Later Medieval Philosophy III: The Condemnation of 1277,  Scotus, and Ockham

The Condemnation of 1277

Bishop of Paris, Etienne Tempier

I. The problem...all these Aristotelian ideas (and some New Age nonsense) inconsistent with faith and taught as if they're just the truth. (Seems to suggest the "double truth".)

A. Excommunicated if you taught them or even listened to them without reporting it.

B. Kind of weird jumble. Rush job.

C. Some of Aquinas' ideas are in here...he's canonized in 1325 and the Bishop of Paris revokes the condemnation of his ideas.

II. Examples: What do they mean?  Where do they come from?   What's bad about them?

A. Aristotle and his Islamic followers: 13, 22, 28, 33, 85, 117.

B. Aquinas on Angels 42, 43.

B. Other interesting examples...presumably not Aristotelian in origin: 63, 92 (Stoicism), 136

III. Freedom: Compatibilism vs. Indeterminism.  Is the movement of the will towards some object (choice) inevitable?  Condemnation wants to say, "no" there are genuinely open options. (#101 -- not assigned)

A. the stars: 154,156

B. irresistible desire: 158-160, 163.  This last really does sound like what Aquinas says.

C. punishment: 165 (determinists and compatibilists have a problem with retribution, since you couldn't really do otherwise).

IV. The Dilemma of Foreknowledge and Freedom (Future contingents)

A. The Problem:  If future choices are really free, how can they be foreknown by God?  That is, if God knows today what I'm going to do tomorrow, then, come tomorrow, I cannot do otherwise than God foreknew that I would do.   

---One way to solve a dilemma is to give up on one side or the other, however in this case --

1. It's really important to say that God knows the future. (Divine Greatness, Divine Sovereignty -- God has a plan. Problem of Evil -- God can bring good out of evil. Biblical Prophecy)

2. It's really important to say that human beings have genuine freedom. (Moral Responsibility,  Superior stature of free agents, Free Will Defense )

B. Here's what we CAN'T say (#15).  God cannot know future contingents because...

(1 and 2 deny divine foreknowledge)

1. There's nothing there to be known. 

    a. Aristotle's idea was that propositions about the future don't have a truth value in the present. The future is radically open. (Contemporary Open Theism)

    b. We're not denying divine omniscience. God knows all there is to know, it's just that there is no future to know.

2. Contingent things are singular and God, since He doesn't begin with sense knowledge, does not know singulars. (Averroes)

(3 and 4 deny very robust human freedom.)

3. God's knowledge is the cause of the things foreknown.

--- Now, there is reason to say this, based on  traditional view of God as perfectly simple and pure actuality---

a. God is the source of everything with ontological status.

b. God's knowledge is causal.  God is perfectly simple and His knowledge is identical with His power.

c. God is pure actuality. No potential.  How can contingent things have an effect on God? How can we teach God something?

-- But if we say it, we are stuck with the conclusion that God is the ultimate source of "sin", whatever "sin" can mean on such an analysis --

4. Foreknowledge does not cause the future event, but for something to be foreknown its causes in the present must be known. So if a future choice is foreknown, it has to be caused. I.e. Determinism.

C. A workable solution (at least in the opinion of your professor) --- Anselm of Canterbury 1033-1109 --- Perhaps unfamiliar to 13th century philosophers?

1. isotemporal understanding of time.  God knows the future because He is eternal, outside of time.  He "sees" all of time, (what is to us) past, present, and future, as immediately "present."  He knows (from my perspective) today what I will do tomorrow because He sees me doing it.  Since it's my choice that "causes" [see below for explanation of scare quotes] God's knowledge, a choice is not determined and originates with me. It is a libertarian free choice, even though God knows it's going to be made "before" (from my perspective) I make it.

