Theories of Causal Powers in the Thirteenth and the Fourteenth Century

June 1, 2018 - June 2, 2018
KU Leuven

Kardinaal Mercierplein 2
Leuven 3000

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Gloria Frost
University of St. Thomas, Minnesota
Anna Marmodoro
Oxford University


Can Laurens Löwe

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Crucial to medieval metaphysics is the notion of a causal power (potentia/virtus/vis). This concept plays a central role in scholastic theories of natural change, according to which ‘change’ is conceived of as the actualization of a power. It also figures prominently in medieval accounts of psychology, the soul being viewed as endowed with powers such as sight, the intellect, and the will. Finally, the concept of a causal power is of key relevance in theology, in discussions of creation, omnipotence, as well as divine production. In the past two decades there have been various studies of medieval theories of causal powers focusing especially on issues pertaining to the powers of the soul. Our knowledge of the development of these theories still has gaps, however. Furthermore, there are several aspects of medieval theories of powers that have been barely studied, for instance, how powers figure in accounts of natural change, or how they are individuated. This workshop is intended to bring scholars together to work toward filling some of these gaps so as to deepen our understanding of this central piece of medieval metaphysics. The focus is on thirteenth- and fourteenth-century theories of powers, which were heavily influenced by the reception of Aristotle. The workshop intends to study thirteenth- and fourteenth-century thinkers in their own right, but we are also very much interested in their relation to Aristotle.

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