A Companion to Angels in Medieval Philosophy (Brill's Companions to the Christian Tradition)

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9789004183469: A Companion to Angels in Medieval Philosophy (Brill's Companions to the Christian Tradition)

Humanist prejudice famously made medieval angelology the paradigm of ludicrous speculation with its caricature of "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" The truth is quite the opposite: many of medieval philosophy's most original and ingenious contributions actually came to light in discussions of angelology. In fact, angelology provided an ideal context for discussing issues such as the structure of the universe, the metaphysical texture of creatures (e.g. esse-essentia composition and the principle of individuation), and theories of time, knowledge, freedom, and linguistics--issues which, for the most part, are still highly relevant for contemporary philosophy. Because this specifically philosophical interest in angels developed mainly during the course of the thirteenth and early fourteenth century, this volume centers on the period from Bonaventure to Ockham. It also, however, discusses some original positions by earlier thinkers such as Augustine and Anselm of Canterbury. Its nine thorough studies bring to light some neglected but highly fascinating aspects of medieval philosophy, thus filling an important gap in the literature. Contributors include: Richard Cross, Gregory T. Doolan, H.J.M.J. Goris, Tobias Hoffmann, Peter King, Timothy B. Noone, Giorgio Pini, Bernd Roling, and John F. Wippel.

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From the Back Cover:

The discussion of angels, made famous by the humanist caricature of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, was nevertheless a crucial one in medieval philosophical debates. All scholastic masters pronounced themselves on angelology, if only in their Sentence commentaries. The questions concerning angelic cognition, speech, free decision, movement, etc. were springboards for profound philosophical discussions that have to do with anthropology and metaphysics no less than with angelology. Angels qua separate substances were of central importance in medieval metaphysics (with questions on universal hylomorphism, the esse- essentia composition of creatures, and those regarding individuation of material and immaterial substances). The doctrine of angels has not been the subject of much study in the history of medieval thought, and the volume fills an important gap in the literature. The chapters offer a well-rounded, if not encyclopedic discussion in the chronological or doctrinal sense. They cover the history of debate from Augustine and Pseudo-Dionysius until the later middle ages, but instead of an author-by-author approach, focus rather on seminal ideas with demonstrable relevance to secular and modern philosophical concerns.

About the Author:

Tobias Hoffmann, Ph.D. (1999) in Philosophy, University of Fribourg, Switzerland, is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the Catholic University of America. He has published extensively on practical philosophy and metaphysics, especially in Aquinas, Henry of Ghent, and Duns Scotus.

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