2. Note that this also solves the Immutable Creator causing and interacting with a changing universe. (Maimonides)

3. Does this mean we have to bit the bullet on the thought that we can have some effect on God? Maybe not.  

    a. God supplies the conflicting desires.

    b. All we do is "channel" one desire over the other.

    c. God knows which desire we "channeled" by what He keeps in being. 

    d. The choice itself is just the agent willing A to the point where the desire for B is no longer viable. It is not a "thing" with ontological status.

Duns Scotus 1265-1308

I.  The original dunce.  Franciscan, critical of Aquinas.  Usually seen as a continuator of the Augustinian tradition, though with plenty of Aristotelian influence and some major differences, e.g. no divine illumination.  Knowledge starts with the senses.  All we have time for are: The proof for God, univocity of language about God, universals, and voluntarism.

II. The proof for God  

A. Introduction: We're trying to prove a first causally effective being. We could use a causal argument, like Avicenna's and Aquinas' Second Way,  but it's not absolutely certain because ...

It starts from a premise which is contingent..."Something exists which is caused"… The senses gave us the premise from observation, but senses could be deceptive, so we want to prove God without using merely contingent premises.  (Remember that one of the standard criticisms of Aquinas' Second and Third Ways is that maybe the universe is itself a necessary being...e.g. maybe it's composed of necessary atoms. )

--- Scotus' proof gets around this issue --- 

B. The Proof

Step 1

First need to prove that a first efficient cause CAN exist per se.  (Per se means absolutely independently.) ("Cause" = cause to exist.)

--I.e. it is POSSIBLE for there to be a "first causally effective being" (a first efficient cause -- F) -- one which can cause others, but which cannot itself be caused. –

1. Three proofs that there CAN be a first efficient cause.

A. Proof from the possibility of a caused being.

1. Some being C can be caused.  (C = a caused being)

    a. Just saying it's possible, not that it is the case.  

        1. "Possible" here I think means, not self-contradictory.

        2. But that means that this premise is a necessary truth.  

    b. We do not see that it is true by observation of contingent things, but merely by considering the concept of being.  

    c. So the conclusion of the argument is going to be a necessary truth about what is POSSIBLE, not what is actual. 

2. If C exists, C must be caused by some other being D. (Can't be caused by nothing, or by only other option.)

3. D is either caused or not.

4. If D is not caused, then D is F. (So, Q.E.D. A first causally effecting being CAN exist.)

5. If D is caused then it must be caused by something else.

6. Can't go to infinity in caused causes. (A caused cause is an existence mirror.)

7. Therefore a first efficient cause (F) CAN exist. (Again, he's just saying that it's possible.)

B. Proof from the possibility of a set of caused beings.

1. There can be a set of all caused beings. [S]

2. The set of all caused beings is caused.

3. It is caused by something not in the set. (Nothing can cause itself.)

4. Something not in the set is an uncaused being.

5. Therefore there can be a first efficient cause.


C. Proof from concept of “Efficient-causal power”

1. The concept of “efficient-causal power” does not entail imperfection.

2. Therefore a perfect efficient cause can exist.

3. The concept of being caused entails imperfection.

4. A perfect efficient cause cannot be caused.

5. Therefore a first, uncaused efficient cause can exist.


Step 2


1. A
2. -B>-A
therefore B.

Let F =A first efficient cause.

1. F CAN exist (It is certainly possible that such a being exists. That's what Step 1 showed.)

2. --(F does in fact exist) > --(F can exist)
(It can't come from nothing, it can't bring itself into being, and it can't be brought into being by something else.)

3. Q.E.D. F does in fact exist (Modus tollens, negating the consequent)

III. Naming God: Can we conceive of God Himself.  Yes...univocally!

A. Are our terms only negative?  Good = not bad. (567)

1. Know what the negation means by knowing the affirmation. (indivisible)

2.  If we insist that we're using pure negation, negation with no affirmative meaning, then terms would apply equally to "nothing" as to God.  We would end up describing "nothing." 

