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Give an example of what the Scholast Scholasticism is referred to the synthesis of the Christian theology and the philosophies of Aristotle. During the High Middle Ages, the holy crusades led to the discovery of his works. Avicenna was a Persian Muslim physician and philosopher. He came across the philosophy of ancient Greeks, particularly Aristotle and was highly influenced from his ideas. He wrote books in his later life on topics such as Medicine, Mathematics, Politics, Astronomy, Metaphysics, Linguistics, and others.

His writings are mainly on the ideas of Aristotle with emphasis on the senses, memory and sleep. Maimonides was a Jewish Biblical and Talmudic scholar, who gave the logic that several passages from the Talmud and the Old Testament could be understood rationally by applying logic and need not be taken on faith alone.

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And of course, controversies began to develop among Christian thinkers connected with the schools as to how Christian doctrine should properly be interpreted. And of course ultimately the Crusades brought the West into contact with non-Christian civilizations, and Christians were shocked to find that the infidels laughed at them and posed unanswerable objections to Christianity, and the Christians wanted to know how to answer.

And a few homegrown heretics popped up who had to be answered somehow. And for all these and other reasons, slowly, haltingly, philosophic thought— on a modest scale— started again. And because the philosophers of this period were almost all connected in one way or another with the schools and universities I just mentioned, these philosophers are referred to as the "Scholastics," the philosophers of the schools. And of course, they survived thereafter, but they were no longer the dominant influence after the 14 th.

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In general, the Scholastics all shared a certain approach, however different their detailed conclusions—they were all ardent Christians committed, in advance of any philosophizing, to the doctrines of the Church. So they were authoritarian in their basic approach. Their concept of philosophy was to oversimplify just a little in effect to spread before them the writings of the Church Fathers, of scripture, and of whichever ancient philosophers they knew and were partial to, and then try to reconcile and make sense of this mass of authorities.

In essence, they knew their main conclusions in advance; philosophy for them was an attempt to substantiate rationally, and to harmonize so far as they could , the dogmas of the appropriate authorities. The study of the actual world around them thus seemed pretty irrelevant to them.

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They spent their efforts attempting to interpret and reinterpret the texts of the authorities before them, trying to get them all in harmony with one another. And to do so, they had to make all sorts of artificial distinctions, engage in hair splitting of all kinds, and in general turn away from any study of the actual physical world around them and immerse themselves in the study of the texts of the authorities. The problem of universals. Now what sort of issues were the Scholastics first concerned with?

Well until the 13 th century, they attempted no comprehensive philosophic systems; they engaged in specific disputes on specific technical matters and specialized problems. One was the position taken by the Scholastics heavily influenced by Platonism—for instance, by Erigena, by St. Now these people took the general Platonist line—universals are real entities, independent of particulars, particulars are merely semi-real byproducts, or reflections, or emanations from universals—in other words, what has come to be called "Platonic realism," as I defined that for you in the lecture on Plato.

Well, you know that the higher universal always includes the lower ones—for instance, color, as a universal, embraces and includes redness, greenness, purpleness, etc. Now what is God on a Platonist philosophy? He is the most real entity. And if the real is equated with the universal, then God, the most real being, has to be the most universal universal, the widest universal, the one which therefore embraces and includes all the others.

But that means all things are included in God, and that is pantheism, and that is a heresy. So Platonic realism, for equivalent to this and other equivalent reasons, is unacceptable.

Scholasticism | philosophy |

By reaction to this, some Scholastics went to the other extreme and denied universals altogether, a view which came to be known as "nominalism. This of course makes all conceptual thought completely arbitrary and detached from reality. But it never became much in the medieval era, it was criticized on many grounds. It, too, was susceptible to theological objections, and Roscelin had to repudiate it formally in Well to take just one example, what happens to original sin?

Martin Luther and Scholasticism

But if there are no universals—if Adam is just one individual, and each of us is a separate, distinct individual with nothing in common with him—then of course the inheritance of original sin becomes unintelligible, so nominalism too has to go. His dates are to And his view is often called "moderate realism," which is a foolish name because it sounds like Aristotelianism is a compromise between Plato and the nominalists.

Now you see from this brief survey that there is nothing essentially new on this issue during this period. What is new is the way the whole issue becomes entangled in theological controversies and heresies. Indeed, as the philosophers of this period soon came to see, no matter what issue you discussed, you ran into the risk of heresy, of contradicting some dogma or other. Faith and reason. Some of the Scholastics, attempting merely to make sense of the authorities and the dogmas, without questioning or challenging them, started to stir up doubts despite themselves. Now Abelard was a loyal Catholic.

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He merely wanted to make sense out of the dogmas. But it seemed to others watching the spectacle that here was the ugly voice of reason rearing itself in the midst of the paradise of Christian faith. In general, two attitudes were taken on the issue of reason and faith. To some figures of the period, reason was a dangerous enemy of Christianity, and the whole attempt of the Scholastics to make sense of the dogmas was depraved. Philosophy—even Scholastic philosophy, they said—is the invention of the Devil.

The other attitude of the time was, however, more widespread. It was represented by Anselm. It was the Augustinian attitude in essence. Remember, you must first believe in order that you may then understand. In other words, you start with faith, that gives you your premises; and then you try to make such sense as you can out of it.


Anselm and all these Augustinians of the period regarded the relation of reason to faith very similarly to the way Aristotle regarded the relation of reason to sense experience. At most, reason might be unable to explain, temporarily, some experiences. Well, the same for Anselm in relation to reason and faith.

In fact, the incorporation of both a foreign vocabulary and a different mode of thinking and the assimilation of a tremendous amount of predeveloped thought was the chief problem that confronted medieval philosophy at its beginnings.


Consequently, the writings of medieval Scholasticism quite naturally lack the magic of personal immediacy, for schoolbooks leave little room for originality. It is therefore misleading, though understandable, that certain polemicists have wrongly characterized Scholasticism as involving no more than the use of special didactic methods or a narrow adherence to traditional teachings. Augustine had the Scholastics not done their patient spadework.

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Albertus Magnus and Aquinas. On the other hand, the moment had to come when the prevalent preoccupation with existing knowledge would give way to new questions, which demanded consideration and answers that could emerge only from direct experience. By the later Middle Ages, procedures for exploiting and discussing antecedent stocks of insight had been largely institutionalized, and it was an obvious temptation to perpetuate the dominion of those procedures—which could lead only to total sterility. Scholasticism philosophy.

Written By: Josef Pieper. See Article History. Read More on This Topic.