General Introduction  pp. 1-8

General Introduction

By Robert Pasnau

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When the first volume of this series appeared thirteen years ago, the editors ruefully remarked on the scarcity of reliable editions and translations of medieval philosophical texts. Since then the situation has improved incrementally, but remains far from satisfactory. Without reliable texts, it is hard even for specialists to learn what medieval authors actually thought. Without translations, it is yet harder for nonspecialists to see why medieval scholarship is an enterprise worth supporting.

This volume attempts to convey some sense of later medieval work on the nature of mind and knowledge. In keeping with the principles of the series, the volume contains complete treatises or questions, except in two cases where the length was prohibitive. The selections are drawn entirely from Latin (hence Christian) works, and consequently the volume captures only at secondhand the fascinating inter continental and interdenominational dimensions of medieval philosophy. But even given this constraint, the authors included here display an extremely wide range of styles and viewpoints. Moreover, the selections represent the full range of literary genres, from Aristotelian commentaries to Biblical commentaries, and from sermons to academic disputations. The selections focus on authors not widely available in translation. Indeed, for most of the authors included here, this marks the first time that any of their works have been published in English.

Not every medieval theologian and philosopher deserves to be translated. The twelve selections were chosen both for their significance within the medieval context, and for their relevance to contemporary philosophy. Often, the connections to modern discussions will be immediate and striking.