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Edward Kanterian, "Medieval Communism"


Abstract: Communism, so the usual story goes, was an invention of the 19th century, conceived as a response to the recent rise of capitalist society, both sharing purely economic and thus materialistic roots. This, however, ignores the long history of the notion of common ownership, present already in antiquity, and then deepened and institutionalised in the Middle Ages. As this talk aims to show, the medieval discussion was not only not materialistic, but was of a spiritual, theological and metaphysical nature. This will be demonstrated by revisiting (a) the Franciscan poverty debates of the 13th and 14th centuries, and (b) Ockham’s and (c) Wyclif’s arguments in favour of common ownership. The talk will also attempt to explain the puzzling fact that two thinkers with opposing metaphysical outlooks, nominalism and realism, could end up endorsing essentially the same doctrine about property. Some lessons concerning the better understanding of modern communism will also be drawn.


After finishing his DPhil, Edward Kanterian spent five years at Trinity College and Jesus College, Oxford as a Lecturer in Philosophy. He joined the Department of Philosophy at the University of Kent in 2011. His current research extends from the foundations of language and logic to the nature of the world. His book Kant, God and Metaphysics was published by Routledge in 2017. He has an interest in the history of liberalism and its enemies in Europe, the study of totalitarianism (Nazism and Communism), the history of mass crimes (such as the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust and the crimes of Communism) and the ethics of memory. He also has an interest in the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, and the relation between philosophy and poetry.



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