3.  Must be some positive content.  Maimonides seemed to want to say that we could say that God existed, we just couldn't say what He is.  Scotus goes, unless you have some concept of what it is you can't say that it is.

B. The  "causal" interpretation of language about God doesn't actually give us any information about God. (567).

C. We do have terms that we can use positively and univocally of God, as the history of philosophy shows. (568) E. g. being.

1. Many philosophers have hypothesized a "first principle"... the absolute from which all else comes into being....and were certain that it had being. (Being certain means they were right.)  E.g. Heraclitus and FIRE.  But they wrongly attributed infinity, uncreatedness, and being first to this being, when in fact their proposed first principle was finite, created, and not first.

2.  What it shows is that we have a concept of being, more general than our concepts of finite or infinite being, and capable of applying to both.

D. Wouldn't analogy do the job?  dog (living) > God (Living) The life in the dog is related to, but still different from the Life in God. No.  Either I can move beyond creatures to say something accurate about God, or I can't. 

1.  I get my concepts from sense data from creatures (agrees with Aquinas there).  I understand "living" from observing creatures. Data in the phantasm, then the active intellect goes to work on the passive.

2.  If all I can understand is "life" as it appears in creatures, then I cannot move beyond that. (569) If to me "life" means the way creatures live, then I shouldn't apply it to God.  I can't move beyond creatures. So we would not be able to speak meaningfully about God.

E. How do I get the concepts I use for God? (569)

1. It is true that they come from creatures.  I get my concept of e.g. wisdom from observing wise people.

2. But wisdom itself is not necessarily imperfect.  On the most general level wisdom is just wisdom. It could be perfect or imperfect, finite or infinite.  We can get the general concept (transcending these further divisions) from the creature and recognize that in creatures it's limited and in God it's unlimited.  But on that most general level we are using the term univocally.


IV. Universals (Reputation for extreme realism) Concern is "specific natures" e.g. horseness -- The "universal" per se is a concept or term applied to all the members of the kind. It exists in the mind of the knower.

-- Importance of the question. Science talks in universals. What's it talking about? Does science discover reality or invent it? --

A. "Horseness" is just "horseness".  Neither one nor many.  There is a sufficiently general nature that transcends its various modes of existence, e.g. in the various horses, in the human mind...

B. How is "horseness" in the horses?  (Aquinas would have said each horse has its own nature, i.e. horseness  individuated by matter.)

1. It is one in all the different with less than numerical unity. (584) ( Numerical unity means to be one discretely existing object.  It's not that.)

    a. (p. 584) (Fifth)A sense datum is unified, but it does not pick out a discrete object. (This brownness I see.)

    b.  (p.584) (Sixth) Obviously there can  be diversity with less than numerical diversity. The color of the desk and the desk are diverse, but with less than numerical diversity. 

    c. So the unity in question is the sort of "one" that a bunch of different individuals can have. So if there are only 10 horses, but there is also the horseness in the horses, there are not eleven objects, there are the ten horses. If there's only one dodo, there aren't two objects, the dodo and the dodoness.

Here's how...

2. The specific nature can exist as a "universal" in the mind (so, for Scotus, the term "universal" refers to the specific nature as understood in the mind),  and it can exist in individual objects. But in itself, and outside the mind, it possess both commonness and singularity. (584)

3. Commonness belongs to it of itself. (As a nature it is what is common to all the members of the species.)

    a. Commonness is primary.  More fundamental. It follows that...

    b. What needs to be explained, then, is (586)

        1. how "horseness" can be a "universal" in the mind, and then we tell the epistemic story involving the active intellect.

        2. and how "horseness" can be the horseness of an individual horse.

4. To become singular it must have something added on. Horseness + X = the individual horse.

X isn't matter.

a. not matter as pure potency...formless matter is itself indistinct and indeterminate so it could not serve to make horseness into this horse.

b. not some determinate quantity of matter. 

