History of philosophy I: ancient philosophy

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Course Outline


1 – Introduction to medieval philosophy; its significance in the history of philosophy; emergence of Christian philosophy; the Middle Ages as historical and cultural concept; overview of the course and source materials; procedure to be followed.

PART I: THE AGE OF THE FATHERS (Second to Seventh Centuries)


2 – The Fathers as philosophers; their intellectual environment and programs of formation; the impact of Greek education and philosophy on the early Christians; neoplatonic and gnostic influences; the increasing significance of Roman influences.

CLASS 3, 4

3 – The intellectual orientation of the early Greek and Latin Fathers; St. Justin Martyr; the schools of Alexandria (St. Clement, Origen), Cappadocia (St. Gregory of Nyssa), and Antioch; the intellectual biography and chief philosophical works of St. Augustine.

CLASS 5, 6, 7, 8

4 – The Augustinian synthesis of classical and Christian wisdom; its principal themes and doctrines; the later Greek and Latin Fathers and the founding of the Middle Ages; Pseudo Dionysius the Areopagite; Boethius, Cassiodorus, Isidoro of Seville; the closing of the Academy of Athens by Justinian (“the Jurist”) in 529; trivium and quadrivium in the monastic schools.


5 – Christian antecedents: the Carolingian renaissance; Charlemagne’s schools: Alcuin and John Scotus Eriugena; the rise of cathedral schools; the school of Chartres and its major themes (logic and dialectic; the problem of universals); St. Peter Damian; Abelard; St. Anselm; the Augustinian canons (Hugh and Richard of St. Victor); St. Bernard; Peter Lombard; the attempt to make philosophy more “scientific.”


6 – Arabic antecedents: the recovery and teaching of Aristotle’s system in the Islamic and Jewish schools; Alfarabi, Avicenna, and Algazali; Averroës (“the Commentator”); Moses Maimonides (“the Rabbi”); the convergence of Augustinian and Aristotelian influences in the new universities.



7 – The intellectual environment of the Scholastic philosophers; the influence of the mendicant orders in the maturing of Scholasticism; the translation of Aristotle (“the Philosopher”) into Latin; the universities of Paris and Oxford (masters, bishops, kings); channeling the new mood of reform.


8 – The primacy of concrete particulars in the Aristotelian empiricism of St. Albert the Great (Dominican); philosophy in the service of divine love in the Augustinian idealism of St. Bonaventure (Franciscan).

CLASS 13, 14, 15, 16

9 – The genius and achievement of St. Thomas Aquinas; his formation and intellectual biography; the body of his scholarship; the historical importance and perennial significance of his harmonious synthesis of classical and Christian wisdom, of reason and faith; philosophy as science and as way of life.

CLASS 17, 18

10 – Philosophy in the service of theology; the methodology and system of Thomism: God, man, the world.

PART IV: DECLINE OF SCHOLASTICISM (Fourteenth to Sixteenth Centuries)


11 – The reaction to “Latin Averroism” and the Condemnation of 1277; the first challenges to Thomism and ensuing controversies; Bl. John Duns Scotus and the voluntarist alternative; the need to reconcile philosophical speculations with the freedom of God.


12 – The fracturing of the schools over the limits of philosophy; the impact of the scientific movement in logic and physics; the reaction of “speculative mysticism”: Meister Eckhart; the reaction of skeptical “nominalism”: William of Ockham; the separation of reason from faith (antecedents of fideism and rationalism).


13 – Moving beyond the Middle Ages: the clash of papal and imperial aims; the merger of Scholasticism with a new humanism in the early Renaissance; efforts to preserve the achievements of medieval philosophy: the poetic philosophy of Dante; exploration and the discovery of a “new world”; the Protestant revolt; the traditional humanism of More and Erasmus; the systematic treatises of Vitoria and Suarez.

CLASS 22, 23, 24, 25

14 – A summing up of medieval philosophy: 1 – reasoning in faith (philosophy and theology); 2 – divine illumination; 3 – universals; 4 – theories of causality; the legacy of medieval philosophy; its reception in the Modern Age; preparation for the examination.


Students should examine more closely the material in boldface. In addition to these books, relevant materials are also available via the internet (especially http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ -- the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

For Part I:

1. Colin McEvedy, The Penguin Atlas of Medieval History (1961)

Maps 528, 737, 1028, 1212, 1478.

2. Charles Norris Cochrane, Christianity and Classical Culture (1940)


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

III, IV (pp. 26-46)

4. Josef Pieper, Scholasticism: Personalities and Problems of Medieval Philosophy

(1960); I, II (pp. 15-44)

5. T.B.F., comp., St. Augustine: Essays on His Age, Life, and Thought (1930)

V. (M. C. D’Arcy, SJ, “The Philosophy of St. Augustine”)

6. Vernon J. Bourke, Wisdom from St. Augustine (1984)

1. (“The Genius of St. Augustine”)

7. Vernon J. Bourke, ed., The Essential Augustine (1964)

II-VI (Choose one excerpt)

8. Pope John Paul II, Augustinum Hipponensem [Augustine of Hippo] (1986)

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