Jul 31, 2013

Inserting Anselm into Alasdair MacIntyre's Narrative of Medieval Thought

I recently gave a talk -- partly reading, partly summarizing, and partly promising parts yet unwritten of a paper about Alasdair MacIntyre, Saint Anselm of Canterbury (or Bec, or Aosta, depending on where you're from) and medieval moral theory.

My contention -- a friendly one -- is that MacIntyre's account of what took place in that period we call "medieval" would be considerably improved by incorporation of a fuller picture of Anselm's formation and contributions to an ongoing tradition of moral enquiry.  MacIntyre calls this "Augustinian", but it is really much broader -- and older -- than the properly augustinian tradition in philosophy or theology.

I think what I'm trying to fix in this paper is encapsulated in one remark:  MacIntyre's account of Anselm is precisely what one might expect from a reading that focuses exclusively upon the Proslogion and upon Thomas Aquinas' references to Anselm's theory of truth.  Accordingly, my aim is to show, mainly by way of exposition, that Anselm's contributions lay in moral theory as well -- and to set out his influences upon Aquinas as an interlocutor.

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