26 March 2021
(please contact the organisers to receive the link)
Confirmed Speakers and Schedule
11:00 Tianyue Wu (Peking University)
"Aquinas on Human Personhood and Dignity"
12:00 Dominik Perler (Humboldt Universität Berlin)
"Suárez's Compositional Account of
12:00-14:00 lunch break
14:00 Rodrigo Ballon Villanueva (Università della Svizzera Italiana)
"Eriugena Against the Standard Account of Relations in the Middle Ages"
15:00 Roxane Nöel (University of Cambridge)
"John of Salisbury’s Nominalism and the Virtuous Quest for Happiness"
Tianyue Wu, Peking University
"Aquinas on Human Personhood and Dignity"
Modern commentators are divided on Aquinas’s theory of human dignity: some were excited to find a contemporary conception of inherent or unearned worth of human beings in Aquinas’s claim that each person is immediately given a certain dignity simply because of its ontological status as a rational individual; whereas others insisted that what Aquinas had in mind was still a more traditional conception of moral worth based upon one’s merits. In this context, this essay endeavors to reconstruct a philosophical account of personal dignity from Aquinas’s theological reflections on hypostasis, person, rationality and dignity. In particular, it will examine his interpretation of the definition of person as “a hypostasis distinct by a property pertaining to dignity”. I will argue that by commenting on this “dignity definition of person”, Aquinas develops an insightful account of human dignity as a personal property (proprietas personalis), which is deeply rooted in a rational substance whose existence cannot be shared, communicated or repeated. It will be shown that personal dignity is neither a merit-based value nor an abstract claim related to the nature of human species, but rather a specific sort of normative force that is grounded on the incommunicable existence of a rational being.
Dominik Perler (Humboldt-Universität, Berlin)
"Suárez’s Compositional Account of Substance"
According to Francisco Suárez, a substance is composed of many things: form, matter, qualities and other accidents. All of them have their own essence and existence, and all of them are really distinct from each other. In making this claim, Suárez defends a compositional account of substance and radically transforms Aristotelian hylomorphism. This paper examines his reasons for this transformation by paying special attention to his reinterpretation of matter, which he takes to be a fundamental thing with actual and not just potential existence – a thing that is combined with many other things. It is argued that this new way of looking at a substance prepares the ground for a new way of doing metaphysics: we need to mentally decompose and recompose a substance. It is only when doing this kind of “reverse engineering” that we come to know what a substance is.
Rodrigo Ballon Villanueva
University of Italian Switzerland
Eriugena Against “the Standard Account” of Relations in the Middle Ages.
According to “the Standard Account” (TSA) of relations in the Middle Ages, medieval authors claimed that a) relations were monadic properties (instantiated by only one substance), and b) relations were real (as opposed to entia rationis). In this presentation, I am going to argue that the two claims of TSA do not apply in the case of the Carolingian philosopher John Scotus Eriugena (9th century). In other words, my interpretation will defend the view that not only did Eriugena consider relations to be polyadic properties, but also that his approach must be understood within the framework of his so-called idealism. For this purpose, my analysis will focus on Eriugena's treatment of the categories, paying special attention to the two relational ones, namely, ad aliquid and habitus.
Roxane Nöel (University of Cambridge)
"John of Salisbury’s Nominalism and the Virtuous Quest for Happiness"John of Salisbury’s Nominalism and the Virtuous Quest for Happiness"
John of Salisbury is an important figure when it comes to understanding twelfth-century philosophy, but the interest of his writings is usually found more in his description of other views than in his own original ideas. I believe we should not underestimate the interest of his views on universals as expressed in his Metalogicon. This treatise is written as a defense of the arts of the trivium, namely grammar, dialectic (or logic) and rhetoric, and in it he aims to defend the use of teaching these classical arts. The purpose of this talk is to show how John of Salisbury’s nominalism, a view about ontology, is more adequately understood in the broader scheme of his metaphilosophy, which places the virtuous life as the goal of practicing philosophy. This is an unprecedented attempt to link a metaphysical position, usually examined in isolation, to his broader ethical framework. In doing so, I hope to show how we should, generally speaking, think about the links between metaphysical views and the implicit or explicit moral motivations for adopting them.