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Online Learning

Course Number: STP 618
Course Title: BRITISH FRANCISCANS: Forward-Looking Tradition in the Middle Ages
Term: FALL 2014


Dr. Philippe Yates



The British Franciscans had a remarkably productive school at Oxford in the 13th and 14th centuries. Founded by Bishop Robert Grosseteste, a great friend of the friars, it produced thinkers of the caliber of Thomas of York, Roger Bacon, John Pecham, Richard of Middleton, John Duns Scotus and William of Ockham. At this school they developed a cautious response to Aristotle that successfully integrated his 'innovations' into the Christian tradition they inherited – producing orthodox syntheses that differed from that of Thomas Aquinas by remaining more faithful to traditional Augustinian insights.

This faithfulness to tradition did not make them backward-looking: Bacon proposed a modern scientific method, Scotus valued the individual, Scotus and Ockham wrote political treatises that influenced the development of government 'by the people'. While these British thinkers differed from each other on many questions, they produced a corpus of work that informed British thinking widely both before and after the Reformation – especially the revolutionary thinking that would form a significant part of the American cultural heritage. This course seeks to offer an understanding of this self-consciously Catholic contribution to the development of the modern world.


  • Students will demonstrate an understanding of the political and cultural background to the intellectual tradition of the British Franciscans
  • Students will demonstrate an understanding and appreciation of the major contributions to philosophy and theology of the British Franciscans, especially in the Medieval period
  • Students will be able to explain the place of British Franciscan theology and philosophy in the development of Catholic theology and Western philosophy.


Week 1: Propaedeutic Introduction to the Essentials of Medieval Philosophy

Plato, Aristotle and Medieval Philosophy

Week 2: Alexander of Hales: Philosophy, Theology and Influence on the Paris School

First Summa theologiae engaging Aristotelian philosophy and Commentary on the Sentences

  • Reading: Ivo Tonna, Outlines of Franciscan Philosophy: Alexander of Hales

Week 3: Robert Grosseteste Philosophy and Theology

Foundation of Oxford Franciscan School, Engagement with Greek and Arabic Texts

  • Reading: Ivo Tonna, Outlines of Franciscan Philosophy: Robert Grosseteste, or Robert Grosseteste

Week 4: Thomas of York: Philosophy and Theology

Sapientiale: First “Summa” philosophiae

  • Reading: Ivo Tonna, Outlines of Franciscan Philosophy: Thomas of York

Week 5: Roger Bacon: Contribution to Science, Philosophy and Theology

  • Reading: Ivo Tonna, Outlines of Franciscan Philosophy: Roger Bacon, or Roger Bacon

Week 6:  John Pecham: Philosophy and Theology

Conservative Critique of Thomas Aquinas

  • Reading: Ivo Tonna, Outlines of Franciscan Philosophy: John Pecham

Week 7: Richard of Middleton: Philosophy and Theology

  • Reading: Ivo Tonna, Outlines of Franciscan Philosophy: Richard of Middleton

Week 8: John Duns Scotus I: Philosophy

A moderate Realism beyond Classical Augustinianism, reacting to Henry of Ghent and Thomas Aquinas

  • Reading: Ivo Tonna, Outlines of Franciscan Philosophy: John Duns Scotus

Week 9: John Duns Scotus II: Theology

Christocentric Theology of God as a Freely Loving Creator

Week 10: William of Ockham I: Philosophy and Theology

God's Freedom, Nominalism and the Consequences of Logic for Philosophy and Theology

  • Reading: Ivo Tonna, Outlines of Franciscan Philosophy: William of Ockham, or William of Ockham

Week 11: William of Ockham II: Politics and Luther
Church-State Relations and the supposed influence of Ockham's Nominalism on Luther

Week 12: The Coming of the Friars to England, the Political Situation and the Role of the  Province of England in Franciscan Development

For the background of English History read these short lives of Kings John, Henry III and Simon de Montfort:

Week 13: Final Project Development

Week 14: Final Project Development – Multimedia Project Due

Week 15: Final Project Development – Final Postings Due


No exams or quizzes are scheduled for this course.

Discussion postings40%

One or more discussion forums will be available each week of the course up to Week 11. Students will respond substantively to the Week 1 and Week 11 forums and to any six other weekly forums for a total of 8 postings. The postings should be 300-400 words each and should address with some depth of thought the discussion prompt based on the lecture and the assigned readings.

Peer Responses20%

For the second accountability exercise, students will respond (in around 50 words or so) to at least 8 reflections made by any of your colleagues (using the rubric on page 4) on at least 6 separate weekly discussion forums between weeks 1 and 11. The idea is to get to know one another through interaction. This will facilitate your group work at the end of the course.

The Semester Project40%

For the third accountability exercise, students will work in groups to develop a short multimedia project based on some aspect of British Franciscan philosophy or theology and make a class presentation of it during the final week of the course.

