I’m a philosopher with a BA and PhD in philosophy from Cornell University and an advanced degree in divinity from the University of St. Andrews. I’m a member of Cornell’s Sage School of Philosophy where I have held the Norma K. Regan Chair in Christian Studies since 1996. I’m a member of the graduate field of Classics and serve on the faculties of the Medieval Studies and Religious Studies programs.
My primary research interests are medieval philosophy and philosophical theology (from late antiquity to the Renaissance), focusing especially on historical moments at which intellectual cultures collide. If we think of dominant intellectual cultures as like geological tectonic plates, then the historical moments on which my work focuses are those at which two tectonic plates collide, causing something like the dramatic seismic and volcanic activity that brings into existence new mountain ranges, deep ravines, and other formidable topographical features. The Mediterranean world of the fourth and fifth centuries CE is one such moment, a time at which the emerging intellectual movement of Christianity collides with the long-dominant intellectual culture of Greek and Roman antiquity. The Iberian Peninsula in the 12th century is another, when the fresh allure of ancient wisdom confronts deeply established traditions in Judaism and Islam. For thinkers at these times, the tectonic shifts, with their collisions of ideas, conceptual frameworks, and world views, unleash powerfully creative forces: intellectual analogues of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, continental folding and subduction. Augustine (354-430 CE), Averroës (1126-1198), and Maimonides (1138-1204) are emblematic of intellectual life at these tectonic boundaries. They’re deeply attracted to Greek and Roman patterns of thought but also committed to the claims of Abrahamic religion and the authority of a sacred text. They struggle mightily and with unflinching creativity to articulate a coherent account of fundamental reality, a philosophically sophisticated expression of a biblical or Qur’anic world view, a single, unified wisdom. Their achievements have become part of the bedrock of Western culture.
I’m currently working on projects focused on three of Augustine’s greatest works: the Confessions, De genesi ad litteram (the so-called “Literal Commentary on Genesis”), and De trinitate. After the tour I plan to finish my book on Augustine’s Confessions for the Oxford Guides series.
This is Jane’s and my third CAU study tour (“Heaven and Earth in the Ancient Aegean” in 2008, “Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, and the Ionian Shores of Italy and Greece” in 2015). We’re looking forward to more amazing CAU experiences this summer.
Jane Twentyman MacDonald
After graduating from Cornell, I pursued a multi-decade career in commercial print design with clients including Cornell University Press, Cornell’s Atkinson Center for Sustainability, Ithaca Sciencenter, Ithaca Public Education Initiative, and the Community Foundation of Tompkins County. In recent years I’ve unleashed my life-long passion for fiber art, showing work recently at the Suwon Museum of Art (Korean Fiber Arts Forum) in Seoul and El Barrio Artspace in Manhattan.
Jane & Scott live in Brooklyn, NY, and appreciate the vibrant restaurant scene, abundant live music, and proximity to amazing art museums and galleries. We have two adult daughters: Kate lives with her husband and our two terrific granddaughters (Athena and Kallista) in Nashua, NH, where Kate owns a retail business. Alice, who lives near us in Brooklyn, is a therapist and has her own Alexander Technique practice.