Renaissance Philosophy

Before the Renaissance

  • Rediscovery of Aristotle (12th century)
  • Scholasticism (12-15th)

What Was The Renaissance?

  • End of Scholasticism
  • Overturing of orthodoxy in Science and Religion
  • Recovery of classical arts
  • End of Feudalism

Why did it happen?

Black Plague (1347-1352)

Western Schism (1378-1417)

After death of Gregory XI, Urban VI elected.

Behaves badly. Cardinals flee rome, elect Clement VII.

In Council at Pisa, cardinals make things worse by denouncing successors to both popes, and electing a third.

Finally resolved with resignation and excommunication of various pseudopopes, and election of Martin V in 1417.

New Texts

Printing Press

Free Will, Luther

Martin Luther

  • Translates bible into German
  • in response to Erasmus, writes, On the Bondage of the Will.
  • Rejects salvation through works---argues that it is through faith, and faith is "free gift of grace".
  • Publicly burns papal bull.

Free Will in the 16th Cent.

Luther's criticisms not dependent on foreknowledge.

Nevertheless, continued subject of vigorous debate.



Explain how God knows a contingent future.

Middle knowledge

Counterfactuals of Freedom

If S were in circumstances C, S would X


The fact that, if you were in C, you would X is compatible with the claim that it is possible for you, in C, to not do X.

How could this be? For, suppose that whenever if I'm in C, I do X.

Well then, it is impossible for there to be counterexample to this conditional. But a situation where I'm in C and don't do X would be a counterexample. So such a situation is impossible.

Necessary conditionals

Whenever x is a square, x is a rectangle


It is impossible that x is a square and not a rectangle


Whenever x is a square and is red, x is a rectangle.

In other words...

"Necessarily if P then Q " implies "Necessarily, if P and R, then Q".


Consider the following inference:

If you were held underwater for an hour, you would die


If you given a set of scuba gear, and were held underwater for an hour, you would die.

So, "If P were the case, Q would be the case" does not imply "If P and R were the case, Q would be the case".


If you were held underwater for an hour, you would die.

Doesn't mean

Necessarily, if you are held underwater for an hour, you will die.

(The first is true, the second false)

So, God could know

If S were in circumstances C, S would X

Without knowing that

it is impossible for S to be in C without Xing.

If God's omniscience requires only middle knowledge, then God can be omniscient, and it can still be possible for us to do other than as we actually do.