There is little doubt that Plato’s and Aristotle’s theories of space and time laid the basis for the late ancient and the medieval debate about space and time. This project explores how the Platonic and Aristotelian heritage was interpreted and systematically developed in Late Antiquity and medieval times.

Research

Bernd Roling has worked on the special conditions under which spiritual entities function, without any spatial environment or material extension. He focused on medieval and early modern debates, including thinkers such as Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus, but also Paracelsus, Suarez and other early modern thinkers. He devoted special attention to the continuity of motifs, core concepts and solutions within these debates. How could communication take place, given the absence of all space? How could the personality and personal responsibility of individual human beings be explained, even when those human beings do not have a body? On the one hand, Roling considered epistemological issues: How could prophecy and out-of-body experiences be explained in medieval and early modern philosophy? On the other hand, Bernd Roling considered medieval and early modern eschatology: Could early modern philosophers allow for resurrection as natural process? What role did natural causality play when all spatial extension was missing? How could a temporally continuous personality be guaranteed, despite an interrupted causal connection?

A third part of his research dealt with the mental conditions of pure spiritual entities like angels and demons, who were not subject to the laws of space, but only to the laws of time and change. How did medieval and early modern philosophers explain, for example, the dogma that the angelic will was fixed, although angels were in time and subject to temporal change?