills useful for the philological analysis of texts and the critical evaluation of secondary literature in both historical relevance and theoretical relevance.

Course contents

An Aristotelian theology? The influence of the Liber de causis on some 13th-century cosmological reflections.

For much of the 13th century considered a theological completion of Aristotle's philosophy, the Liber de causis is frequently commented on and quoted to explain the Aristotelian view of the universe.

The text, however, does not belong to the Peripatetic tradition, but is rather a collection of propositions from Proclus' Elementatio theologica, rearranged in an order influenced by Plotinian philosophy.

This is a curious case study: many 13th-century theologians explain Aristotelian cosmology by making use of a Neoplatonic model. The result is an original metaphysics in which Aristotelianism, Neoplatonism and sapientia christiana are combined.

The course aims to compare some interpretations of the Liber de causis proposed by Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas.


Course summary

Of the 15 lectures (of two hours each):

  • 2 lectures will be devoted to a general introduction of the philosophical and theological context characterizing the 13th century (first point of the Bibliography);
  • 3 lectures will be devoted to a historical philosophical introduction of the Liber de causis (second point of the Bibliography);
  • 10 lectures will be devoted to the reading (in Italian translation) and analysis of some propositions of the Liber de causis commented by Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas (third point of the Bibliography).


1. 13th century. General Introduction

  • C. Esposito, P. Porro, Filosofia 1: Antica e Medievale, Laterza, Bari 2010 (ISBN:9788842109129), pp. 312-334, 338-367

2. The Liber de causis. Historical and philosophical introduction

  • C. D'Ancona, Le fonti e la struttura del Liber de causis, in "Medioevo. Rivista di storia della filosofia medievale", 15 (1989), pp. 1-38 (The text will be made available by the lecture)

  • A. Pattin, Le Liber de causis. Edition établie à l'aide de 90 manuscrits avec introduction et notes, in "Tijdschrift voor Filosophie", 28 (1966), pp. 90-203. (Selected passages, in Italian translation, are available on Virtuale)

3. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas on the Liber de causis

  • Albertus Magnus, Liber de causis sive de processu universitatis a prima causa, ed. W. Fauser, Aschendorff, Münster 1993 (Alberti Magni Opera omnia, XVII.2). (Selected passages, in Italian translation, are available on Virtuale)
  • Sancti Thomae de Aquino, Super Librum de Causis Expositio, ed. H.-D. Saffrey, Société philosophique - B. Nauwelaerts, Fribourg-Louvain 1954. (Selected passages, in Italian translation, are available on Virtuale)


For NON-frequent attendees

Reading one of the following texts:

- K. Krause, H. Anzulewicz, From Content to Method: the Liber de causis in Albert the Great, in: D. Calma (ed.), Reading Proclus and the Book of causes. 1: Western scholarly networks and debates, Brill, Leiden 2019, pp. 180-208;

- C. D'Ancona, Introduzione, in: Tommaso d'Aquino, Commento al Libro delle cause, Rusconi, Milano 1986, pp. 78-120.

(Upon request, both texts will be made available by the lecturer.)

Teaching methods

The course includes a series of introductory lectures and subsequent guided reading of the texts under examination.

Some of the texts listed in the bibliography, as well as any slides, will be made available on Virtual, along with the lecture recording.

Assessment methods

Oral Examination. It is recommended to have the texts with you in the examination.

30 cum laude - Excellent as to knowledge, philosophical lexicon and critical expression.

30 – Excellent: knowledge is complete, well argued and correctly expressed, with some slight faults.

27-29 – Good: thorough and satisfactory knowledge; essentially correct expression.

24-26 - Fairly good: knowledge broadly acquired, and not always correctly expressed.

21-23 – Sufficient: superficial and partial knowledge; exposure and articulation are incomplete and often not sufficiently appropriate

18-20 - Almost sufficient: superficial and decontextualized knowledge. The exposure of the contents shows important gaps.

Exam failed - Students are requested to show up at a subsequent exam session if basic skills and knowledge are not sufficiently acquired and not placed in the historical-philosophical context.

Teaching tools

Some texts of bibliography and eventual slides shown during the course will be available on Virtuale.

Lectures will be recorded and made available to students.

Office hours

See the website of Andrea Colli