History of philosophy I: ancient philosophy

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A Good Shelf of Books

1. Francis M. Cornford, From Religion to Philosophy: A Study in the Origins of Western Specu-

lation (1912)

2. Bruno Snell, The Discovery of the Mind: The Greek Origins of Western Philosophy (1953)

3. Werner Jaeger, Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture, 3 volumes (1939-1943)

4. Ralph M. McInerny, A History of Western Philosophy, Vol. I: From the Beginnings of Philoso-

phy to Plotinus (1963); also: www.nd.edu/Departments/Maritain/etext/hwp

5. Joseph Owens, A History of Ancient Western Philosophy (1959)

6. W.K.C. Guthrie, History of Greek Philosophy, 6 volumes (1962-1981)

7. Eduard Zeller, Outlines of the History of Greek Philosophy, 13th ed. (1980)

8. J. B. Wilbur and H. J. Allen, eds., The Worlds of the Early Greek Philosophers (1979)

9. Rex Warner, The Greek Philosophers (1958)

10. Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy, Vol. I: Greece and Rome (1946)

11. John Ferguson, comp., Socrates: A Sourcebook (1970)

12. Søren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, with Constant Reference to Socrates (1841; 1965)

13. Eric Voegelin, Order and History, II: The World of the Polis; III: Plato and Aristotle (1957)

14. Norman F. Cantor and Peter L. Klein, ed., Ancient Thought: Plato and Aristotle (1969)

15. Barry Gross, ed., Great Thinkers on Plato (1969)

16. Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns, ed., Plato: The Collected Dialogues (1961)

17. Paul Friedländer, Plato, 3 volumes (1958-1969)

18. Josef Pieper, Divine Madness: Plato’s Case against Secular Humanism (1995)

19. Jonathan Barnes, ed., The Complete Works of Aristotle, 2 volumes (1984)

20. Richard McKeon, ed., Introduction to Aristotle, 2nd ed. (1973)

21. Mortimer J. Adler, Aristotle for Everybody: Difficult Thought Made Easy (1978)

22. Henry Veach, Aristotle: A Contemporary Appreciation (1974)

23. Werner Jaeger, Early Christianity and Greek Paideia (1961)

Famous verses: Dante, Divina Commedia, Inferno, from Canto IV:

When I had lifted up my brows a little, The Master I beheld of those who know, Sit with his philosophic family.

All gaze upon him, and all do him honor. There I beheld both Socrates and Plato, Who nearer him before the others stand; Democritus, who puts the world on chance, Diogenes, Anaxagoras, and Thales, Zeno, Empedocles, and Heraclitus; Of qualities I saw the good collector, Dioscorides; and Orpheus, Tully, Livy, and moral Seneca….

A Cautionary Postscript from St. Paul

Βλέπετε μή τις ημάς έσται ό συλαγωγών διά τής φιλοσοφίας καί κενής απάτης κατά τήν παράδοσιν των ανθρώπων, κατά τά στοιχεία τού κόσμου καί ου κατά Χριστόν.

Videte ne quis vos decipiat per philosophiam et inanem fallaciam secundum traditionem hominum, secundum elementa mundi, et non secundum Christum. Ad Colossenses 2:8
See that you not be deceived by philosophy and erroneous vanities according to human tradition, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ. Colos. 2:8


Arnold Hall Conference Center, August MMIII

John Gueguen, professor
This course presents the chief thinkers and the doctrines they taught—mainly under Christian inspiration—between the close of antiquity in the period of the Church Fathers (II century) and the early Renaissance (XV century). Attention is also given to general intellectual development in the cultural, religious, social and political contexts of Eastern and Western Europe and adjacent areas of the Middle East and North Africa during that long period of history.

Of the contributions the Middle Ages made to the history of philosophy, only the most significant ones, such as the close relation between philosophy and theology, can be treated in this brief introduction. Problems of interest to specialists must be passed over, along with the minor thinkers, in order to concentrate on achievements that made the greatest impact on later philosophers and schools—primarily those of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas.


(paraphrase of John Paul II, Fides et Ratio, 36-46)

A. Early Encounters between Faith and Reason

36. The Fathers of the Church drew upon the Greek philosophers whose search for a rational foundation for belief in the Divinity had brought to light the link between reason and religion.

37. The early Christian thinkers were careful to distinguish authentic philosophy from gnostic speculations reserved for a select few.
38. St. Justin and St. Clement of Alexandria pioneered this cautious discernment so as to defend and deepen faith in Christ and lead men and women to conversion of heart.
39. Origen adopted Platonic arguments to counter attacks and construct an early form of Christian theology in a set of reflections which express true doctrine about God.
40. The Christianizing of neo-Platonic thought was led by the Cappadocian Fathers, Pseudo Dionysius, and especially St. Augustine, who produced the first great synthesis of philosophy and theology; it sustained the Church for ten centuries.
41. In confronting the relationship between faith and reason, Eastern and Western Fathers showed the same critical consciousness by recognizing points of convergence and of divergence, thus disclosing what had been only implicit in ancient thought: that the supreme Good and ultimate Truth in the Word made flesh may be attained when reason is enlightened by faith.
42. In Scholastic theology, pioneered by St. Anselm and St. Albert, philosophically trained reason confirms the fundamental harmony between the knowledge of revealed truths and the knowledge of natural truths; a corresponding growth of love is fired by the intellect’s progress toward the one truth of all things, as St. Bonaventure showed.

B. The Enduring Originality of St. Thomas Aquinas

43. Recovering the treasures in the philosophy of Aristotle and engaging his leading Arab and Jewish commentators in fruitful dialogue, the Common Doctor traced out a new path for philosophy and worked out the model for the right way to do theology in the schools as the harmonious constructing and perfecting of reason on the foundation of faith.

44. St. Thomas showed how to bring to the maturity of wisdom the complementary philosophical intellect and theological revelation in a realist teaching of “what is,” which recognizes the objectivity of truth and arrives at a right judgment concerning the divine realities proposed by faith.

C. The Drama of the Separation of Faith and Reason

45. This recognition of the organic link that joins the distinct disciplines of theology and philosophy gave way to a growing suspicion, separation, and eventually division into an exaggerated rationalism independent of faith (Averroism) and an exaggerated fideism distrustful of reason (mysticism; nominalism).

46. Strong currents opposed to Christian revelation and philosophical realism subsequently arose out of these radical positions: idealism, secular humanism, positivism, and eventually nihilism, which rejects the possibility of attaining truth and forming commitments, offering instead immediate sensual gratification and the ephemeral experiences so attractive to many of our contemporaries.

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