This project will be divided into three parts, each of which will be on the dates assigned below.

The first part is for the group to establish a blog at or and post a short annotated bibliography concerning some aspect of Franciscan philosophy that you want to pursue. The annotated bibliography should include 4-6 resources. Due end of week 8.

Here is a sample entry in an Annotated Bibliography -- note the indentation format and that the description is 27 words which is just about right to summarize and defend the applicability of the article to my Thesis Statement:

Harrison, D. J. “Using the Moral Language of Cultures to Dialogue.” Social Justice Review, 100 (2009):142-146. An examination of the use of Natural Law to enable interfaith dialogue, which is pertinent to my research because it addresses communication between peoples of different backgrounds.

The second part is to build some kind of multimedia presentation concerning the topic with which all students in the class can interact. Any student who needs help with the building of his or her presentation should email me before reaching the midway point of the course. Students are free to determine what exactly it is they will do. Due to be posted initially for feedback by the end of Week 14, then finalized by the end of Week 15.

(The rubric for the discussion postingssee below - applies to this multimedia presentation. The student is not graded on aesthetics or functionality of the experience, but attention to these things is appreciated.)


Recommended Reading:

Note this reading includes analysis of the Paris Franciscan school, which built on the work of the English theologian Alexander of Hales, its founder. Most of the following are available from Franciscan Tradition website.

  • Ivo Tonna. Outlines in Franciscan Philosophy. Malta: Eddizzjoni Tau, 2008.
  • K. Osborne. The Franciscan Intellectual Tradition. St. Bonaventure, NY: Franciscan Institute Publications. ISBN: 9781576592007.
  • I. Delio. A Franciscan View of Creation: Learning to Live in a Sacramental World. St. Bonaventure NY: Franciscan Institute Publications. ISBN: 9781576592014
  • D. Nothwehr. A Franciscan View of the Human Person: Some Central Elements. St. Bonaventure NY: Franciscan Institute Publications. ISBN: 9781576592021


(Basis of evaluation with explanation regarding the nature of the assignment and the percentage of the grade assigned to each item below). Students who have difficulty with research and composition are encouraged to pursue assistance with the Online Writing Lab (available at


A 94-100; A- 90-93; B+ 87-89; B 84-86; B- 80-83; C+ 77-79; C 74-76; C- 70-73 60-69; F 59 and below

Grading Rubric for the Major Papers and Discussion Board (DB) Postings

0 pts. – Paper
0 pts. – DB Posting;

3 pts. – Paper
2 pts. – DB Posting;

6 pts. – Paper
4 pts. – DB Posting;

9 pts. – Paper
6 pts. – DB Posting;

12 pts. – Paper
8 pts. – DB Posting;

15 pts. – Paper
10 pts. – DB Posting;



Absence of Understanding

Analysis shows no awareness of the discipline or its methodologies as they relate to the topic.

Lack of Understanding

Analysis seems to misunderstand some basic concepts of the discipline or lacks ability to articulate them.

Inadequate understanding

Analysis is sometimes unclear in understanding or articulating concepts of the discipline.

Adequate understanding

Analysis demonstrates an understanding of basic concepts of the discipline but could express them with greater clarity.

Solid Understanding

Analysis demonstrates a clear understanding and articulation of concepts with some sense of their wider implications.

Insightful understanding

Analysis clearly demonstrates an understanding and articulation of concepts of the discipline as they relate to the topic; highlights connections to other concepts; integrates concepts into wider contexts.



Missing Research

Paper shows no evidence of research: citation of sources missing.

Inadequate research and/or documentation

Over-reliance on few sources; spotty documentation of facts in text; pattern of citation errors.

Weak research and/or documentation

Inadequate number or quality of sources; many facts not referenced; several errors in citation format.

Adequate research and documentation but needs improvement

Good choice of sources but could be improved with some additions or better selection; did not always cite sources; too many citation errors.

Solid research and documentation

A number of relevant scholarly sources revealing solid research; sources appropriately referenced in paper; only a few minor citation errors.

Excellent critical research and documentation

Critically selected and relevant scholarly sources demonstrating extensive, in-depth research; sources skillfully incorporated into paper at all necessary points; all citations follow standard bibliographic format.



Incomplete writing

Analysis is only partially written or completely misses the topic.

Writing difficult to understand, serious improvement needed

Analysis fails to address the topic; confusing organization or development; little elaboration of position; insufficient control of sentence structure and vocabulary; unacceptable number of errors in grammar, mechanics, and usage.

Episodic writing, a mix of strengths and weaknesses.

Analysis noticeably neglects or misinterprets the topic; simplistic or repetitive treatment, only partially-internalized; weak organization and development, some meandering; simple sentences, below-level diction; distracting errors in grammar, mechanics, and usage.

Acceptable writing, but could use some sharpening of skill

Analysis is an uneven response to parts of the topic; somewhat conventional treatment; satisfactory organization, but more development needed; adequate syntax and diction, but could use more vigor; overall control of grammar, mechanics, and usage, but some errors.

