Summer School on the Metaphysics of Relations in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy

June 6, 2022 - June 10, 2022
Master in Philosophy (MAP), Universitá della Svizzera Italiana

Via Giuseppe Buffi 13
Lugano 6900

Main speakers:

Cambridge University
Durham University


Università della Svizzera Italiana
Università della Svizzera Italiana

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About the Summer School

Understanding how the philosophers of classical antiquity have conceived of what we would call the metaphysics of relations has been a challenge for scholars. While the ancients acknowledge relational statements, as we do, there is a fundamental difference between us and them about the ontology of their truth-makers. Among the ancients, we shall explore how Plato and Aristotle thought about the issue. Aristotle introduced an influential approach to the ontology of relations, as (so-called) monadic properties (rather than as polyadic ones), which can each belong only to each of the individuals which are related. Just as this book has the particular qualitative accident of being black, which belongs to it alone, so it, alone, also has the particular relational qualification of being older than that book. In turn, that book, alone, will have its own particular relational qualification of being newer than this book. For the ancients, the difficult question about relations is whether they (e.g. x being equal to y) do anything more than simultaneously qualify each of their relata (e.g. as equal); we shall try to understand how the ancients dealt with what we can call the ‘relational’ metaphysical role of relations, over and above their role as qualifications.

According to a widely held view, medieval philosophers followed Aristotle and viewed relations as monadic properties. But recent work, especially but not exclusively on earlier medieval philosophy, shows that the range of views was far wider. We shall look both at authors who fit the traditional interpretation, such as Abelard and Aquinas, and those who do not, such as Boethius and Eriugena, continuing the discussion of the two metaphysical roles of relations: relational and as qualifications.


The teaching will be arranged into morning lectures, run jointly by Anna Marmodoro and John Marenbon, and texted based afternoon seminars run by two teaching assistants. The Summer School will end with a conference on Relations in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy, followed back-to-back by one on Relations in Contemporary Metaphysics.

How to Apply

In order to apply, please fill in the form you find attached to this webpage and send it to [email protected] together with a CV, a covering letter explaining why you want to come to the summer school and the ways in which you think it will help your work, and please ask a referee (in the case of masters or doctoral students, this will probably be your supervisor) to send a reference letter to the same address.

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January 31, 2022, 11:00pm CET

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