Term Paper: Western Civilization Scholasticism Was a Method

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Western Civilization

Scholasticism was a method of learning initiated in medieval universities in the 12th century which lasted for approximately four centuries. The main aim of scholasticism was to find an answer to a certain question through a specific method of inquiry. This method consisted of selecting a certain piece of writing by a renowned scholar which would become the object of investigation. Scholars would read it thoroughly and critically, and ultimately clearly formulate the theories of the author. Other documents could also be used. The final step of the inquiry consisted of identifying the points of disagreement and contention between the sources which would be written down and known as "sententiae." The critics of scholasticism argued that practitioners of scholasticism were only compilers of already established piece or writings, and that their studies did not bring anything new but merely repeat what had already been said.

The Black Death was one of the most widely spread pandemics in human history. It is believed to have originated in Central Asia, but it spread quickly to Europe. Since China was one of the busiest of the world's trading nations, the virus rapidly reached western Asia and Europe. In October of 1347, several Italian merchant ships returned from a trip to the Black Sea, one of the key links in trade with China. When the ships docked in Sicily, many of those on board were already dying of plague. Within days the disease spread to the city and the surrounding countryside. Although the plague is thought to have afflicted Europe to various degrees and in various forms until the 1700s, the 14th century plague was by far the most drastic. Its consequences were truly dramatic for Europe; the population of the continent was reduced by 60%; 25 million people died in just under five years between 1347 and 1352. Depopulation also led to serious economic difficulties for European states because the plague generated an immense shortage of labor. From this perspective, in Western Europe, landlords were forced to compete for peasants whereas in Eastern Europe, strict serfdom laws became even stricter. As far as religion, the effects of the plague brought about cynicism related to the promises that church officials had made of curing plague victims. Furthermore, religious persecution started because some fervent Christian believed that religious minorities such as Jews, gypsies, etc. were responsible for the plague.

3. Niccolo Machiavelli was a 15th century Italian diplomat and political philosopher of the Italian Renaissance. His main writing is a famous political theory treaty entitled "The Prince" which defines, for the first time, political science as the science of state and power. The main ideas formulated in "The Prince" are related to how a ruler should obtain and maintain power; his methods extend beyond ethics and can be best summed up in his own words: "the end justifies the means." He also provides examples of successful rulers based on his intense experience with political life. Also, Machiavelli argues in favor of political pragmatism, and the fact that in public the behavior of a prince must be beyond reproach whereas in private he is free to disregard morals in order to achieve his goal. His philosophy as formulated in "The Prince" is representative of Renaissance thought because it opposes the theories of political philosophers to the realities of life i.e. how politics actually works, and because his analysis of human nature is objective.

4. The Protestant Reformation of the Catholic Church which took place in the 16th century was a cornerstone in European history because it encouraged the secularization of society as well as the reestablishment of a true connection with God. The main arguments against the Catholic Church as formulated by the Protestants were the political and administrative privileges awarded to the popes, the accumulation of church wealth through the sale of indulgences, as well as the excessive control that the Catholic Church was enjoying over the private lives of citizens. The Reformation led by Martin Luther was not the first protest movement directed at the Catholic Church. However, it was the only successful one because of a number of reasons. Dissatisfaction with the Church could be found at all levels of European society mainly because the sacraments had become rituals that the people could no longer relate to. Also, the papacy had lost a great deal of spiritual influence over the people due to the tendency of European society toward secularization. Furthermore, the wealth of the popes and bishops was resented by the poor especially after the Black Plague which had economically ruined the continent.

5. The Renaissance represented a return to the values and models of the Greek and Roman classical period. Also, the emphasis was on the individual; however, the individuality that was the focus of the movement was represented by the rich and powerful who were interested in progress, the arts and sciences, and not the common people. There is another aspect to consider here, namely that the philosophers who represented models for the Renaissance man - for instance, Aristotle - all had had slaves whom they considered inferior human beings.

Humanism emphasized the dignity and worth of all people based on man's ability to reason i.e. To determine right from wrong. However, most humanists were Christians who believed that those who were not, were in fact, suffering. In this sense, by enslaving those who were considered inferior by birth, i.e. The non-Christians, humanists believed they were actually saving them.

6. The Thirty Years War lasted from 1618 until 1648, and opposed most of the major European powers which were divided into two camps. Religious tension was high at the beginning of the 17th century. The war started when Ferdinand II succeeded Matthias, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia. He was a fervent Catholic who strongly opposed the Protestant movement; it was precisely his rejection as king in Hussite Bohemia (a Protestant province) that sparked the Thirty Years War. The war was ended by the Peace of Westphalia, a treaty signed on October 24, 1648 by the German princes, France, Sweden, the Dutch, and the Emperor. The Holy Roman Empire loses its European hegemony, and is transformed into a sort of confederation of 360 independent states which are free to choose their own religion. Sweden is now the main power in the Baltic Sea, and Holland and Switzerland gain their independence. As a result of the Thirty Years War, the system of the balance of power is triumphant, and the idea of religious freedom is taking shape.

7. King Phillip II of Spain was the king consort of England until the death of his wife, Queen Mary I of England in 1558 who had re-established Catholicism. She was succeeded by her half-sister, Queen Elizabeth I who repudiated the pope and Catholicism, and focused on establishing a Protestant Church that would suit the needs on the English people. King Phillip II launched the Spanish Armada against England in 1588 for three main reasons: he wanted to invade and conquer England who was supporting the United Provinces, to stop attacks by the English against Spanish possessions in the New World, and to destroy the Church of England, and re-establish Catholicism in England. His defeat shifted naval dominance from Spain to England, but only for a very short period of time because Spain regrouped and enhanced its naval capabilities which reaffirmed its status as the queen of the oceans for another century. However, his defeat was very relevant from a religious standpoint because it fueled English nationalism, and the belief that Protestantism was the right faith since God had helped England against Spain who had been supported by Pope Sixtus V.

8. Nicolaus Copernicus was a 15th century astronomer. He was the first to repudiate the theory according to which the Earth was at the center of the Universe, and formulated a heliocentric cosmological theory which placed the Sun at the center of the Universe. His book, on the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, is considered the starting point of modern astronomy, and the revelation that sparked the Scientific Revolution. Galileo Galilei was a 16th century Tuscan mathematician, astronomer and physicist who supported the theories of Copernicus. He is regarded to have been one of the most important contributors to the Scientific Revolution thanks to his breakthrough discoveries in the fields of physics and observational astronomy. Sir Isaac Newton was an English mathematician, astronomer, and physicist of the 17th and 18th centuries. Newton is the father of the universal gravitation and the three laws of motions theories; he dominated the world of science not only during the Scientific Revolution but also for centuries that followed. His work in the fields of mechanics, optics and astronomy established him as the most important scientist of the Renaissance.

9. The English civil wars 1642-51 were aimed at dissolving the right of the monarch to collect taxes, dismiss parliaments and make foreign policy. The return of the monarchy with Charles II in 1660 should have… [END OF PREVIEW]

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