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Georgetown University


Detailed Course Information


Fall 2017
Jan 21, 2018
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BLHS 105 - Faith/Reason in Middle Ages
The relation between faith and reason is one of the perennial issues in Western thought. With the renaissance of the twelfth century and the founding of universities throughout Europe in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the question of faith and reason was dramatically recast. The rediscovery of Aristotle—and so, the use of Aristotelian logic, grammar, physics, and metaphysics—led to the development of new methods of inquiry, categories of thought, and modes of expression. This course begins with the twelfth-century renaissance; the cross-fertilization among Muslim, Jewish, and Christian scholars; the rise of the universities as important institutions; and the development of scholasticism. It focuses on particular on the development of the scholastic method, resistance to it, and, in particular, discussions and sometimes fierce debates about "faith and reason" in Christianity and Judaism. The course also looks at the issue of authority and alternative approaches to faith and reason (e.g., mystical texts and vernacular theologies), the category of "heresy" and its ramifications (social, political, religious).

Segment 1: Scholasticism

The focus of this segment is on the universities and scholastic philosophy and theology. It examines stages of development of the scholastic method, with special focus on the role of reason and its relation to faith. The rubric of "Faith and Reason" will be considered both narrowly (explicit discussions of faith and reason) and broadly (how it gets played out in ethics and in discussions of freedom and grace). Students will study particular conflicts in order to appreciate just what was at stake: tensions betweens monastic theology and scholastic theology (e.g., between Bernard of Clairvaux and Peter Abelard), bitter disagreements within the universities (e.g., among various faculties, and/or between Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure), and struggles of authority between scholastics and their prelates.

Segment 2: Vernacular Theology

New systems of education in medieval Europe had many social effects, among them growing literacy among the laity. This led to another response to some of the methods and conclusions of scholasticism, especially regarding faith and reason. This segment begins with the "new mysticism" that emerged in the thirteenth century. The focus here is on the texts of male and female mystics whose authority comes not from their office but from "grace"—that is to say, from what is claimed to be a direct gift from God. How did they understand faith and reason? This segment also studies the proliferation of vernacular theologies in the late Middle Ages, their threat to secular and ecclesial authorities, and their role in social transformation. It also looks at the response to such mystics and lay theologians, especially the increased use of the label "heresy" and methods to counter and subdue the so-called "heretics."

Segment 3: Judaism

This segment of the course studies how Jewish scholars sought to reconcile the philosophic heritage of ancient Greece with Judaism's revealed tradition. The focus here is on the major contributions of the great philosopher-rabbis of the Islamic World (Saadya, Maimonides, Ibn Gabirol, etc.), contrasted with the concepts of piety and Talmudic exegesis developed among the Jews of Northern Europe, and also on the so-called Maimonidean Controversy of the thirteenth century and the burgeoning popularity of mystical thought.

4.000 Credit hours
4.000 Lecture hours
0.000 Lab hours

Levels: Undergraduate
Schedule Types: Lecture

Liberal Studies - Human/Soc Sc Department

Course Attributes:
Mean Grade is Calculated

Must be enrolled in one of the following Levels:     
Must be enrolled in one of the following Colleges:     
      School of Continuing Studies

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Release: 8.7.2