cod. 1008150

Academic year 2018/19
1° year of course - First semester
Academic discipline
Storia della filosofia medievale (M-FIL/08)
Storia della filosofia
Type of training activity
36 hours
of face-to-face activities
6 credits
hub: PARMA
course unit

Learning objectives

This course will reinforce the students' tools for critical, informed and independent judgment, and their skills for communication and continuing education. In particular, after this course, students will develop the following abilities of acquiring knowledge and understanding (Dublin Descriptor I): students will be made able to know the philosophical, theological, and scientific thought of the Middle Ages; to read and understand the classical texts of medieval philosophy; to acquire the terminology of medieval philosophy and of the different philosophical methods required for the discussion of topics and the interpretation of medieval texts; to be acquainted with and assess the historiography of medieval philosophy.
After this course, students will also develop the following abilities to apply the acquired knowledge and understanding (Dublin Descriptor II): students will be made able to compose clear, documented and argument-based papers; to apply knowledge in interdisciplinary fields; to reconstruct and follow the genesis and development of a concept, a doctrine and/or a philosophical debate; to explain the connection of ideas between the history of medieval philosophy and other areas of science and philosophy, in particular ancient, late-antique and early-modern philosophy as well as theology; to reconstruct and assess a cultural and/or inter-cultural context, with particular attention to the interplay of the different positions that are involved. Finally, after this course, students will develop the following communication and learning skills and abilities of making independent judgments (Dublin Descriptors III - IV - V): students will be made able to critically evaluate a philosophical text, both from a historical and a philosophical, philological and/or textual point of view; to assess the arguments used in a philosophical debate and/or text in order to decide a claim, to resolve a problem and/or to defend a thesis; to criticize a philosophical position, an argument and/or a topic, by correctly setting it in its proper historical and/or textual context; to assess concepts as to their developments and their relations, also with regard to other disciplinary areas; to know how reconstructing and following, historically as well as philosophically, the genesis of a concept, a problem and/or a philosophical debate; to communicate the acquired knowledge and ablities of analysis and judgment in a clear, documented, complete and logically consequential and well-organized way, both orally and through written papers; to evaluate accurately and to reconstruct completely their learning process and the skills, abilities and knowledge they have acquired.


The course is addressed to students already acquainted with medieval philosophy. It is recommended, moreover, the
knowledge of Latin and a good acquaintance with the history of
philosophy in general and with the history of ancient and medieval
philosophy in particular.

Course unit content

Title: "The 'De primo principio' of John Duns Scotus".

The course aims to deepen the knowledge of this important and famous fourteenth-century Franciscan master, by reading one of his most difficult and profound writings. Starting from the "De primo principio", the work in which the 'Doctor Subtilis' elaborates his most articulate proof for demonstrating the existence of God, the course also aims to reconstruct and discuss some central themes of Scotus's philosophy and theology. The course will alternate lessons with seminars, which will require the active participation of the students and which could be organized in collaboration with external colleagues.

Full programme

Medieval philosophy has been presented traditionally as a 'Christian' philosophy. The basic idea is that during the Middle Ages a sort of translation and transferring of classical Greek philosophy into the Latin-speaking Christian world has obtained. This historiographic thesis has long been questioned. Regardless of its validity, it is undeniable that some topics become central in the medieval philosophical and theological reflection. One of these is the question of the nature of God and of the demonstration of His existence. In medieval times, the English Franciscan theologian John Duns Scotus, active in Oxford and Paris, between the thirteenth and fourteenth century, elaborates a very sophisticated proof in which he tries to keep together the so-called ontological or 'a priori' proof of Anselmo di Aosta with the so-called 'a posteriori' proofs, which were elaborated among others by Thomas Aquinas. During the course large portions of the text will be read and the proof of Scotus will be reconstructed in detail .



1) Giovanni Duns Scoto, "Trattato sul Primo Principio", a cura di P. Porro, Bompiani, Milano 2008.

2) G. Alliney, "Giovanni Duns Scoto. Introduzione al pensiero filosofico", Edizioni di pagina, Bari 2012.

3) É. Gilson, "Giovanni Duns Scoto. Introduzione alle sue posizioni fondamentali", a cura di C. Marabelli e D. Riserbato, Jaca Book, Milano 2008.

4) O. Boulnois, "Preuve de Dieu et structure de la métaphysique selon Duns Scot", «Revue des Sciences Philosophique et Théologique» 83 (1999), pp. 35-52.

To those students who cannot regularly attend the classes, it is recommended to read also the following text:
- B. M. Bonansea, "L’uomo e Dio nel pensiero di Duns Scoto", Jaca Book, Milano 1991.

Any other didactic material that could be given during the classes will be uploaded on the ELLY platform.

Teaching methods

Oral lessons. During the classes the topics that will be discussed are those of the general contents of the course. Classes will be supplemented by seminars devoted to the reading and discussion of medieval texts, to which students are invited to participate actively. Seminars could be also in collaboration with external teachers.

Assessment methods and criteria

Students' knowledge and understanding skills, and their abilities to apply them, will be verified in two ways:

1) in itinere: a written paper, in which students are requested to analyze (philosophically and historically) a text, a topic and/or
an article of secondary literature. The written paper aims to verify students’ ability to apply the acquired knowledge and understanding skills by elaborating a paper according to international scientific standards. Student must present and discuss their papers during the final oral exam.

2) Final examination: oral exam based upon the texts of the bibliography, and with the discussion of the written paper.

The final exam aims to verify the degree of advancement of students’ knowledge and understanding skills. Average duration of the exam
is about 30 min. The types of questions are determined by the features of students’ education and learning that need to be verified. In particular, the oral exam aims to verify: 1) the degree of students’ historical and philosophical formation and preparation, both with respect to the primary sources and the secondary literature; 2) students’ ability to assess and compare texts, interpretations of texts, and historiographical theses; 3) the ability to understand, analyze, and contextualize philosophical texts. The final score (on scale 0-30) is the result of the written paper and the oral exam. The written paper will be evaluated according to four criteria: 1) clearness and accuracy of the paper; 2) the degree of textual, historical, philosophical, and historiographical documentation; 3) logical precision; 4) argumentation technique and philosophical reasoning. The oral exam will be evaluated according to three criteria: 1) speech clearness and accuracy; 2) critical thinking and independent judgment; 3) ability to analyze and contextualize a philosophical text and/or a problem.
The exam is passed if the minimum grade of 18/30 is reached. The final mark will be awarded according to the following scheme:
30 and praise: excellent; solid preparation and extensive knowledge of medieval philosophy, excellent expressive skills, capacity of comprehension and analysis of texts, concepts, topics and/or arguments of medieval philosophy complete and exhaustive;
30: excellent; complete and adequate knowledge, excellent analysis skills, correct and well articulated expression;
27-29: very good; more than satisfactory knowledge, adequate analysis skills and essentially correct and structured expression;
24-26: good; good but not complete knowledge, satisfactory analysis skills and not always correct expression;
21-23: discrete; discrete knowledge although superficial, sometimes unsatisfactory analysis skills and sometimes inappropriate ability to express;
18-21: sufficient; acceptable but very superficial knowledge, unsatisfactory analysis skills, often inappropriate expression;
0-18: insufficient; the preparation has important gaps in terms of content, lack of clarity in exposition, inability to understand and analyze texts, concepts, topics and/or arguments of medieval philosophy.

Other information


Two or three dates are scheduled for every session of exam, as indicated in the official calendar.