cod. 1010065

Academic year 2022/23
1° year of course - First semester
- Irene BININI
Academic discipline
Storia della filosofia medievale (M-FIL/08)
Storia della filosofia
Type of training activity
30 hours
of face-to-face activities
6 credits
hub: PARMA
course unit

Learning objectives

The course aims to consolidate and deepen:

1: the following abilities of acquiring knowledge and understanding (Dublin descriptor I):
(a) in-depth knowledge of relevant authors and themes in the history of logical and philosophical thought of the ancient and medieval ages;
(b) ability to read, analyze and critically interpret some classical texts of the history of logic, both in the original language (Latin) and in the translation into modern languages;
(c) knowledge of the logical and philosophical technical terminology necessary for the interpretation of the texts;
(d) knowledge of the main interpretative positions in the contemporary debate, and knowledge of some contemporary debates in the fields of the philosophy of logic that may be relevant for the interpretation of ancient and medieval authors.

2: the following abilities to apply the acquired knowledge and understanding
(Dublin descriptor II):
(a) ability to recognize the structure and to reformulate different types of arguments of logical and philosophical nature, ability to criticize such arguments and to argue one's own philosophical position in a debate;
(b) ability to elaborate one's knowledge through oral and written reports and tests, through philosophical argumentation and based on the historically documented reference to ancient and medieval texts, in their original version (primary literature) and in their different modern interpretations (secondary literature);
(c) ability to recognize the theoretical and conceptual connections between the history of ancient and medieval logic and some debates in the philosophy of contemporary logic.

3-4-5: the following communication and learning skills and abilities of making independent judgments (Dublin descriptor III-IV-V):
(a) ability to analyze and criticize a logical and/or philosophical text, both from a historical and a philosophical point of view;
(b) ability to entertain a critical attitude towards the text and report one's own analysis in oral and written form, through debates and through written reports;
(c) ability to interact on a philosophical level with teachers and colleagues, in Italian and English, through the guided reading of the texts, through questions and debates during class hours and through written reports.


The course is aimed at those who already have some skills and knowledge in logic and the history of ancient and medieval philosophy. Knowledge of Latin, at least elementary, and a good knowledge of English are also recommended, since part of the bibliography required for the exam will be in this language.
Students who believe they do not have sufficient knowledge of English to deal with the bibliography, can agree on an alternative program (similar to the program of non-attending students) with the Professor.

Course unit content

Title: "Theories of possibility and necessity in ancient and medieval logic"

The course aims to present some logical and philosophical theories of possibility and necessity elaborated in the ancient and medieval period, following a path that starts from Aristotle and the megaric-stoic tradition, and continues with the early medieval works by Anselm of Canterbury and Peter Abelard, finally ending with the theories advanced in the XIII-XIV centuries by William of Sherwood, William of Ockham and John Buridan. The study of ancient and medieval theories of possibility and necessity will be accompanied by a parallel reflection on contemporary theories in modal logic and in the metaphysics of modality.

Full programme

Title: "Theories of possibility and necessity in ancient and medieval logic"

The "modal" concepts of possibility and necessity are among the most difficult to define,, both for contemporary logicians and for ancient and medieval ones. During the course we will focus on three specific moments in the history of ancient and medieval logic in which these two modal concepts have acquired a central role.
The first theme that we will address is the relationship between modality and time, and the so-called "statistical" model of necessity and possibility that some contemporary authors have used for the interpretation of the texts of Aristotle and of some logicians of the megaric-Stoic school, and that it also emerges in the logical works of some medieval authors.
In a second step, we will deal with the relationship between the notion of possibility and the concepts of potentiality, powers or dispositions of things. Like many contemporary authors (e.g. Mumford, Vetter and the current of dispositionalism), several medieval authors followed Aristotle and Boethius in considering powers and potentialities as the ontological foundation of possibilities. Already in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, however, authors such as Anselm, Abelard and others questioned this interpretative model of the modalities, and proposed an alternative modal paradigm.
In the third part of the course, we will study how the concept of absolute possibility or "logic" developed over the course of the 13th and 14th centuries, particularly in the works of Scotus, Ockham and Buridan.


During the course, extracts from the following ancient and medieval sources will be discussed. The teacher will be responsible for providing students with a digital copy (in the original version and in the modern language translation) of the parts of the text discussed during the course:

Aristotle, Prior Analytics, in Aristotle, Organon, edited by Maurizio Miglior, Bompiani 2016.

Boethius, De Syllogismis Hypotheticis, text, translation, introduction and commentary by Luca Obertello, Paideia 1969.

Anselmo d’Aosta, De Potentia et Impotentia, in Opera omnia, 6 vols., Ed. F. S. Schmitt, Edinburgh: Nelson, 1946–1961.

Pietro Abelardo, Dialectica, edited by L.M. De Rijk, van Gorcum 1970.

William of Sherwood, Introduction to Logic, trans. with an introduction and notes by N. Kretzmann, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1966.

William of Ockham, Summa Logicae, edited by Philotheus Boehner, St. Bonaventure university-Nauwelaerts-Schöningh, St. Bonaventure, N. Y.-Louvain-Paderborn, 1957-1962 (the translation of some passages will be by the teacher).

In addition to the analysis of the sources, the exam will focus on the study of the following secondary literature texts.
Required readings:
Knuuttila, S., 1993, Modalities in Medieval Philosophy, London, New York: Routledge; second edition, 2020.
Mugnai, M, Possible Necessary, Il Mulino, 2013.

Optional reading:
Binini, I. 2021, Possibility and Necessity in the Time of Peter Abelard, Leiden / Boston: Brill. (chapter 9)
Bobzien, S. 1998, Determinism and Freedom in Stoic Philosophy, Oxford: Clarendon Press. (chapter 3)
Hintikka, J., 1973, Time and Necessity: Studies in Aristotle's Theory of Modality, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Knuuttila, S., 2004, 'Anselm on Modality' in B. Davies and B. Leftow (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Anselm, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 111–131.
Normore, C., 2016, 'Ockham and the Foundations of Modality in the Fourteenth Century' in M. Cresswell, E. Mares and A. Rini (eds.), Logical Modalities from Aristotle to Carnap: The Story of Necessity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 133–153.

Any didactic material used or distributed during the lessons will be uploaded on ELLY, under the heading of the course.

Non-attending students are invited to contact the Professor to agree on the exam programme.

Teaching methods

During the course, we will read together several ancient and medieval texts dealing with modal logic and the nature of modalities, and we will try to "extract" from these the different modal theories advanced by their authors and to relate these theories both with the historical context in which they were developed and with some contemporary logical theories. For both the reading and the discussion of the texts, the active participation of the whole class and the constant interaction between teacher and students is required.

Assessment methods and criteria

The exam consists in the drafting of a short written paper (about 10-12 pages, written in English or Italian) in which the student must demonstrate his / her ability to formulate and discuss a specific logical / philosophical problem (related to the theme of the course), to reconstruct the theoretical position of a particular author and place it in the historical context of origin. The oral part of the exam consists of a discussion based on the essay.

Other information

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