THE3196 - Encounters in Philosophy and Theology

2022/3 Module description

StaffDr Jonathan Hill - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module description

Christian theology has always had a close relationship with philosophy. Theologians have used philosophical ideas and arguments to articulate religious doctrines, and philosophers have addressed religious ideas in their work. The relationship has not always been a happy one, however, with theologians sometimes condemning philosophy as impious, and philosophers sometimes denigrating religion as irrational. In this module you will study some of the key periods in history when Christian theology has interacted especially closely with major philosophical movements of the day. The emphasis throughout is on both the history of these encounters and the ideas and arguments that they spawned.

Module aims

This option module will focus on four periods when Christian theology came into close contact with secular philosophical movements: the third and fourth centuries (when it encountered Platonism); the thirteenth century (when it encountered Aristotelianism); the seventeenth century (when it encountered Cartesianism); and the nineteenth century (when it encountered idealism).

In each case, the module will introduce the main figures involved in the encounter and the ideas and arguments that were used, both by those seeking to incorporate philosophical ideas into their theology and those who resisted such attempts.

Themes covered will include the concept of God, the relation between God and the universe, the appropriateness of different methods of reasoning, the eternity of the universe, the nature of mind and of material substance, and the nature of history.

Students will gain deeper understanding of the intellectual and religious issues at stake at these points in history, and develop their ability to analyse and compare ideas from different traditions.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate understanding of the history of the interaction between Christian theology and philosophy during the periods studied
  • 2. Demonstrate understanding of the main philosophical ideas at stake during these periods, and why and how people reacted to them in different ways
  • 3. Demonstrate familiarity with the theological doctrines that were the particular subject of debate during these periods, and how they could be understood in different ways

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Demonstrate understanding of different interpretations of theological doctrines and the arguments supporting them
  • 5. Use the conceptual tools of philosophical analysis and the history of philosophy on theological topics

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. Shape detailed information into a coherent account, with some guidance
  • 7. Demonstrate consistence and rigour in method and argument
  • 8. Make thorough use of selected written sources, with some guidance
  • 9. Communicate clearly in verbal form

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • an overview of how and why Christian theology has interacted with philosophy throughout history, especially in the west
  • the third and fourth centuries: key figures such as Origen, Celsus, Plotinus, Gregory of Nazianzus, Porphyry, Augustine
  • the third and fourth centuries: key ideas such as the eternity of God, the relation of the divine ideas to the material world, the immortality of the soul
  • the thirteenth century: key figures such as Thomas Aquinas, Stephen Tempier, Siger of Brabant, Henry of Ghent, Robert Kilwardby, Duns Scotus
  • the thirteenth century: key ideas such as double truth, the eternity of the world, the unicity of form, divine power, the nature of theology, illumination and abstraction
  • the seventeenth century: key figures such as Rene Descartes, Antoine Arnauld, Nicolas Malebranche, Pierre-Sylvain Regis, Gisbert Voetius, Abraham Heidanus, Henricus Regius, Daniel Huet
  • the seventeenth century: key ideas such as the nature of God, the nature of the mind and of material substance, the Eucharist and the real presence, the limits of human knowledge
  • the nineteenth century: key figures such as Immanuel Kant, G.W.F. Hegel, J.G. Fichte, F.W.J. Schelling, Johann Gabler, David Strauss
  • the nineteenth century: key ideas such as the nature of reality and its relation to God, the development of ideas and political institutions, the validity of biblical criticism

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities2211 x 2 hour lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching activities1111 x 1 hour seminars
Guided independent study267Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay plan (for summative assessment essay)200-300 words1-8Written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay503000 words1-8Written
Critical commentary502000 words1-8Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-8Referral/deferral period
Critical commentaryCritical commentary1-8Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Adams, N., ed. The impact of idealism: the legacy of post-Kantian thought: IV: religion Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2013
  • Baumer, C. The Church of the East: An illustrated history of Assyrian Christianity London: Tauris 2016
  • Beiser, F., ed. The Cambridge companion to Hegel and nineteenth-century philosophy Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2008
  • Boys-Stones, G.R., ed. Platonist philosophy 80 BC to AD 250: An introduction and collection of sources in translation Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2018
  • Cessario, R. A short history of Thomism Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press 2005
  • Dillon, J. The middle Platonists London: Duckworth 1996
  • Fox, R. Time and eternity in mid-thirteenth-century thought Oxford: Oxford University Press 2006
  • Heaney, R. From historical to critical post-colonial theology: The contribution of John S. Mbiti and Jesse N. K. Mugambi Eugene, OR: Pickwick
  • Heine, R. Origen: An introduction to his life and thought Eugene, OR: Cascade 2019
  • Hodgson, P. Hegel and Christian theology Oxford: Oxford University Press 2005
  • Lennon, T., Nicholas, J., and Davis, J., eds. Problems of Cartesianism Montreal; Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press 1982
  • McCosker, P. and Turner, D., eds. The Cambridge companion to the Summa Theologiae New York: Cambridge University Press 2016
  • McInernry, R. Aquinas against the Averroists: On there being only one intellect West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press 1993
  • Mignini, P., ed. New perspectives in the studies on Matteo Ricci Quodlibet 2019
  • Nadler, S., Schmaltz, T., and Antoine-Mahut, D., eds. The Oxford handbook of Descartes and Cartesianism Oxford: Oxford University Press 2019
  • Pelikan, J. Christianity and classical culture New Haven, CT; London: Yale University Press 1993
  • Schmaltz, T. Radical Cartesianism Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2004
  • Teske, R., ed. Essays on the philosophy of Henry of Ghent Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press 2012

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Key words search

History of Doctrine; Philosophy and Theology; Platonism; Aristotelianism; Cartesianism; idealism

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