Progression of Medieval Philosophy Term Paper

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Medieval Philosophy

In the introduction to the Greenwood series the Great Cultural Eras of the Western World, A.D. 500 to 1300, is described as the Middle Ages.

"Borders and peoples were never quiescent during these tumultuous times." Schulman (2002). Germanic tribes had invaded and settled in the former Roman Empire, and the synthesis of three cultures -- the classical, Christian, and Germanic -- had begun. In the sixth century, Clovis had completed the Frankish conquest of Gaul; the Vandals controlled North Africa; the Visigoths, forced to retreat from southern Gaul by the Franks, continued to dominate Spain; and the Angles and Saxons had settled in Britain. At the same time, the emperors of the Eastern Empire, Constantinople, thrived. " ... The Roman papacy began to play an independent role in European society." Schulman, (2002) says "Pepin needed papal support to become king. Schulman, (2002, p. viii) It is later commented that the pope "made Charlemagne emperor and if the papacy could make an emperor it could unmake one too." This was the beginning of more than a thousand years of conflict between The Church and the secular states.

Christian missionaries moved across the face of Europe and into the British Isles and as the Church's power grew, it shaped much of what was to come, in not only its own venue of religion, but also philosophy, and daily life.

Augustine of Canterbury may have arrived in Britain in 597. Schulman, (2002, p. vii), however, of the St. Augustine, it can be said:

... It would be generally agreed, has had a greater influence upon the history of dogma and upon religious thought and sentiment in Western Christendom than any other writer outside the canon of Scripture. Schulman, (2002, p. viii)

Common thought holds that this is the case because Augustine was writing in the last days of the ancient civilizations. Many of these same academicians would also say that for the next 500 years or so there wouldn't be a lot in the way of "higher" intellectual endeavor. It can be shown that although one must of necessity had to be both aristocratic, or at least of more than merely adequate means, and ordained, philosophy certainly was not dead, and indeed was pursued with great vigor and sometimes great acrimony and at no little personal danger, depending on whether or not the church liked the ideas being put forth.

Saint Augustine was born Aurelius Augustinus, in 354, to a Christian mother and a father who worked for the Roman government. It is said he had something of a tumultuous life as a young man, often in trouble. His parents sent him to school in a city some thirty miles from his home with the hope that being a student would "keep him out of trouble." Driscoll, (1966) his studies took him into Greek, Latin and philosophy. In a constant search for deeper meaning in his life, he eventually came under the influence of Saint Ambrose, who instructed Augustine in the Christian faith. In about 388 Augustine began the studies that would lead to the priesthood.

While part of the power of Augustine's work can honestly be said to be related to the fact that he, and other's like him were important because he was a link to the ancients and their writing, Augustine was an original and powerful thinker. He is often considered in the frame work of his religious writings, but he is definitely a philosopher as well.

Many writers of the following centuries, "thus came to hold a position in the history of Western thought which was greater than their intrinsic merit might seem to deserve. Among them were the names of men, some of whom we shall meet ... such as Boethius," (Knowles, 1988, p. 29)

Boethius is a difficult figure to place in the history of philosophy. Considered just in himself, he clearly belongs to the world of late antiquity. Born in 480, Boethius was adopted into one of the most distinguished patrician families of Rome and benefited from an
...(Marenbon, 1998, p. 11)

Boethius certainly knew the work of both Augustine and the Greek Neoplatonists: Proclus, Porphyry and probably Ammonius.

