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These include: Theodor W. Adorno Joseph Agassi, an Israeli philosopher of science who developed Karl Popper 's ideas Hannah Arendt Raymond Aron Zygmunt Bauman Walter Benjamin Henri Bergson Isaiah Berlin Ernst Bloch Harold Bloom Susan Bordo Judith Butler Noam Chomsky, an American linguist, ...
- How Medieval Jewish Thinkers Saw Themselves
- One Wisdom: Torah and Philosophy
- The Esotericism of Jewish Thought
- Truth Is Non-Discriminatory
The story told above has a kernel of truth in it, along with more than a few inaccuracies and distortions. But what is important to emphasize is that the story is a recent one. It assumes the periodization employed by the nineteenth‑century scholars who unearthed many of the works of medieval Jewish philosophy, as well as their historical sense, intellectual worldview and religious perspective.Listen to the medieval Jewish philosophers themselves, however, and you will hear a different story...
From this latter account there emerge several features of medieval Jewish philosophy worth emphasizing. (Some of these features are shared by other medieval intellectual traditions, such as kabbalah, and Christian and Muslim philosophies.)First, the unity of the Law and wisdom. Jews in the Middle Ages accepted the Law and other prophetic writings of their tradition as the word of God, and hence, as absolutely true. Those Jewish sages who accepted Greek wisdom had to find room for it within th...
Next, the elitism of the Jewish philosophers, who believed that the pursuit of wisdom is best left to the wise. Such an unegalitarian approach is not easily understood by modern readers, although it was a commonplace for ancients and medievals. Many Jewish philosophers, including Maimonides, felt not only that the untrained and unworthy will fail to comprehend wisdom, but also that they may be harmed by their misunderstanding.There is a tension in the texts of medieval Jewish philosophy, espe...
Finally, the universal character of wisdom. Both philosophers and kabbalists thought that only a handful of worthy students should receive the secrets of the Law. Both believed in the ultimate unity of the Law and wisdom, and both thought that wisdom was granted to the ancient Hebrews. But they differed over the content of that wisdom, and hence over the value and importance of studying non‑Jewish sources.Ultimately, it did not matter to the philosophers whether Socrates or Aristotle had stud...
Feb 04, 2008 · Medieval Jewish intellectuals living in Muslim and Christian lands were strongly concerned to recover what they regarded as a 'lost' Jewish philosophical tradition. As part of this project they transmitted and produced many philosophical and scientific works and commentaries, as well as philosophical commentary on scripture, in Judaeo-Arabic and Hebrew, the principal literary languages of medieval Jewry.
- Charles Harry Manekin
Medieval Jewish Philosophy The Encounter with Greek Philosophy Note that Jews had no continuing tradition of philosophizing. Incidental passages in the Bible and rabbinic literature dealt with philosophical issues, but not in a systematic way.
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Medieval Jewish Philosophy began as part of a general cultural revival in the Islamic East in the tenth century. This revival continued in Muslim countries, especially North Africa, Spain, and Egypt, for 300 years. During this time the Jews spoke, read, and wrote in Arabic and were able to take advantage of the culture of this period.
Abraham ibn Ezra, the subject of this Cologne doctoral dissertation, is a lesser-known figure in the history of Jewish philosophy in medieval Spain, his dates placing him roughly after Ibn Gabirol and before Moses Maimonides. The title given to this book calls first for some comment.
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Medieval philosophy is the philosophy that existed through the Middle Ages, the period roughly extending from the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century to the Renaissance in the 15th century. Medieval philosophy, understood as a project of independent philosophical inquiry, began in Baghdad, in the middle of the 8th century, and in France, in the itinerant court of Charlemagne, in the last quarter of the 8th century. It is defined partly by the process of rediscovering the ancient
- The Islamic Empire
- Under Christian Rule
- The Crusades
The Islamic empire expanded and contracted during the Middle Ages to include significant Jewish communities, like Toledo, Grenada, Seville, Constantinople, Salonika, Baghdad, Cairo, and Jerusalem. Generally speaking, the Jews enjoyed security in these places, although occasional instances of persecution and violence erupted.Spain serves as a useful, though by no means typical, example. Muslims invaded and conquered Andalusia (Spain) in 711. By the mid 8th century they had installed the Persia...
