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College of Arts and Sciences

Institute of Medieval Philosophy and Theology

theology department

Boston College's Institute of Medieval Philosophy and Theology is linked to the graduate programs in the Department of Theology and the Department of Philosophy. The Institute unites the teaching and research efforts of faculty members in these departments who specialize in medieval philosophy and theology. The focus of the Institute is on the relationship between medieval philosophy and theology and modern continental philosophy and theology. Graduate degrees are awarded either in the Theology or Philosophy departments, and students apply for admission and study in one of these departments.

Even though the faculty members focus on medieval Christian theology and philosophy, the Institute pursues its objective in dialogue with the medieval Jewish and Muslim traditions that made intelligent use of "the gold and silver" of classical Greek and Roman philosophical and religious systems of thought. The encounter between philosophy and revealed religion brought great challenges to both communities. Philosophers as unbelievers met a religion that claimed divine origin and a superior revealed truth; believers faced purely natural philosophical visions of life and purpose that demanded intellectual response. Classical philosophy received new vitality and urgency; the university discipline of theology was born.

In some Christian university circles, philosophy was seen to be not just a handmaid of the Christian faith and theology, but was affirmed as a discipline that had to be taken seriously on its own terms. Philosophical errors, where possible, had to be corrected by philosophical argument. Such debate produced the first universities. Teachers had to hammer out the limits of the domain of faith and the domain of reason and needed to foster dialogue between the two domains.

The purpose of the Institute is to recapture this forgotten legacy of philosophy and theology and see how it may both challenge and enrich the philosophies and theologies of the modern world and also illuminate our understanding of the classical theoretical and political philosophies of Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Avicenna, Averroes, and Maimonides.

In its attempt to relate to modern philosophical and religious continental thought, the Institute sees the benefits of philosophical and theological argument and discussion for both sides of the classical-modern intellectual worlds. It sees the fruits and challenges deriving from the confrontation of essentially different views on such important issues as the goals of science, the uses of language, the nature of virtue, the primacy of societal and individual rights, the finality of nature, and the character of the great traditional revealed religions. The philosophies of modernity have so set the terms in which these issues are discussed that it is difficult to retrieve the pre-modern understandings of these issues. Only by a deeper comparative study of the classical-modern views can we rediscover significant alternatives to the modern domination of our thinking and the suppression of alternative philosophical and theological visions.

To foster this dialogue and encourage the scholarly retrieval of the great medieval intellectual tradition, the Institute sponsors speakers programs and a faculty-student seminar to investigate new areas of medieval philosophical and theological research, and runs a research center to assist in the publication of monographs and articles in the diverse areas of medieval philosophy and theology. The research center also encourages the translation of medieval sources and the editing of philosophical and theological texts.

For more information call 617-552-0436.