    1. Quantity is an accident (a non-essential property) of a discreet substance, so the quantity can change, leaving the individual substance what it was.

    2. Quantity is an accident, so it exists in dependence on the discreet substance. So it can't be a fundamental cause of the individual object.

c. There must be a "thisness", Haecceitas. (The term is not in your text...)  We cannot perceive the haecceitas in this life due to sin.


V.  Freedom

(Remember our definitions of determinism, libertarianism, and compatibilism)

A. Scotus' definition (Human and divine) -- sounds libertarian.

1. There is no other cause of the will's choice than the will itself.

2.  You could do other than you did.

3.  There are real contingencies.  Things really could have been otherwise.

B. God's Freedom

1. Augustine and others for a basis of comparison. This is how I interpret Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas, although scholars debate the issue for all three.: 

-- Augustine __ "Compatibilist" -- God doesn't choose between options.

a. God is perfect goodness. 

b. He creates out of love.  

c. He "must" create, and He "must" create the best possible world.  A kind of compatibilism?

    1. You could say He is determined by His perfect nature, although, since He just is His perfect nature, that's not quite right. But He doesn't have options.

    2. How can there be a best possible? Well..the principle of plenitude: the best world has the most compossible different things and kinds of things.

d. Put slightly differently, God's will flows from His intellect in that He knows the best and creates it. 

e. But of course He's free in that He is an agent acting voluntarily. He is doing exactly what He wants to be doing! Nothing outside of Himself causes or limits His act of will.

f. Augustine is a compatibilist about human freedom as well, but one could be a compatibilist about God's freedom and a libertarian about human freedom or vice versa.

-- Anselm --       

g.. I take it that that Anselm is a  "compatibilist" when it comes to God and a libertarian when it comes to human beings . 

           1.) For Anselm, the issue is aseity, and since God exists absolutely independently -- a se -- He can will from Himself, but without options. Being perfect you could say that God is "determined" by His nature, but that's not quite right, since God just IS His nature.

           2.) But human beings need the options since everything we are and have comes from God. God sets up the motivational system so that the opting for one choice over another is from the agent.

-- Thomas Aquinas --

 h. Thomas Aquinas says God is free with libertarian freedom, but human beings are not. God has open options (including with regard to creation.)

            1.) God, perfect Act, inevitably does the best, and He could never make a bad world, but He could make a different world, or not create at all. 

                a. ) There is no "best of all possible worlds". 

                b.)  Creation falls infinitely short of reflecting God and so for any possible world, there is a better possible world.

            2.) Human beings..... 

                a.) choose what we are most strongly drawn to choose and also ... 

                b..) God causes our choices.

2. Scotus insists upon divine freedom.  

a. Seems to hold that if God created "necessarily" then everything would happen necessarily

b. This was a conclusion some of the Moslems seemed to accept. (Avicenna and Averroes)

c. Possibly an eye to the Condemnation of 1277 -- anti-compatibilist.

3. For Scotus Divine Freedom means...

a. God could have made a different world or no world at all. 

b. Created beings are truly contingent.  They really might not have existed.

c. Not to say that creation is irrational.  God's intellect plays a central role -- it presents His will with the various possibilities and the will chooses.  

d. But there is no answer to the question, "Why did God make things this way rather than that way?" or "Why did God make anything at all?"

--- Though of course God cannot violate the laws of logic or act in contradiction to a necessary truth --

C. Human Morality.  Is Scotus a voluntarist?  (Voluntarism from the Latin voluntas will. So the question is, is God's will above all constraints, vis-a-vis what He commands.)

1. Scotus takes these to be separate claims: "Some act X is in some way beneficial for the creature" and "X is right. X is what you ought to do." (Maimonides and Aquinas grounded the divine commands regarding human activity in what is good for human beings. Natural law.)

2. Voluntarism would say X is right, X is the thing to do because God commands it.  Things could have been otherwise.  God could have commanded not-X.

