Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

medieval exeplarism - cullen

Medieval Exemplarism


Friday 3.15-5.15 p.m.





Course Description


Augustine posited the Platonic forms as ideas in the divine mind.  In this regard he was following precedent set first by the middle Platonists and later followed by Neoplatonists, such as Philo, who made the same move in his book, De opificio mundi.  But it is the doctrine that is found in the Augustinian texts that influences nearly all subsequent medieval philosophy in the West.  This move incorporates the entire Greek metaphysics of essence into Christian thought:  created natures reflect the divine mind.  Hence this position was truly foundational—in a way, a sort of charter for the later Scholastic project. 


This course will be an examination and investigation of medieval exemplarism—the theory that the things of the world reflect exemplar or model ideas.  This course will first trace the precursors to the Scholastic doctrine among the ancients and Augustine.  It will then proceed to examine the doctrine of exemplarism in major Scholastic authors, concentrating on Aquinas and Bonaventure, but authors will receive some consideration, especially Anselm, Duns Scotus, and Ockham.


Such an investigation is less daunting than it may at first sound, because one need not plow through a mountain of texts but can focus in most instances on the Scholastic commentaries on distinctions 35-36 of Peter the Lombard’s Sentences.   All the Scholastic authors commented on the Sentences after the early, thirteenth-century Franciscan, Alexander of Hales, decided to use the Lombard’s anthology as his textbook.


Among other issues, this course will use exemplarism as a key to viewing the Scholastic systems.  Students will also investigate how exemplarism reveals the Platonizing character of Scholastic interpretations of Aristotle, since the Augustinian move meant that nearly all subsequent interpretations of Aristotle were going to be in one degree or another Platonic. 



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