By 1248 the Christian reconquest of Spain was successful, and Spanish Jews were subject to new authorities, secular and sacred. From the 11th century on, Jews no longer resided in any given territory in Europe/Christendom by inherent right. Rather their residency hinged on a charter granted by a ruler that put the whole Jewish community under his special protection. In medieval Christian Europe, Jews lived in France and the German lands, Spain and Italy until 1300, when a series of expulsions...
Conversion also played a role in the Crusades, but in this case, it was Christians that wanted to “convert” the holy land. The purpose of the Crusades was to recapture the holy land for Christianity. They were initiated in 1095 by Pope Urban II. The first crusade began in 1096 and crusades continued for the next 300 years. The first crusade was the most disastrous for the Jews of Europe. Three centers of Ashkenazi Pronounced: AHSH-ken-AH-zee, Origin: Hebrew, Jews of Central and Eastern Europe...
Medieval philosophy is conventionally construed as the philosophy of Western Europe between the decline of classical pagan culture and the Renaissance. Such a broad topic cannot be covered in detail in a single article, and fortunately there is no need to do so, since other articles in this Encyclopedia treat individual medieval philosophers and topics. The present article will confine itself to articulating some of the overall contours of medieval philosophy. The reader should refer to the items listed under Related Entries below for more detailed information on narrower subjects. The chronological limits of medieval philosophy are likewise imprecise. Many histories of medieval philosophy (like many syllabi for courses on the subject) begin with St. Augustine (354430), though some include second- and third-century Christian thinkers (see Marenbon , p. 1), whereas Pasnau (, p. 1) speaks of a more recent consensus on when and where to place the beginnings of medieval philosophy, understood as a project of independent philosophical inquiry: it begins in Baghdad, in the middle of the eighth century, and in France, in the itinerant court of Charlemagne, in the last quarter of the eighth century. At the other end of the period, things are even more imprecise. Robinson (, pp. 74950) amusingly summarizes the situation: Throughout this early medieval period, we find many writers, usually of a broadly Platonic persuasion, who deal with philosophical topics in an unsystematic but far from shallow way that does not clearly distinguish philosophy from theology, or for that matter from wisdom literature generally. Frequently their views are presented by arguments that amount to an appeal to a vision of how things are (Look, dont you see?). This is simply a general although not universal observation about these authors, and should not be regarded as a philosophical limitation or defect. After all, some of the worlds most important philosophy has been presented in such a visionary way. Consider the role of intuition in twentieth-century phenomenology, for example, not to mention Parmenidess poem (where the philosophy is presented by a goddess) and much of Platos philosophy, including the Allegory of the Cave.
The originators of the notion of the Middle Ages were thinking primarily of the so called Latin West, the area, roughly speaking, of Roman Catholicism. While it is true that this region was to some extent a unit, culturally separate from its neighbors, it is also true that medieval philosophy was decisively influenced by ideas from the Greek East, from the Jewish philosophical tradition, and from Islam. If one takes medieval philosophy to include the Patristic period, as the present author prefers to do, then the area must be expanded to include, at least during the early centuries, Greek-speaking eastern Europe, as well as North Africa and parts of Asia Minor. While the influence of classical pagan philosophy was crucial for the development of medieval philosophy, it is likewise crucial that until the twelfth and thirteenth centuries almost all the original Greek texts were lost to the Latin West, so that they exerted their influence only indirectly. They were lost not in the sense that the texts were simply unavailable but in the sense that very few people could read them, since they were written in the wrong language. As the Western Roman Empire gradually disintegrated, the knowledge of Greek all but disappeared. Boethius (c. 480545/526) was still fluent in Greek, but he recognized the need for translations even in his own day; after him Greek was effectively a dead language in the West. There were still some pockets of Greek literacy, especially around such figures as Isidore of Seville and the Venerable Bede, preserving and transmitting ideas of ancient learning, but making little impact on medieval philosophical thought. Boethius is also important for having introduced the famous problem of universals in the form in which it was mainly discussed throughout the Middle Ages (see the entry on the medieval problem of universals). He also proved to be influential in the twelfth century and afterwards for the metaphysical views contained in a series of short studies known collectively as the Theological Tractates. Among his translations, the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius are surely the most important and influential (see the entry on Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite). The true identity of the man we call Pseudo-Dionysius is unknown, but he lived probably in the late-fifth century, somewhere in the Greek-speaking near East, and was very much influenced by the late neo-Platonist Proclus. Whoever he was, he claimed to be a certain Dionysius who is reported to have been among the philosophers on the Areopagus in Athens when St. Paul went there to preach (Acts 17:1934). Most of the audience on that occasion laughed at Paul and his novel doctrines.