3. Advantage of voluntarism: If God is absolutely supreme there must be no constraints on His will.  His will is at the very top, unconstrained even by His intellect.

2. Scotus' Divided Conclusion

a. Some moral laws are necessary and unalterable...those dealing directly with our response to the necessary being. (p.603) First two commandments; no other gods, and don't take the Lord's name in vain.  (Note on the 10 Commandments)

b. The rest aren't really necessary.  God could set them aside.  (I take it he's saying more than just that there might be the hard case where moral rules conflict and you can disobey one to conform to a more important one.  Any normal person would say that.)

    1. His question (p.602) Can this happen?: Take two situations which are exactly the same in all the particulars, the only difference being that God permits one and forbids the other. So God could command X at one time and forbid X at another, and when it's commanded you should do it and when it's forbidden you should not do it.

    2. Answers.  

        a. God has done it, e.g. with Abraham and Isaac.  

        b. If it were simply a necessary truth that "killing the innocent is evil" then God would know it, and would have to will it.  I.e. His will would be constrained by something other than itself.  

Three big problems with voluntarism: (Just standardly raised) 

a. Problematic to separate "X is beneficial" from "X is the right thing to do"? Would a good God command that a created agent do things which were not of benefit to him?

b. Seems to make moral order arbitrary.

c. The believer wants to say that "God is good" and mean something by it.  But if (almost)any behavior could be "good" , e.g. sadism, cruelty..., then the term ceases to have positive content.  We don't mean anything when we say, "God is good" beyond, "God is like what God commands".

Ockham 1280-1349 (Black Death)

I. Ockham's razor or the principle of parsimony

II. (Logic) Individuals, freedom, divine omnipotence.  You could call him the first of the great British Empiricists.  Fideism.  Scepticism about the power of human reason. He himself was certainly a believer.  In fact he was a Franciscan...but hard not to see his work as destructive of the great medieval synthesis of faith and reason.

III. Nominalism (conceptualism)

A. There are no universals, or any universal "thing", outside of words and concepts.  To be is to be an individual, that is, a numerically discreet individual.

B. If the universal, eg. dogness, actually existed it would have to be one thing.  (None of this "less than numerical unity" business!)(H p.617)

--Universal "thing", nature or form, can't possibly exist --

1. one thing can't be "in" many things.

2. this would deny creation ex nihilo, since a new member of a species would be created using the already existent specific nature.

---Does Ockham dispute the standard view that divine creation ex nihilo is His keeping things in being from moment to moment? Scotus (or Aquinas) can say that the specific nature is caused to be ex nihilo at any time at which it exists.  So 2, is based on a new (?) understanding of creation ex nihilo.

3. an individual can be annihilated without other members of the species being affected.

C. Comparisons

1. Obviously denying Scotus' brand of extreme realism.

2. Denying Aquinas' moderate realism, as well.

a. Aquinas says that there is no one nature per se "shared" by several individuals. The form in the creature is individuated through matter. The form can only be universal when it is abstracted by the mind...none of  this sounds all that realist, but...

b. Aquinas also says that ...

        1.) There IS a unified nature in the thing, and...

        2.) (although we don't need to discuss this in our explanation of universals, it is the case that) the form in the thing reflects a unified Form, an Idea in the Mind of God, a Divine Exemplar. ( Even Abelard, an earlier conceptualist, believed in divine exemplars!)

3. Ockham denies that there are divine exemplars!  No Divine Idea of Man or horse or whatever.  All of this sort of thing is an unfortunate carry over from pagan platonism and we ought to get rid of it.  God has ideas, of course.  They're of individuals.  That's all there is!

D. So why do we have these universal terms and concepts?  Note that for Ockham the question is not "How does the nature become individuated?", but "Why are the individuals given a common name?" Opposite of Scotus. p. 624.

1. They aren't just arbitrary

2. We recognize similarities between individuals.  Plato and Socrates are both animals and they're both rational, so we give them the name "human."

