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New study of late medieval philosophical theories about social groups

Jenny Pelletier, researcher in late medieval philosophy, has received a grant from the Swedish Research council for the research project "Making the Medieval World: the Metaphysical Foundations of Social Groups in Late Medieval Philosophy".

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Jenny Pelletier, researcher in late medieval philosophy.
Jenny Pelletier, researcher in late medieval philosophy.

In contemporary philosophy there is an animated discussion on the nature and origin – the metaphysical foundations – of social groups such as states, corporations, associations, book clubs, genders, races, etc. There is, however, exceptionally little historical analysis of the subject before the early modern period.
“The purpose of my project is to investigate the virtually unstudied discussions on the metaphysical foundations of social groups in the thought of selected mid-13th to 14th-century philosophers. By the careful historical and systematic analysis of key medieval sources from Thomas Aquinas to Nicolas Oresme, this project will prove that these philosophers advanced complex theories on what social groups are and how they are built up that pre-figure later philosophers like Hobbes and Locke,” says Jenny Pelletier.

At the moment, she is working at the University of Leuven in Belgium, as researcher in late medieval philosophy.

Views on the nature of lordship

“I am wrapping up a short foray into William of Ockham’s (c. 1287–1347) conception of craft and craftsmanship as well as a longer comparative analysis of some medieval views on the notion of lordship and property ownership before the fall of Adam and Eve. This might seem arcane, but there are some very interesting thoughts on the nature of lordship, property, and slavery that come out of these discussions. I am also in the very early planning stages of an online conference exclusively devoted to women working in the field of medieval philosophy, which I am quite excited about. The hope is to have women from all stages of their careers presenting on their current research,” says Jenny Pelletier.

Being awarded this grant, just over SEK 3.5 million for a three-year research project, gives her the possibility to continue working on the ideas, and texts that she is fascinated by.
“They form an important chapter in the history of western philosophy which has all too often been neglected. On a personal level, I am also thrilled to have a connection to Sweden. I am Canadian but I have lived in Belgium since 2003. Sweden reminds me of home, down to the hockey and the moose”.

Coming back to the department

Jenny Pelletier has worked at the University of Gothenburg earlier, on a one-year research grant from Riksbankens Jubileumsfond.
“This was a great experience for me. I particularly appreciated the fact that there is a close connection between the history of medieval philosophy and contemporary theoretical philosophy (metaphysics) at the Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science. The time I spent at FLoV was marked by philosophically stimulating, helpful, and enjoyable exchanges with colleagues and staff,” says Jenny Pelletier.

Title of the project

  • Byggandet av medeltidens värld. Senmedeltida filosofiska teorier om sociala gruppers metafysiska grundvalar
  • Making the Medieval World: the Metaphysical Foundations of Social Groups in Late Medieval Philosophy