Still, it is perhaps most useful not to think of medieval philosophy as defined by the chronological boundaries of its adjacent philosophical periods, but as beginning when thinkers first started to measure their philosophical speculations against the requirements of Christian doctrine and as ending when this was no longer the predominant practice. This view allows late ancient and early medieval philosophy to overlap during the Patristic period; thus Proclus (41185) belongs to the story of ancient philosophy, even though he is later than Saint Augustine (354430). Again, this view accommodates the fact that late scholasticism survived and flourished even in the Renaissance. Thus Francisco Suárez (15481617), who can arguably be regarded as the last chapter in the history of medieval philosophy, was contemporary with Francis Bacon (15611626). Nevertheless by c. 1450, at the latest, radically new ways of doing philosophy were clearly emerging.
A Christian would therefore have a hard time being a straightforward Platonist about the soul. But neither could a Christian be a straightforward Aristotelian. Aristotles own views on the immortality of the soul are notoriously obscure, and he was often interpreted as denying it outright. All the harder, therefore, to make sense of the view that the resurrection of the dead at the end of the world is something to be joyfully expected.
This problem illustrates the kind of difficulties that emerge from the above recipe for medieval philosophy. Educated early Christians, striving to reconcile their religion in terms of the only philosophical traditions they knew, would plainly have a lot of work to do. Such tensions may be regarded as the motors that drove much of philosophy throughout the period. In response to them, new concepts, new theories, and new distinctions were developed. Of course, once developed, these tools remained and indeed still remain available to be used in contexts that have nothing to do with Christian doctrine. Readers of medieval philosophy who go on to study John Locke, for instance, will find it hard to imagine how his famous discussion of personal identity in the Essay Concerning Human Understanding could ever have been written if it were not for the medieval distinction between person and nature, worked out in dealing with the doctrines of the Incarnation and the Trinity.
There were also translations of the Meno and the Phaedo made in the twelfth century by a certain Henry Aristippus of Catania, but almost no one appears to have read them. They seem to have had only a modest circulation and absolutely no influence at all to speak of. There had been a few other Latin translations made even much earlier, but these vanished from circulation before the Middle Ages got very far along. Cicero himself had translated the Protagoras and a small part of the Timaeus, and in the second century Apuleius translated the Phaedo, but these translations disappeared after the sixth century and had very little effect on anyone (Klibansky , pp. 2122). As Saint Jerome remarks in the late-fourth or early-fifth century, in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, How many people know Platos books, or his name? Idle old men on the corners hardly recall him (Migne , vol. 26, col. 401B). No doubt this plan would have proved unmanageable even if Boethius had not been executed in his mid-forties. In particular, while the Consolation certainly shows a knowledge of the Timaeus, Boethius does not appear to have actually translated any Plato at all, despite his intentions. He did, however, translate Aristotles Categories and On Interpretation, together with Porphyry of Tyres Isagoge, a kind of introduction to Aristotles Categories. He also appears to have translated the other works in Aristotles Organon (except perhaps for the Posterior Analytics, about which there is some doubt), but the fate of those translations is obscure; they did not circulate widely until much later (Dod , pp. 5354). In addition to his translations, Boethius wrote a number of logical treatises of his own. These are, first of all, a commentary on Aristotles Topics, which is no longer extant. Whether or not he translated the Posterior Analytics, there may have been a commentary on it, but if so it has not survived and did not have any influence (Ebbesen ). The same goes for a possible (incomplete) commentary on the Prior Analytics (Obertello , I, pp. 23032). More important were a series of commentaries (one on the Categories, two each on On Interpretation and on Porphyrys Isagoge, and one on Ciceros Topics) (see the entry on medieval theories of categories), together with several other works on categorical and hypothetical syllogisms, logical division, and on the differences between Aristotles and Ciceros Topics (Chadwick , Gibson , Obertello ). Together all these logical writings, both the translations and the others, constitute what later came to be called the Old Logic (= logica vetus). Some of the works were more influential than others. But basically, everything the Middle Ages knew about logic up to the middle of the twelfth century was contained in these books. As a result, Boethius is one of the main sources for the transmission of ancient Greek philosophy to the Latin West during the first half of the Middle Ages. As part of the cultural revival described above, and from the late-eleventh century on, there was a new and increasing interest in having translations of previously unavailable texts, not all of them philosophical by any means. No doubt this new interest was prompted in part by Western Europes exposure to the Greek and Islamic world during the First Crusade (beginning in 1095). But, for whatever reason, new translations soon began to appear from: The Spanish translators worked from Arabic texts. In the case of Aristotle, they used Arabic translations of Aristotles Greek, sometimes with an earlier Syriac link in between. After such a circuitous route, it is no less than amazing that the Latin Europeans were able to understand anything at all of these newly available Aristotelian works. Eventually the extensive and thorough commentaries by the Moorish Ibn Rushd (in Latin, Averroes, 112698) were translated from Arabic as well. These commentaries were extremely important in shaping the late medieval understanding of Aristotle, although some of the views contained in them became highly controversial.