3. No one  "human nature" that we all share, which is common to us and becomes individualized somehow. No unified "human nature" in each individual.

4. All things are singular individuals which we can group together according to their similarities and name.  The name and the concept is a kind of  shorthand for "a thing with these properties."

5. This is a natural process. 

    a. Our cognitive faculties are naturally structured to receive information from the world around us and to construct concepts that really reflect the way things are. Otherwise we seem to be saying it is arbitrary or a matter of convenience or some such thing, in which case we completely undermine the objectivity of scientific claims. We can have "real" science, i.e. science about extra mental objects.

    b. (On p.620) It is true that science is about propositions. However the propositions contain terms that, while they refer only to individuals (that's all there is) are nonetheless predicable of many, in that they pick out the similar properties.

6. A problem raised by realists: If there is no unified nature as either Scotus or Aquinas understands it, why pick out these properties rather than those as "essential" or "definitive"?

IV. Empiricism and causation

A. Nominalism can lead to (radical) empiricism.  The only way to know an individual is through contact with it.  You can't argue from its having a certain nature to its having to behave in a certain way.

B. Causation (Algazali/Hume)

1. You can't figure out from the nature of a thing what effects it must produce or what causes it requires.

2. You can only learn about causes and effects from actually observing individuals in action.

3.  And even still you can't have definitive proof about causes in this world. (W p.241)

V. Can't prove God (very reminiscent of Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion)

Existence of God is not self-evident (Augustinian approach), nor can you prove God from creatures (Aristotelian/Thomist approach).

A. We know causal connections by observing them.  You never observed the making of even one world.

B. Can't argue (eg. Aquinas' second way) that there must be a first efficient cause.  Maybe the whole cause of you is your parents, their parents etc.  (N.b. A new understanding of creation ex nihilo?)

C. Maybe a proof for a first "conserver".  Contingent things need something to keep them in being right now.  Can't be an infinite series because a present infinity is impossible...but this doesn't show that this ultimate conserver is God because we don't know that there can only be one.  There's at least one, but there could be not God...maybe there are other worlds with other conserving beings. (What is the difference between causing X to exist and conserving X in being?)

VI. Freedom and morality

A. Libertarian. Man is radically free.  We can make genuine choices.

B. Our only obligation, source of all moral law, is just to obey God.  (Can't adopt natural law ethics since he denies natures.)

C. God is radically free. "Limited" only by laws of logic. (Sounds like Alghazali)

1. Could He have willed other than He willed?  Yes.

2. Could the moral order be other than it is?  Yes. Voluntarism.  

--More radical than Scotus. Ockham would not make exceptions for the commandments that have to do with God.

3. He really means this.  Not only could God decide that rape and pillage and murder are fine.  He could command that we should hate Him...and if He commanded it, that's what we should do!

VII. The destructor...

Basic medieval premises which drive the synthesis between faith and reason, Greek philosophy and biblical revelation...

    Reason can really tell us something.  The universe is intelligible.  (Not completely, of course, but...)

    Cosmos is an ordered and beautiful and valuable system.

    The individual has a comprehensible form or structure through which it fits into the whole.

    Human nature and place for human beings.

    Prove God and His nature.

Ockham: No.  You can't prove God.  Everything is arbitrary.

Of course it's not like the "traditional" view suddenly blinked out.  It didn't at all.  It can look like Ockham "put an end to" the Middle Ages because he is the forerunner of philosophers whom twentieth century Anglophone philosophers have seen as the good guys of modern philosophy.

The Twentieth Century: empiricism, scepticism. (Positivism) You can't talk meaningfully about God, souls, morality.  Contempt for medieval philosophy.  General texts.  Universities sans medieval.  The times they are a-changin'.  20th century positivism is dead.  People are rethinking the modern project as it has been defined since Descartes.  Free for all...traditional approach a contender.  You are making the history of philosophy.  Be careful!