Solid writing, with something interesting to say.

Analysis is an adequate response to the topic; some depth and complexity in treatment; persuasive organization and development, with suitable reasons and examples; level-appropriate syntax and diction; mastery of grammar, mechanics, and usage, with hardly any error.

Command-level writing, making a clear impression

Analysis is a thorough response to the topic; thoughtful and insightful examination of issues; compelling organization and development; superior syntax and diction; error-free grammar, mechanics, and usage.


COMMUNITY INTERACTION (50-word response)

Inadequate response

Response merely provides laudatory encouragement for original post, e.g., “Excellent post! You really have thought of something there.”

Poor response

Response misses the point of the original posting.

Weak response

Response summarizes original posting to which it responds.

Acceptable response

Response makes a contribution to the posting to which it responds.

Individually-conscious contributory response

Response makes a contribution to the posting to which it responds and fosters its development.

Community-conscious contributory response

Response makes a contribution to the learning community and fosters its development.



Holy Apostles College & Seminary is committed to the goal of achieving equal educational opportunities and full participation in higher education for persons with disabilities who qualify for admission to the College. Students enrolled in online courses who have documented disabilities requiring special accommodations should contact Bob Mish, the Director of Online Student Affairs, at or 860-632-3015. In all cases, reasonable accommodations will be made to ensure that all students with disabilities have access to course materials in a mode in which they can receive them. Students who have technological limitations (e.g., slow Internet connection speeds in convents) are asked to notify their instructors the first week of class for alternative means of delivery.


Students at Holy Apostles College & Seminary are expected to practice academic honesty.

Avoiding Plagiarism

In its broadest sense, plagiarism is using someone else's work or ideas, presented or claimed as your own.  At this stage in your academic career, you should be fully conscious of what it means to plagiarize. This is an inherently unethical activity because it entails the uncredited use of someone else's expression of ideas for another's personal advancement; that is, it entails the use of a person merely as a means to another person’s ends.

Students, where applicable:

  • Should identify the title, author, page number/webpage address, and publication date of works when directly quoting small portions of texts, articles, interviews, or websites.
  • Students should not copy more than two paragraphs from any source as a major component of papers or projects.
  • Should appropriately identify the source of information when paraphrasing (restating) ideas from texts, interviews, articles, or websites.
  • Should follow the Holy Apostles College & Seminary Stylesheet (available on the Online Writing Lab’s website at

Consequences of Academic Dishonesty:

Because of the nature of this class, academic dishonesty is taken very seriously.  Students participating in academic dishonesty may be removed from the course and from the program.


Even though you are not required to be logged in at any precise time or day, you are expected to login several times during each week. Because this class is being taught entirely in a technology-mediated forum, it is important to actively participate each week in the course. In a traditional classroom setting for a 3-credit course, students would be required, per the federal standards, to be in class three 50-minute sessions (or 2.5 hours a week) and prepare for class discussions six 50-minute sessions (or 5 hours) a week. Expect to devote at least nine 50-minute sessions (or 7.5 quality hours) a week to this course. A failure on the student’s part to actively participate in the life of the course may result in a reduction of the final grade.


An Incomplete is a temporary grade assigned at the discretion of the faculty member. It is typically allowed in situations in which the student has satisfactorily completed major components of the course and has the ability to finish the remaining work without re-enrolling, but has encountered extenuating circumstances, such as illness, that prevent his or her doing so prior to the last day of class.

To request an incomplete, distance-learning students must first download a copy of the Incomplete Request Form. This document is located within the Shared folder of the Files tab in Populi. Secondly, students must fill in any necessary information directly within the PDF document. Lastly, students must send their form to their professor via email for approval. “Approval” should be understood as the professor responding to the student’s email in favor of granting the “Incomplete” status of the student.

Students receiving an Incomplete must submit the missing course work by the end of the sixth week following the semester in which they were enrolled. An incomplete grade (I) automatically turns into the grade of “F” if the course work is not completed.

Students who have completed little or no work are ineligible for an incomplete. Students who feel they are in danger of failing the course due to an inability to complete course assignments should withdraw from the course.

A “W” (Withdrawal) will appear on the student’s permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the first week of a semester to the end of the third week. A “WF” (Withdrawal/Fail) will appear on the student’s permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the third week of a semester and on or before the Friday before the last week of the semester.


You may reach Dr. Yates at or on Skype at pyatesha.

Dr. Philippe Yates has researched and taught extensively on the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition and is a former member of the Secretariat for the Retrieval of the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition. He devised and led, together with Andre Cirino OFM, a Pilgrimage through the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition for the Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs, which led pilgrims to the sites in England, France and Germany most closely associated with key figures from the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition and invited leading scholars to discourse on aspects of the tradition.

He lives in Olean, NY with his family and their dog Pica.

(860) 632-3010