Category: Medieval Philosophy

Medieval Philosophy

The medieval period in European history covers over a thousand years of development, from the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century to the beginning of the Renaissance in the 16th century. Nearly all of the medieval thinkers – Jewish, Christian, and Muslim – were pre-occupied with the attempt to synthesize philosophy with religion. Early on, the Neoplatonism of Plotinus provided the most convenient intellectual support for religious doctrine. Later in the medieval era, thanks to the work of the Arabic-language thinkers, the ancient Greek texts from Plato and Aristotle were re-introduced to Europe and translated directly into...

Aquinas: Summa, Question 22. The subject of the soul’s passions

It is delightful to read Thomas’ answer to the question whether there is any passion in the soul. He manages to say yes, but only after heavy differentiation of the terms. I am quoting the text from the Catholic New Advent website; the links in the text will lead you back to that site. Article 1. Whether any passion is in the soul? Objection 1. It would seem that there is no passion in the soul. Because passivity belongs to matter. But the soul is not composed of matter and form, as stated in the I, 75, 5. Therefore there...

Aquinas: Human actions, goals, free will

What is the relation between human action and natural teleology? In these articles from the beginning of the second part of the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas, he answers that we have to distinguish between human acts that come from a deliberate will, and therefore they are the proper domain of humanity, and actions that are natural even if they re performed by humans. He also argues that all human actions have a final goal, and it cannot be infinity itself. The principle in the human intention is the last end; consequently, it is not possible to aim directly at infinity, ...

Roger Bacon: On Experimental Science, 1268

Roger Bacon (not Francis, who is another philosopher) is an early philosopher and scientist. He reflects on the scientific method, and struggles with the balance between science and religion. Biography of Roger Bacon (From the Stanford Encyclopedia) “Roger Bacon (1214/1220–1292), Master of Arts, contemporary of Robert Kilwardby, Peter of Spain, and Albert the Great at the University of Paris in the 1240s, was one of the early Masters who taught Aristotle’s works on natural philosophy and metaphysics. Sometime after 1248–49, he became an independent scholar with an interest in languages and experimental-scientific concerns. Between 1247 and 1267, Bacon mastered most...

The Rule of the Franciscan Order

The Catholic Church contains groups of people who are particularly dedicated to it, and who organize themselves in religious orders. They are tasked in various forms with the spreading of the faith. One of the early orders are the Franciscans, created by Saint Francis in the early 13th century. Saint Francis lived an exemplary life of poverty and compassion, thus emulating Jesus. The legend says that he was so joyful and peaceful that even the animals wanted to be around him, therefore he is often depicted surrounded by animals. He quickly had many followers in the human world as well....

Thomas Aquinas

Content: Timeline of his Life 1225 Thomas Aquinas born at Roccasecca 1230 Begins studies at Montecassino 1239 Continues studies at University of Naples 1244 Joins Dominicans; family protests decision by imprisoning him for a year 1245 Released by his family, Thomas goes to Paris to study with Albert the Great 1248 Accompanies Albert to newly founded Dominican school at Cologne 1250 Ordained a priest 1252 Returns to Paris; writes Contra impugnantes Dei cultum, a defense of mendicant orders 1256 Named master of theology at Paris 1259 Sent to Italy, where he would teach at Anagni, Orvieto, Rome, and Viterbo c....

Aquinas on Law

The following streamlined text selections from the Summa Theologiae, Thomas Aquinas’ main work, show his treatment of the philosophical problems of the law. The sections reproduced here contain only the so-called “responsios”; some articles are omitted entirely.  Thomas’s approach is very consistent; he has great confidence that reason can function as a guide to guide to ethical decision-making. Whether law is something pertaining to reason Law is a rule and measure of actions through which one is induced to act or restrained from acting. Lex, “law,” is derived from ligare, “to bind,” because it binds one to act. The rule...

Augustine of Hippo: On Dialectics.

Augustine, De Dialectica (trans. J. Marchand) From the translator: It is hard to translate, not because the Latin is hard; it is not. But St. Augustine likes to use particles (he is educating his son) and the like, and I wanted to preserve the flavor. This is not a scientific treatise. At the same time, I note that the translation I give is sometimes too literal, since I also wanted to avoid falsifying St. Augustine and to preserve much of his introtextuality and self-reference. The Roman numeral at the beginning of each paragraph is a link to the corresponding paragraph...

Thomas Aquinas: Five Arguments for the Existence of God.

Thomas Aquinas claims that the existence of God can be proven in five ways. I will first quote the text from the Summa, and then outline the five arguments. Summa Theologiae, Question 2, Article 3. It seems that God does not exist, for if one of two contrary things were infinite, its opposite would be completely destroyed. By “God,” however, we mean some infinite good. Therefore, if God existed evil would not. Evil does exist in the world, however. Therefore God does not exist. Furthermore, one should not needlessly multiply elements in an explanation. It seems that we can account for...

Meister Eckhart

Meister Eckhart is a frequently-quoted German medieval theologian and mystic. He is popular in new-age environments and among spiritual seekers, but some of his statements can be interpreted as pantheistic, and therefore the Catholic Church always had some problems with him. His Life The following biographaphy is quoted from the Eckhart Society Webpage: “While there is no evidence as to the exact date of Meister Eckhart’s birth, scholars generally agree that he was born around 1260, in or near Erfurt which lies midway between Munich and Hamburg and north-east of Frankfurt, probably in a village called Tambach. He is thought...

Aquinas: Summa theologiae, Question 1,2

Thomas’ most significant work is his Summa theologiae or ‘summary of Theology,’ a gigantic work which attempts to present all of Christian theology as systematically as possible. Thomas worked on it from 1266 through 1273. Then, when he was nearly finished, he underwent an experience so intense that, as he himself explained, everything he had written seemed like straw. He completely stopped writing and died three months later. Thomas was canonized in 1323. The Summa theologiae is written in a form common to treatises of that age. All of theology is divided into its major topics. These, in turn, are...