 Guide Study
Condemnation of 1277, Scotus, and Ockham

Note: I will feel free to ask you to explain and develop these points, and I may ask for comparisons.

The Condemnation of 1277

       -Question #15.  God's knowledge of future contingents.  Why does the believer want to say that God does indeed know future contingents?  Why does it seem that if God knows that you will do x tomorrow, your doing x is necessary, not contingent.  How does Anselm solve the problem?      What are the four things you can't say, according to the Condemnation of 1277?  Explain what the point of each is and why it is unacceptable.

    - Proposed possible "Anselmian" solution to dilemma of freedom and foreknowledge: Isotemporalism (Four-dimensionalism) and how God knows what you will choose  tomorrow.

Duns Scotus

Explain Scotus' necessary demonstration of God's existence. (Give the two-step proof.  Explain each premise. Explain the form of the proof...modus tollens.)

How does Scotus show that at least some of our language must apply to God univocally? (Critique of pure negation, and analogy). How do we get our univocal concepts of God?

Extreme realism.  How is horseness in the horses?  How does it become individuated? (Specific nature is both common and singular etc.)

According to Scotus, could God will other than He does?  What is the relationship between the divine will and intellect in the act of creation?

Could God permit tomorrow what He prohibits today (i.e. Can God change the laws of morality)?  Why does Scotus want to say this (two arguments)? What two exceptions does he make to the claim that God can change the moral order.  

What are three possible problems with Divine Command Theory/Voluntarism?


Explain Ockham's view of universals (including his critique of realism, 3 arguments).  Why do we call cats, cats?  What is his view of human and divine knowledge with respect to universals?  Why does nominalism/conceptualism seem to lead to skepticism?  How does Ockham try to avoid extreme skepticism? (Our knowledge arises NATURALLY from our observation of objects). What problem does the realist raise against Ockham's conceptualism? (Ockham seems to assume that there are "essential" properties or most important properties or some such.)

Explain Ockham's critique of the notion of necessary causal relations.

According to Ockham, why can't you prove the existence of God as the cause of the observable world?  What can you prove in this connection?

Explain Ockham's voluntarism. (Be sure to note the difference between Scotus and Ockham). 

PHIL 312: Later Medieval Philosophy

Guidelines for research papers. Please read all of the guidelines very carefully, and comply! I will be counting off for failure to follow the instructions.

Requirements are Two 5-7 page research papers; one due at mid-term, one due at the end.

Paper requirements: 5-7 pages, double-spaced, reasonable margins. (See below for suggested topics) The topic (unless I have okay’ed it otherwise) will focus on what a philosopher’s view was on a given issue. I do not absolutely require a philosophical evaluation of the view you discuss, but I admire philosophical creativity and am likely to look favorably on your paper if you include some original comments, such as interesting and plausible analysis of why you think the view you discuss could be right or wrong, or why it might or might not fit with the philosopher’s overall view.

Sources. You must use at least one primary text – that is, writing by the philosopher himself. If you are doing a comparison between two philosophers or one philosopher in different works, you’ll have to use at least two primary texts. You can use your Hyman and Walsh book for the primary text if it suits your topic.

You must use at least two, good secondary sources – that is, writing about the philosopher’s views. (You can use both of your text books, and you may also use internet sources, but you must find two good sources in addition to these. That means you cannot just use sources off the internet – unless it is articles online from established and respectable journals which are in our library. You may use dictionaries and encyclopedias, but I do not consider these GOOD sources, so if you use these, you need TWO GOOD SOURCES in addition! When in doubt, ask me.) The easiest way to know that you have a good source is to go to the library and get out a book from a good publisher (Oxford, Cambridge, and Brill are examples of good publishers, as are major American University presses), or get an article from a journal the library carries. (One of the jobs of librarians is to decide what to get for the library, so they’ve already done some of the job for you.) If you find a collection of papers, each paper counts as a separate secondary source. You should probably look at the secondary sources first, since they can tell you what primary text(s) will be of use to you. If you have trouble finding sources I may be able to lend you some.