I have used these very long quotes because they seem to say everything about Boethius and the others that you will need to use for the final paper. Added to from your textbook and class notes, you should have a great paper to turn in. Also, I've included information for philosophers that runs through the end of the 1300's (the period defined as the Middle Ages in the first notation). If this is way more than you need, just cut what you don't want to use or make very brief mention. If you need further help with the writing/editing, don't hesitate to ask. Joy Marsh

Although a Christian, writing in Latin, he therefore falls into a tradition stretching back directly to Plotinus and, ultimately, to Aristotle and Plato. Yet considered as a late antique philosopher, (italics added) his importance is limited. Most of Boethius' ideas and arguments derive from his Greek sources; his own contribution lay more in choosing, arranging and presenting views than in original thinking. By contrast, from the perspective of medieval philosophy, Boethius looms large. Only Aristotle himself, and perhaps Augustine, were more important and wide-ranging in their influence. Besides providing scholars in the Middle Ages with two of their most widely-read textbooks on arithmetic and music, through his translations, commentaries and monographs Boethius provided the basis for medieval logic .... His Consolation of Philosophy, read and studied from the eighth century through to the Renaissance, and translated into almost every medieval vernacular, was a major source for ancient philosophy in the early Middle Ages and its treatment of goodness, free will and eternity continued to influence thirteenth- and fourteenth-century thinkers. In short, it would be hard to understand the development of philosophy in the medieval Latin West without looking carefully at Boethius' work ... (Marenbon, 1998, p. 13)

"Boethius' work as a logician went beyond his plan of translating and commenting on Plato and Aristotle." (Marenbon, 1998, p. 13)

"He wrote a series of logical monographs, on categorical syllogisms, hypothetical syllogisms, division and topical reasoning, as well as a commentary on Cicero's Topics. " (Marenbon, 1998, p. 14)

While in prison, Boethius wrote the work by which he is most remembered, On the Consolation of Philosophy (De consolatione Philosophiae). Here he deserts his usual simple presentation and dry style for the elaborate literary form of a prosimetrum (a work in prose (Marenbon, 1998, p. 17) interspersed with verse passages), which allows his personal circumstances to give urgency to the philosophical questions he tackles. The Consolation is an imaginary dialogue between Boethius and Philosophy, a female personification of the tradition of philosophical wisdom which, despite the attempts of different schools to sunder it (her clothes are torn, because each philosophical sect has tried to take some of them for itself), is a unified one, stretching back to Socrates and Plato. (Marenbon, 1998, p. 18)

"In the Latin West, Boethius' death marks the end of the ancient tradition of philosophy" (Marenbon, 1998, p. 24)

John Scottus Eriugena is our next consideration. He came from Ireland, as his name indicates, 'Scottus' meant 'Irishman' in the Latin of this period. 'Eriugena' is a neologism invented by John himself.

He worked on the Continent ... under the patronage of Charles the Bald. The first mention of him, in a letter of 851 or 852 about the predestination controversy, is as 'an Irishman at the royal court'. After the disastrous reception of his own contribution to this dispute, On Predestination (discussed in Chapter 5), it seems to have been Charles's protection which saved Eriugena from punishment and ensured he could continue his work. Glosses survive by Eriugena on Martianus Capella's On the Marriage of Mercury and Philology, a late antique handbook of the seven liberal arts widely studied in the ninth century, and it is likely that these represent some of his teaching at the palace school in the late 840s. (Gersh, 1998, p. 120)

Anselm is the next figure to be considered.

Besides writing a detailed reply to the criticisms raised by Gaunilo, a monk of Marmoutier, to his ontological proof, Anselm went on to write, among others, works On Truth, On Free Will and on the compatibility of grace and divine prescience with human freedom. His Cur Deus homo (Why God became man, 1094-8) is especially ambitious: basing himself on Scripture, but only on that part of it accepted by Jews and Muslims as well as Christians, Anselm tries to show that God needed to become incarnate if he was to remain just but also maintain the benevolent purpose of his creation. Two works of Anselm also survive which are more purely philosophical in content: De grammatico, an intricate logical discussion, following on from Aristotle's Categories…

Sources Used in Documents:


Adams, M.M. (1999). What Sort of Human Nature? Medieval Philosophy and the Systematics of Christology. Milwaukee: Marquette University Press.

Burch, G.B. (1951). Early Medieval Philosophy. New York: King's Crown Press.

Driscoll, J. (1966) The New Book of Knowledge Encyclopedia. New York: Grolier's

Glick, L.B. (1999). Abraham's Heirs: Jews and Christians in Medieval Europe (1st ed.). Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.

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