Moody 2018: William of Ockham and his Milieu

From the 2nd to the 4th of March, the University of California Los Angeles will be hosting the yearly Moody Workshop in Medieval Philosophy. This meeting is named after Earnest Addison Moody, a former member of the Philosophy Department and a founding member of the UCLA Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies – which are jointly sponsoring the event.

Professor Moody was one of the the pioneers of Medieval Philosophy in North America and one of the first scholars to approach the study of medieval philosophical theories in their own right, without subordinating them to theological views. But for those who have even a passing interest in the history of logic, E. A. Moody is first and foremost the author of  Truth and Consequence in Medieval Logic (19531), one of the most influential volumes in the historiography of medieval logic and of medieval philosophy as a whole.

A Williams College graduate (class 1924), E. A. Moody obtained his PhD from Columbia in 1936, with a thesis on William of Auvergne’s Treatise De anima. While teaching at Columbia, he developed an interest in the history of medieval logic and science. Having retired for a few years to a ranch in Texas, in 1958 he joined the Department of Philosophy at UCLA; there he found a department not only already traditionally strong in logic and language but that was undergoing further changes toward that direction as well – in other words, the perfect fit for Moody’s own research interests.

Above all, those research interest left a significant imprint on the way we look at medieval philosophy in general and at the history of medieval logic in particular, especially in North America. Since the 19th century, the history of the study of medieval philosophy had been almost entirely shaped by quasi-nationalistic and quasi-theological concerns. Leo XIII’s Aeterni Patris encyclical (1879), by restoring “Christian Philosophy in Catholic Schools in the spirit of the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas”, was pivotal in determining a dominant picture of medieval philosophy that had both the kind of uniformity that scholars like Maurice De Wulf ascribed to terms like “scholasticism” and Aquinas as the central figure. True enough, this picture of medieval philosophy as fundamentally homogenous began to break down when Étienne Gilson and others started to realise that it couldn’t manage to account for roughly a thousand years of philosophical speculations. But even so, after Aeterni Patris typically there was still an idea that medieval philosophy had seemingly emerged out of the wreckage of the Roman Empire, grown slowly to a peak with Aquinas, and then began to decay – Gilson, for example, thought that the decay culminated in Descartes. Various people had slightly different pictures, but it was always as a curve and Aquinas was typically at its peak. Now, Moody had a different agenda and a different set of thoughts: he pursued his interests in medieval logic, language and science in connection to the contemporary discussions in logic and language – an whatever Aquinas was up to, an emphasis on logic and language wasn’t really that. This pushed Moody’s interests later, well into the 14th century, and had the consequence that the people who where interested in what Moody was interested in started to look more closely and seriously at the later middle ages, finding in 14th century philosophy a veritable goldmine, while it simultaneously became a common practice to develop those interests in the history of science, logic and language in connection with analogous contemporary endeavours. That ultimately set the tone for Medieval Philosophy on this side of the Pond. E. A. Moody remained at UCLA until his retirement in 1969 and in 1972 was succeeded by Marilyn McCord Adams. Even if McCord Adams later on became much more interested in philosophical theology, when she was at UCLA her major work was on Ockham – and it wasn’t really a theological work at all, rather it focused on Ockham’s logic. Overall, what Moody’s influence in North America amounted to was creating a climate in which Medieval Philosophy could be moved out of theology and toward philosophical issues relevant for contemporary discussions; from that kind of point of view, the 14th century was one of the most interesting things one could study, and in many ways, still is. Nobody else among the major figures who were doing medieval philosophy in Moody’s generation had anything like that on their agenda or achieved similar results.

The Moody Workshop was instituted by Calvin Normore, when he took over the mantle of Medieval Philosophy at UCLA in 1998. The first speaker in the first Moody Workshop was Martin Tweedale, Moody’s last student at UCLA. Since then a small group of scholars meets every year to discuss a particular topic in medieval philosophy, usually among those that would have met Moody’s interest. This year’s meeting, on William of Ockham and his Milieu, is dedicated to the memory of Marilyn McCord Adams.



3:30 PM Peter King (Toronto)
Mental Without the Mind: Ockham’s Radical Revolution


10:00 AM Jenny Pelletier (Leuven)
What is Dominium? Ockham and the Ontology of Lordship

11:30 AM Mikko Yrjönsuuri (Jyväskylä)
Valid on Formal Ground: Burley, Ockham and Buridan

1:00 PM Lunch

2:00 PM Magali Roques (Helskinki)
Ockham’s Theory of Real Definitions

3:30 PM Graziana Ciola (UCLA)
Relativa grammaticalia and the Regimentation of Latin in 14th Century Logic


10:00 AM André Martin (McGill)
What Can the Ockham/Chatton Debate on Self‐Awareness Tell us About Medieval Accounts of Consciousness?

11:30 AM Josh Blander (The King’s College)
Does Ockham Have Priorities?

1:00 PM Lunch

2:00 PM Tom Ward (Baylor)
Ockham on Omnipotence, ‘LogicalImpossibility’, and Hating God

3:30 PM Christopher Martin (Auckland)
Suppose God did not Exist, or that the Eye Were an Animal: Impossible Positio and its use by Scotus, Ockham and Chatton


If you happen to be around, come and join us!

About grazianaciola

Medievalist, logician, philosopher (?), fanwriter, tea drinker, and fond supporter of the Oxford Comma. If it is in Latin, I probably like it; if it is wrong, I almost certainly like it too.
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