Patrology or patristics is the study of the so called Fathers (patres) of the Church. In this sense, fathers does not mean priests, although of course many patristic authors were priests. Neither does it does mean fathers in the sense of founding fathers, although many patristic authors were likewise foundational for everything that came afterward. Rather fathers in this sense means teachers. See, for example, St. Paul: For though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Indeed, in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel (1 Cor. 4:15 [NRSV]). In early Christian usage, the term father was applied primarily to the bishop, who had preeminent teaching authority within the Church. But gradually the word was extended until, much later, it came to include all early Christian writers who were taken to represent the authentic tradition of the Church (Quasten , I, p. 9). The patristic period is generally taken to extend from the immediately post-Apostolic authors to either Gregory the Great (d. 604) or Isidore of Seville (d. 636) in the Latin West, and to John of Damascus (d. 749) in the Greek East (Quasten , I, 1).
By no means all patristic authors are of philosophical significance, but many of them definitely are. By far the most important is Saint Augustine (354430) (see the entry on Saint Augustine). Augustine is certainly the most important and influential philosopher of the Middle Ages, and one of the most influential philosophers of any time: Yet despite his philosophical preeminence, Augustine was not, and did not think of himself as, a philosopher either by training or by profession. By training he was a rhetorician, by profession first a rhetorician and teacher of rhetoric, then later Bishop of Hippo (modern Annaba, or French Bône, in what is now northeast Algeria), where his concerns were pastoral and theological. As a result, few of his writings contain what we would think of as purely philosophical discussions. What we find instead in Augustine is a man who is a philosopher in the original, etymological sense, a lover a wisdom, one who is searching for it rather than one who writes as if he has found it and is now presenting it to us in systematic, argumentative form. After Augustine, the first thinker of philosophical note was Boethius (c. 480524/525) (see the entry on Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius). Boethius is no doubt best known today for The Consolation of Philosophy, a dialogue in five books between Boethius and Lady Philosophy, an allegorical figure who appears to him in a vision while he is languishing in jail under sentence of death for treason. Boethius had occupied a high station in society and government. He was born into a family with an excellent old Roman pedigree, and rose to a position of immense power and influence in the Ostrogothic kingdom under Theodoric. Although for a while he was conspicuously successful, he nevertheless eventually fell into disfavor, was charged with treasonable conspiracy having to do with the Emperor Justin in Constantinople (Boethius claims he was innocent), was arrested and finally executed. In the Consolation, Boethius and Lady Philosophy discuss the problem of evil and the fickleness of fortunea particularly pressing issue for Boethius, given the circumstances under which the work was written. The Pseudo-Dionysian writings consist of four treatises and a series of ten letters. The most philosophically important of them are the two treatises On the Divine Names and On Mystical Theology. Through them the Latin West was introduced to what is sometimes called darkness mysticism, the tradition that interprets mystical experience not in terms of an intellectual vision (compare Platos Allegory of the Cave, where the Form of the Good is described as the dazzling sun), but in terms of the will rather than the intellect, darkness rather than light. (Compare later mystical expressions such as dark night of the soul, cloud of unknowing.) It is also mainly through these two treatises that medieval philosophy got the still familiar view that there are three ways of talking about God, by trying to say what he is like (the via affirmativa), by saying instead what he is not (the via negativa), and by a kind of combined way that speaks of God with affirmative predicates, but with some kind of mark of superexcellence (the via eminentiae, God is more than good, more than wise.). Abelard represents the full flower of early medieval philosophy, just before the new translations of Aristotle and others transform everything. It is important to realize that, except for the works of Pseudo-Dionysius, which do not appear to have had an important role in Abelards thinking, he had access to no more of the original sources of philosophy in the ancient world than anyone else in Europe had had since the time of Boethius. Yet his philosophy is strikingly original. His views on logic and what we would call philosophy of language are sophisticated and novel; indeed, he is a serious contender for the title of the greatest logician of the entire medieval period, early or late. He is one of the first nominalists, and certainly the first important one. His writings on ethics put a new and very strong emphasis on the role of the agents intention rather than exterior actions. He also wrote on theological topics such as Trinity. As with the previous generalization, this one should not be regarded as a philosophical fault of the later authors; it is simply a different way of doing philosophy. As David Hume knew, there are two styles of philosophy, each with its own advantages (An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, § 1). What we see in passing from the earlier to the later Middle Ages is a transition from one to the other.