Citations may take the form of parentheses in the text with a full bibliography, or complete footnotes or endnotes. Citations should include the specific page numbers where you found your information. I will count off if you do not include full and correct citations. If you have any doubt at all about what constitutes a full and correct citation, go online under “Chicago Manual of Style Citations”. The first thing that pops up is examples of all the different sorts of sources you might need to cite and how to do citations. When I do this, the Chicago Manual of Style includes page numbers for books and articles. Do be sure to include those. The thought is that you want your reader to be able to look up your exact source easily.

Helpful Hints: 1.) Focus your thesis on a narrow topic.  Saying just a little on a lot of different issues, even if they are related, does not make for a good paper. 2.) Start researching early to be sure you find two good secondary sources that really have something to say on your (narrowly focused!) topic. I will count off if you actually use only one secondary source and just mention or quote a sentence from another.

You will have the opportunity to rewrite your paper once I have returned it. Rewriting will be optional, and I will likely insist upon a quick turnaround time to facilitate my grading. If there is significant improvement, I will raise the paper grade. Tweaking a minor point or two, or just getting rid of the occasional offending sentence will probably not constitute significant improvement.

Paper deadlines and suggested topics: You should e-mail your paper to me in Word. It would be a great help to me if you could get your paper in before the due date. If the time sent is later than midnight of the deadline date, and you have not already received an extension from me (I don’t mind giving extensions for any reasonable reason), I will count off a grade for each day late. (So, for example, if your paper would have been a B-, but is one day late, it’s a C+.)

I have listed some suggested topics based on issues I’d like to hear about which I haven’t researched myself. Most of these we have not discussed in class. I will mention others as they occur to me. You are welcome to write on a topic other than one among those I’ve suggested, but check with me first! And I’m quite happy to have a paper on some issue we spend time on in class, just so you go well beyond what we do in class.

Final Paper Due Date: December 10 if you want the chance to rewrite. If you prefer to waive the option to rewrite I can accept the paper by December 14 with no penalty.

Some suggestions for topics (feel free to think of other topics, but check with me if you decide to do a topic not on this list).

These are topics which I find interesting, but which I have not researched myself, so, as your first task, you will need to make sure you can find two, good secondary sources plus a primary source on the topic. 

We skipped a number of issues that Aquinas discusses in your text book, so you could pick one of those that you’re interested in. For example, he offers a long list of fun reasons for saying that we can prove philosophically that the world either is or is not eternal and then trashes them all. You could pick one or two and discuss them.

I would be interested to know how Aquinas understands the notion of “possibility” and “necessity”.

Aquinas has a lot to say on various moral issues, so you could look him up on just war theory, punishment, etc.

We are looking only at a few of the condemned propositions in the Condemnation of 1277. You could pick one or a few related ones and discuss them.

I don’t know if you could find sources, but it would be interesting to know what folks in the middle of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Century in Europe had to say about freedom of conscience and speech. It’s not impossible that Ockham might have had something to say on that. He got into trouble with the powers that be. I believe it was because of some esoteric issues within his order, the Franciscans.

We have not spent much time on political philosophy. You could look at Thomas Aquinas or Scotus or Ockham on this issue. If memory serves the latter two introduce the contract theory – government is justified by the consent of the governed. And I have read that Thomas thinks it might be okay to oust a tyrant under certain circumstances. I’d like to know more about this.

Scotus on the divine and human will (592-595) and/or the Fall (595-599). (I am especially interested to know what Scotus has to say on human freedom.)

You can pick something in Ockham if you like, but he’s hard and we’re doing him last. (Also he is the first of the great British Empiricists and your professor is annoyed with British Empiricism. But you might get points for courage if you do Ockham.)

Feel free to ask if you have any questions on what’s expected or on sources.