Reason, Politics & Society


The group Reason, Politics and Society in Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy is focused on central areas of Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy: Epistemology, Social and Political Philosophy, and the dissemination of philosophical thought through Literature. It also focuses on the methodology of research, which is a particularly sensitive topic in current Medieval Philosophy studies.

The core team is composed by specialists in Medieval Philosophy, Medieval Literature and Historiography, and Medieval Art.

The research takes into account the great authors from the end of Classical Antiquity to the end of Second Scholasticism (Augustine, Boethius, Scotus Eriugena, Anselm, Abelard, Bernard, Albert the Great, Aquinas, Henry of Ghent, Duns Scotus, Ockham, Nicholas of Cues, Fonseca, Suárez, Poinsot). But there is a particular interest in the study of authors and texts traditionally considered minor (feminine literature, historiography, sermons, poetry, fiction), since there is an understanding that they deserve close examination, given that their study contributes to the renovation of thought and emergency of new concepts and arguments. 

Medieval rationality & Philosophy

Reason, Politics and Society in Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy
Ref. FCT: RG-502-1908
PI: José Meirinhos


The RG is structured upon 3 main areas of activity, which are nonetheless connected between them:

1) Reason and Nature (coord: P. Oliveira e Silva)

2) Seminário Medieval Literatura Pensamento e Sociedade - SMELPS / Seminar of Medieval Literature, Thought and Society (coord: M. R. Ferreira)

3) Imago Mundi, Medieval Philosophy in text and Translation (coord: J. Meirinhos)


Objectives of the Research Group

Basing its research on the core concept of «reason», the group intends to grasp the specific connections between the thematic areas it analyses, which were crucial to medieval authors. The concept of reason is at the basis of questions related with epistemological, anthropological, ethical, hermeneutical, social, political, and aesthetic issues. The research will focus on sub-themes related with the main guiding subject, examining different kinds of sources such as philosophical, theological, historiographical, literary, and even from the mechanical arts (Artes mechanichae).

In its 3 main areas the RG intends to put in contrast and make explicit the different paradigms of rationality to understand the medieval image of the limits and possibilities of reason. The RG will organize seminars and other national and international scientific meetings, publish books, papers, and journal issues, prepare research missions and participation in meetings.

Besides missions for the participation of members in scientific meetings (including fees), other missions shall be required for 1) bibliographic research and 2) short courses or seminars (including fees) on auxiliary fields, namely on digital humanities, to be undertaken especially by young researchers on training.

The successful prosecution of the research group activities will also require:  1) creating and managing websites for the diffusion of the groups projects and scientific initiatives (including graphic design of layout and graphic models for online divulgation of results, events and publications, also adaptable to paper support such as posters, programs, hand-outs, publication covers and outline); 2) hosting, programing and adjusting sites to new research needs; 3) contract host networking systems (Dropbox, Zotero, etc); 4) acquiring bibliography, copies and rights of diffusion of mss. and other copyrighted materials, as well as programs for specialised text/image management and edition; 5) purchasing ink cartridges, paper; printing divulgation materials for scientific events (posters, programs, hand-outs); 6) editing and publishing (nationally and internationally) the group’s research results (namely participating in the costs of production abroad of on-line or on-paper books or journal issues by group’s members; 7) expert translation and/or revision of papers, books, etc., proposed to publication in foreign languages, as well as the technical revision of books authored or directed by group’s researchers; 8) obtaining the advice of recognised specialists as external consultants for ongoing projects and publications; 9) inviting national and international experts to participate in meetings organized by the RG.


The group focuses on three main thematic fields:


a) Mind/Soul, knowledge and action. It is intended to carry out the study of medieval theories of mind/soul, in philosophical, theological and medical traditions. The main subjects will be hylomorfism and bi-subtantialisms. Theories of emotions, free will and decision are at stake to understand the different positions on the relation between knowledge and action.

b) The role of memory and imagination in medieval theories of knowledge and identity, mainly exploring the influence of Augustinian tradition on the nature of memory all along the Middle Ages and Early Modern Philosophy.

c) Reason, Fall and Politics: studying the Augustinian tradition and its influence upon the questions on the origin of dominium and proprietas, the enforcement of law and the nature of power, secular and spiritual.

d) Reason and the Arts: "Firmitas, Utilitas and Venustas" in the Medieval and Renaissance thought on Art and Architecture.

2. SEMINÁRIO MEDIEVAL DE LITERATURA PENSAMENTO E SOCIEDADE (Seminar of Medieval Literature, Thought and Society)

SMELPS focuses on reason, law, lineage and representations of society in Medieval Portuguese historiography, Arthurian Literature, and romance languages Literature. This thematic field is closely linked to the research put forward by the Reason and Politics subject. Detailed subprograms are foreseen:

a) Assessment of historical and literary constraints on the representation of the power of women in the Iberian Middle Ages historiography (occasionally encompassing other literary genres) and survey of the changes that representation underwent over the years, mainly from the 9th century onwards.

b) The conditions and constraints of redaction, diffusion and reception of 15th century Portuguese historiography, mainly Fernão Lopes and Rui de Pina, in its historical and political peninsular context.

c) The construction of a memory of Hispania in the 14th century by Pedro de Barcelos, understood mainly though his historiographical writing in Crónica de 1344 and Livro de Linhagens: editorial and cultural perspectives.

c) The configuration of Arthurian romance in Portugal and its impact on the conformation of social pragmatics and in the diffusion of socio-symbolic codes in Portugal and in the Iberian Peninsula; and the accurate assessment of the position of the cycle of romances, translated in Portugal by the end of the 13th century, in the context of French and European romance.

d) How recurrent themes in Arthurian romance, such as love or political theology, influenced Portuguese late medieval thought.

e) Comparative studies on the production of the first two generations of Galician-Portuguese poets to the literary, artistic and philosophic modalities of representation converging in Iberia during the 12th and 13th centuries, with special regard to Latin, Hebraic and Arabic cultural domains.

f) Inventory of the Portuguese Romances de Cavalaria.



A vast program of translation and bilingual editions of the most important medieval philosophy works. This area will continue the homonymous project : coord. by J. Meirinhos, with the collaboration of other RG members to publish several bilingual books.


Related Projects with external funding (current)

  1. Biblioteca do Convento de São Salvador de Vilar de Frades (séc. XVI-XVIII) (2018-2019) - DRCN
  2. Da memória escrita à leitura do espaço: Pedro de Barcelos e a identidade cultural do Norte de Portugal (2018-2021) - FCT
  3. From Data to Wisdom (2018-2021) - FCT
  4. Vernacular Europe (2019-2020) - FCT

Main internal projects

Internal projects underway (2019):
(some of these evolved from former externaly funded projects)

  1. Arca. Textos e autores medievais portugueses
  2. Imago mundi
  3. Seminário Medieval de Literatura, Pensamento e Sociedade