After Boethius, as the classical Greco-Roman world grew ever more distant, philosophyand to some extent culture generallyentered a period of relative stagnation, a period that lasted until after the year 1000. There was one short-lived bright spot, however, the late-eighth and early-ninth century court of Charlemagne (768814) and his successors, the so called Carolingian period. The major philosophical figure in this period was John Scottus Eriugena (c. 800c. 877), an Irish monk who was at the court of Charles the Bald around 850 (see the entry on John Scottus Eriugena). Curiously, the knowledge of Greek was still not quite dead in Ireland even at this late date, and Eriugena brought a knowledge of the language with him. At the Carolingian court, Eriugena translated several Greek works into Latin, including the very important writings of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (more on him below), a work by Maximus Confessor (also known as Maximus of Constantinople, c. 580662), and Gregory of Nyssas (died c. 385) On the Making of Man (= De hominis opificio). Eriugena also wrote several other works of his own.
Damaris and the others have disappeared without a trace, but our unknown later author pretends to be the Dionysius mentioned in this passage.
Among Eriugenas own writings, the two most important ones were surely On the Division of Nature (= De divisione naturae or, under a Greek title, Periphyseon) and On Predestination (= De praedestinatione), both very strongly influenced by the neo-Platonic texts Eriugena was translating. Both works were condemned, On Predestination soon after it was written. On the Division of Nature is a large, systematic work in four books, presenting a vision of reality in strongly neo-Platonic terms. The unfamiliarity of this kind of thinking in Western Christendom, which was strongly influenced by Augustine, no doubt contributed to his later reputation of being a heretic.
Anselm is no doubt best known as the originator of the famous ontological argument for the existence of God. But he wrote much else besides, on many philosophical and theological topics. His writings abound in subtle and sophisticated reasoning; indeed, they illustrate the increasing role of dialectic in philosophy and theology. In Anselms hands, theology begins to develop into an argumentative discipline, less exclusively a matter of scripture studies and spirituality and increasingly a matter of systematic exploration and presentation of doctrine. This development grows even more pronounced after Anselm.
By the end of the twelfth century, almost all of Aristotles works available today had been translated into Latin and, together with the commentaries and other newly translated texts, gradually began to circulate. By the mid-thirteenth century, they were widely known. The first things to spread were the remaining logical writings of Aristotles Organon, those not already widely known from Boethiuss translations some six hundred years previously. These new logical writings, as distinct from the Old Logic (= Logica vetus) stemming from Boethius, became known collectively as the New Logic (= Logica nova). After them, the Physics, Metaphysics and other Aristotelian writings gradually became known.
This relatively sudden injection of so much new and unfamiliar material into Western Europe was a stunning shock, nothing less than revolutionary. It was no longer possible for philosophers and theologians to regard their task as simply one of deepening and elaborating traditional views that had come mainly from the Church Fathers and other familiar and approved authorities. It was now a matter of dealing with an entirely unfamiliar framework, with new ideas, accompanied by powerful arguments for them, some of which ideas were plainly unacceptable to a Christianfor example, Aristotles rejection of anything like divine providence, and his views on the eternity of the world (see the entry on William of Auvergne).
As part of the revival that began after the turn of the millennium, new forms of education began to emerge in Western Europe. In general, we may distinguish four main types of educational practices in the Middle Ages:
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