St John's College Oxford
Dr Antonia Fitzpatrick

Dr Antonia Fitzpatrick

Departmental Lecturer and Stipendiary Lecturer in History

Biography

My research is concerned with issues of individuality and identity in medieval philosophy, discussed by theologians in the context of debate about the resurrection. The basic question, still fertile and provocative in modern philosophy, is, 'in virtue of what does someone remain the same individual over time, and across drastic physical change?' Modern philosophers discuss putative effects of brain transplants on personal survival. Medieval thought experiments were no less strange: if a cannibal eats you, can they claim your flesh at the resurrection?

My doctoral research focused on these issues from their roots in Aristotelian texts, through Thomas Aquinas, to the couple of decades after Aquinas's death in 1274. It explored how reflection on the resurrected body generated new scientific theories as theologians discussed the physiology of nutrition and growth, the 'genetic' transmission of characteristics across generations, and the nature of matter itself. 

My post-doctoral project is in the area of politically motivated intellectual history. There is much to indicate that the institutional politics of the Dominicans and Franciscans shaped hard scientific thinking in the late medieval west, and historians are beginning to understand the dynamics involved as new manuscript evidence is brought to the table. My own research will continue to look at individuality and identity, focusing on the Dominican intellectual tradition, and using the Franciscan tradition to counterpoint and clarify the distinctiveness of the Dominican approach.

Recent published work relates to these topics and also to historians' methodology, exploring how arguments historians use can be expressed in terms of formal logic.