Medieval Philosophy Term Paper

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[. . .] 5 (Gersh, 1998, p. 123)

At about this same point in history, it is important to note that collections of texts were being made. Mckitterick & Marenbon, (1998, p. 97) offer this comment, "Sometime before 814, Archbishop Leidrad of Lyons presented a comprehensive collection of philosophical treatises to his cathedral library." These writers follow up withi an extensive list of old manuscripts and probably often re-copied manuscripts that preserved much ancient thinking and wisdom. When one considers that there were texts extant at the time to be collected, it seems obvious that many scholars and scribes were conscientiously making sure that old wisdom and philosophy would not be lost. Perhaps the awful example of the burning of the library at Alexandria, served as incentive to keep as much of the ancient writers and thinkers as possible. Besides the works of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero and of course the early Christian writers, the philosophers, writers and scribes collected works from Islamic and Jewish thinkers and writers. There seemed to be, through the whole period so far discussed a thirst for learning, writing, discussing, arguing and transmitting any philosophical ideas to be found.

According to Marenbon, "The twelfth century began and ended with events which mark it off, at least symbolically, as a discrete period in the history of Western philosophy."

This scholar goes on to say further:

It was in about 1100 that Abelard -- the most wide-ranging and profound philosopher of the period -- arrived in Paris to study, and very soon to teach, logic. The competing, quarrelling, disorganized schools of Paris, whose growth Abelard did so much to stimulate, would be the setting for much of what was liveliest and most sophisticated in twelfth-century philosophy. (Marenbon, 1998, p. 150)

Abelard is probably better known than any medieval philosopher, not as a thinker but as the husband of Heloise and participant in a remarkable exchange of love-letters which have held their appeal from the time of Petrarch to the present. It was in fact the castration plotted by Heloise's relatives and its consequences which gave Abelard's career its distinctive shape, splitting it roughly into two halves. From about 1102 until his castration in 1117, Abelard was a brilliant teacher of logic in Paris and in Melun and Corbeil, small towns both connected with the royal court. He had studied under both Roscelin and William of Champeaux -- and quarrelled with both. Although he did teach Christian doctrine, it was a relatively unimportant part of his work. The Dialectica, a textbook of logic, independent in form but closely linked to exegesis of the six standard ancient texts, probably dates from the end of this period. The Logica ('Ingredientibui') -- logical commentaries, of which those on the Isagoge, Categories, De interpretatione survive in full -- was probably written up a little later, but it too reflects his teaching at this time. 8 (Marenbon, 1998, p. 155)

Even as a young logician in Paris, Abelard had been a controversial figure, competing with William of Champeaux for students and reputation and patronized by William's enemies in the Church and at court. From the time of the Council of Soissons onwards he became a target for the hostility of the reforming party in the Church and, by the late 1130s if not earlier, for that of its leader, Bernard of Clairvaux. His campaign culminated in the Council of Sens of 1140, where Abelard was accused of nineteen heresies listed by Bernard. Abelard denied all charges of heresy, but the charges were upheld by the Pope. Abelard, now sick, spent the last two years of his life at the great abbey of Cluny and one of its dependencies. There the abbot, Peter the Venerable, ensured that the sentence of excommunication was lifted and engineered a reconciliation with Bernard. Perhaps because of the controversies which accompanied and ended his career, Abelard has gone down in the history of philosophy as a brilliant, daring but unconstructive thinker: powerful as a logician but, otherwise, to be blamed or praised for merely applying the tools of logic to theology. (Marenbon, 1998, p. 156)

Marrone offers these thoughts about the next great stage of philosophy:

By the third decade of the thirteenth century there emerge the first signs of a new metaphysics. Alongside Neoplatonizing idealism we now see attempts to lay greater emphasis on the ontological density of the created world and to structure reality without resorting to the terms of a relation to the divine ideal. The ensuing philosophical reassessment was more systematic, more technically precise and more self-conscious than anything the medieval West had seen before. Given the catalysing role played by logic, it was only natural that much of this program was carried out within the confines of an attempt to explain knowledge. For the early thirteenth century, metaphysics and epistemology went hand in hand. (Marrone, 1998, p. 204)

Marrone goes on to say further, "The two figures who did the most to promote the new metaphysics ... To establish the criteria for knowledge, were masters whose important work was done between 1220 and 1235 in the schools of theology at the new universities."

Robert Grosseteste (d. 1253) was born in England probably before 1170, studied and taught the arts curriculum in provincial schools and perhaps at Paris and Oxford, and began to lecture on theology at Oxford after 1214 but no later than 1225. His activity as a philosopher effectively ended with his appointment as bishop of Lincoln in 1235. (Marrone, 1998, p. 204)

William of Auvergne (d. 1249) was born in France around 1180, went to Paris to study, and began teaching there first in arts and then by the 1220s in theology. He was named bishop of "Paris in 1228, although he continued to write about philosophical matters for some years thereafter." (Marrone, 1998, p. 205)

Continuing with Marrone's discourse, we meet an historical figure whose name is frequently spoken in science classes to this day. Between the two philosophers just mentioned, Roger Bacon and then into future thinkers, we see the foundations of what we, today, call the empirical or scientific method of discovery, and of proving what is "so."

Here is another figure who began his career as a secular scholar and eventually joined a religious order. The regularity with which this happened leads one to speculate on reasons. That speculation leads also to the question of whether all these scholar-philosophers were actually deeply religious or if they needed to be part of the Church to be heard and in some cases, either persecuted or protected -- depending on what they were positing at any given moment.

Yet the figure who most literally reproduced the scientific ideal seen in William and Grosseteste -- or perhaps who most dramatically amplified their idiosyncrasies -- was Roger Bacon. Born in England around 1210, Bacon studied and taught arts at Oxford up to the late 1230s, moving on then to Paris where he lectured in the arts faculty until about 1247. Around 1257 he joined the Franciscan order, a decision which terminated his scholarly career for a decade until Pope Clement IV gave it new life with his request for Bacon's ideas on the reformation of learning. Perhaps in part because of this sign of papal favour, Bacon fell into an increasingly bitter conflict with his superiors, culminating in the condemnation of his work by the minister general of his order in 1278 and his probable incarceration. Apparently free again but still tormented by his fate, he died in 1292 or shortly thereafter. 6 (Marrone, 1998, p. 218)

Henry of Ghent was arguably the most influential Latin theologian between Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus, regent as a leading master of theology at the University of Paris for the better part of the last quarter of the thirteenth century. (Dumont, 1998, p. 291) "It is perhaps no exaggeration to claim that less is known with certainty about the life, career and works of Duns Scotus than about any scholastic thinker of his rank." (Dumont, 1998, p. 293)

William of Ockham managed to be most controversial -- at least as far as some people were concerned -- for most of his professional life. He had problems at Oxford. He irritated one John Lutterel to the point of Lutterel attempting to bring heresy charges against him. He finally really got into a fracas with Pope John XXII over the pope's stand on rights and poverty. "Ockham departed from Avignon for the protection of the Holy Roman Emperor, Louis of Bavaria. Excommunicated, he thenceforth composed political philosophy for the rest of his life." (Gibson, 1998, p. 330)

Op (1998) writes:

Thomas Aquinas, son of Landulf d'Aquino and his wife Theodora, was born sometime between 1224 and 1226 in what was then the Kingdom of Naples." (Op, 1998, p. 241) "In 1242 or 1243 Aquinas… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Medieval Philosophy.  (2005, April 25).  Retrieved February 17, 2019, from

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