This unit examines medieval accounts of the soul and body, and the relationship between cognition, emotions and values in selected medieval scholastic thinkers. It investigates two strategies used by medieval thinkers to uphold the transcendent dignity of the human person and the claim that humans are made in the image of God. The first strategy (exemplified by Albert the Great and Aquinas) was to argue for the immateriality and immortality of the soul on the basis of the powers of the intellect. The second strategy (exemplified by Henry of Ghent and the Franciscans) focused on the will rather than the intellect and argued that the image of God in human nature is the radical freedom of the human will – that is, the human ability to love freely. The unit will also consider the relation of debates on these topics to characterisations of thinkers as voluntarists and rationalists, and our understanding of the relation between faith and reason.

Unit code: AP9123C

Unit status: Approved (Major revision)

Points: 24.0

Unit level: Postgraduate Elective

Unit discipline: Philosophy

Proposing College: Catholic Theological College

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Learning outcomes


Critically read the selected primary texts carefully in relation to their purpose and historical context, identify their implications and subject them to rigorous assessment.


Critically expound and evaluate the theories, terminology and arguments studied in the unit.


Develop hypotheses situating the material studied in relation to major recurrent issues/ themes in the history of Christian philosophical tradition (e.g. faith and reason, voluntarism and rationalism).


Develop a topic of research in a critical, rigorous, sustained and self-directed manner, in accord with the methodologies and conventions of research in medieval philosophy.



Indicative Bibliography

* = set texts recommended for purchase

  • Dales, Richard C. The Problem of the Rational Soul in the Thirteenth Century. Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History. Leiden: Brill, 1995.
  • Davies, Brian. Aquinas. Outstanding Christian Thinkers. London: Continuum, 2002.
  • Frank, William A., ed. Duns Scotus on the Will and Morality. Translated by Allan B. Wolter. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1997.
  • Henry of Ghent. Quodlibetal Questions on Free Will. Translated and edited by Roland J. Teske. Medieval Philosophical Texts in Translation 32. Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1993.
  • –––. Quodlibetal Questions on Moral Problems. Translated and edited by Roland J. Teske. Medieval Philosophical Texts in Translation 41. Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 2005.
  • Kent, Bonnie. Virtues of the Will: The Transformation of Ethics in the Late Thirteenth Century. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1995.
  • Pasnau, Robert. Thomas Aquinas on Human Nature: A Philosophical Study of Summa Theologiae 1a, 75-89. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
  • Pegis, Anton. St. Thomas and the Problem of the Soul in the Thirteenth Century. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1976.
  • Scotus, John Duns. Philosophical Writings: A Selection / John Duns Scotus. Edited and translated by Allan B. Wolter. Edinburgh: Nelson, 1962.
  • Williams, Thomas, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Duns Scotus. Cambridge Companions to Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.


Type Description Word count Weight (%)
Skeleton Argument

Variant 1: Skeleton Argument

One choice from two assessment variants will be nominated at the time of scheduling by the lecturer/unit coordinator prior to the start of the unit, published in the unit outline. Students may have topical choices within a given assessment variant, but are not able to make choices outside that set of assessments.

1000 10.0

Variant 1: Essay

6000 90.0

Variant 2: Essay

2000 30.0
Skeleton Argument

Variant 2: Skeleton Argument

1000 10.0

Variant 2: Essay

4000 60.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by Maggie Kappelhoff on 23 Jul, 2020

Unit record last updated: 2021-06-07 08:43:50 +1000