Annual Aquinas Lecture 2017: Prof. John Marenbon 'Why we shouldn’t study Aquinas'

Monday, March 20, 2017 - 19:30 to 20:30
Renehan Hall, St Patrick's College, Maynooth

Thomas Aquinas is not merely the most famous medieval philosopher: he is vastly better known and more widely studied than any other philosopher of the time. I shall argue that this disproportional elevation of a single figure damages both research in the field as a whole and wider public understanding of it (and also, in fact, a proper understanding of the direction and importance of Aquinas’s own thought). As well as the intellectual distortion brought about simply by exaggerating the eminence of one among a host of outstanding philosophers, the position given to Aquinas has led to a chronological, geographical and professional narrowing of the field of medieval philosophy, and to a mishandling of the delicate relations between philosophizing in the past and now, the religious faith of past philosophers and the religious faith, or lack of it, of today’s historians of philosophy.


 Prof. John Marenbon (University of Cambridge) was educated at Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he has been a fellow since 1978. He is also now Honorary Professor of Medieval Philosophy in the University of Cambridge and was Visiting Professor at Peking University in 2015 and 2016. He studies the history of philosophy in the Long Middle Ages. Among his recent publications are The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Philosophy (editor, 2012), Pagans and Philosophers. The problem of paganism from Augustine to Leibniz (Princeton University Press, 2015) and Medieval Philosophy. A very short introduction (Oxford University Press, 2016).