Philosophical themes in Geoffrey Alienand O.Carm, a 1340s Oxford Scholastic
Cal Ledsham

May 19, 2023, 11:00am - 12:00pm
Catholic Theological College, University of Divinity

Treacy Boardroom
278 Victoria Pde
East Melbourne 3002

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities

This event is available both online and in-person

Topic areas


The Oxford Carmelite Geoffrey Alienand's only extant work - his Introitus ad Bibliam - is a rich 12000 word reservoir of medieval philosophy, discussing the headline question of whether it is necessary that any created being other than the first being depends on the first being. I will discuss the chronology of Alienand’s Introitus (it is roughly between 1345-6 to 1348-9), its manuscript story & its relationship to his cohort, and the 'philosophical archeology' of retrieving these sorts of texts, and then the content very selectively. 

About half of the text is concerned with the issue of Divine equipresence to different points of time, and what this equipresence implies for the for the possibility that something will be that currently is not or vice versa; i.e. that particulars come in and out of existence. Alienand seems to be countering an opponent that holds that change across time is impossible. I deal with this material only briefly.  

Alienand also discusses whether the privative conditions and non-beings are caused by the first being. This enquiry allows him to explore the possibility of non-beings and their causal connection to God – whether God causes privations, non-beings and impossibilia, or has a limited range of cause only over actual things. Alienand's arguments here go far beyond standard scholasticised Aristotelianism of actual and potential, to something like theistic modal realism or a modal 'symmetricality' of actuals and possibles; characterising them is an objective of the paper.

Another quarter of the text is devoted to discussing whether an infinite being can exist, which ipso facto would not be dependent on the first being, and it would seem prima facie that such would be a counterexample to any necessary-dependence thesis. In this material, Alienand accepts the possibility of a created infinite, recognises the breakdown of laws of arithmatic and Euclidian relations of whole and part in infinite contexts (i.e. a kind of medieval 'transfinitist', rather than the standard scholastic view that infinite paradoxes show that infinites are impossible, so setting up God to have infinity as a divine attribute). He also works to disentangle the attribute of infinity from unlimitedness and being immeasurable or the measure of finite things, such that a distinction between God and a created infinite is possible, and blocking the possibility of God creating another/infinite other Gods.

Practical information

Public Transport: Trams: 109 (to Box Hill), 12 (to Victoria Gardens): Tram, stop 13 (Landsdowne St. ACU).

Buses: From City: 302, 303, 304, 305, 309, 318, 350, 905, 906, 907, 908. Stop: ACU.

Nearest Train Station: Parliament Station. Exit Macarthur St, go north until Victoria Parade, Turn right, 400 metres (CTC building corner of Victoria Parade and Eades St, - the Southern Side of Vic Parade, located across from what was until very recently - the Dallas Brooks Hall).

Parking along Vic Parade and at the ACU (on Young St).

The Treacy boardroom is on the ground floor, very close to the reception desk of the Thomas Carr Centre, which is the campus building at 278 Victoria Pde. There is a wheelchair-friendly toilet/bathroom on the same ground floor a short distance from the boardroom.

Zoom link 

Please register by emailing [email protected] and indicate that you are staff or a graduate student and the zoom link will be sent out to you by a BCC email just prior to the start time for the seminar.

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May 19, 2023, 9:00am +10:00

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