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Exam 2  Essay Question 1

Page history last edited by liz mastroianni 12 years, 1 month ago

 Beginning in the late twelfth century, scholars in the Latin west began first thoroughly to read and absorb the contents and implications of the works of Aristotle and other Greek philosophers. Describe the work of the major figures who carried out this assimilation process and their principle contributions. How was Greek and Arabic philosophy assimilated? What points of conflict emerged?


         The 11th and 12th centuries saw a revival of classical education as a result of the new acquisitions of texts written by Aristotle and other Greek and Arabic philosophers. Beginning in the 12th century, scholars in Western Europe started translating these newly found texts into Latin and putting them into the schools of learning such as universities. The purpose of translating these texts was to first understand and master the knowledge in them, organize it, and find its significance.  Then discover its possible problems and work those out and apply this to existing intellectual concerns.  These texts were important because of their extensiveness,  intellectual power and use. Also they were of pagan origin which made what they contained theologically debatable.  The explanatory power of the Aristotelian system was extremely attractive to Western scholars and many of these scholars began contributing a lot to the assimilation of knowledge through their translations. Most of Aristotle's works were actually used in some universities starting in the 13th century. However, there were some conflicts that arose from the Aristotelian systems because of its invasion of so many subjects.  Some criticized it and others even went to the extreme of trying to replace his work.  Even though conflicts emerged, this assimilation process was still a great success and brought us many major figures whose contributions changed the future of the knowledge in Western Europe.

       While the Classical tradition and learning had not been altogether absent from the Latin world, it had been largely confined to monastic orders and other cabinets within the Catholic Church.  Through a centralization process begun by Charlemagne, learning would get more emphasis and more scholars would emerge to take hold of the Classical tradition.  Charlemagne conquered much of Central Europe and expressing a strong interest in education initiated many institutes of learning and brought a noted scholar, Alcain, to court as the director of the large educational campaign.  Alcain pushed the collection and copying of many texts of Classical intiquity.  Across the next few centuries Europe would experience a population explosion coupled with strong desire by many people to urbanize or move to the cities.  This brought about the creation of more schools (though not a substantial amount) and also helped to spur the creation of universities.  Universities sprang up across Europe, most notably in France, Spain, and England, and helped to disseminate subjects in the liberal arts and natural sciences.  The universities also greatly encouraged the recover of many texts and their subsequent translation into Latin. 

     Gerbert of Aurillac (945-1003) traveled to Spain to study translation and was chief among educators and translaters in his intellectual devotion to making contact with the Arabic world for the purpose of recovering or finding important texts.  The most important of these was the mathematical quadrivium, a monumental Arabic text marking the beginning of the recovery of many Classical and Islamic texts.  Gerbert is also noteable for being a widely renowned instructor helping to spread the teachings of Aristotelean logic and other Classical works within the universities.   With the increasing availability of texts as influenced by translators like Gerbert and expanding education creating more scholars, Aristotle became more widely spread throughout Europe.  Theologians such as Anselm of Bec and Peter Abelard utilized Aristotelean philosophy to buttress theology and answer questions in Christian apologetics.  These theologians appropriated philosophy into theology to a greater extent than had previously been done and lent legitimacy to further integrating these two venues of intellectual thought.  

     Many scholars who helped with the assimilation process made many important contributions in their translations. The first one, Roger Bacon (~1220 - 1292) studied Aristotle and other Greek text and was mainly concerned with incorporating them into the thoughts of the Christian world.  He attempted to reconstruct the idea of secular learning, claiming that a person needed both seccular learning and Christian faith to find truth.  His main work, "Opus Maius", was written to the Pope and included his four main thoughts.  The first was the idea that when a person looks for the truth they will always encounter obstacles.  The second idea was that secular learning is legitimate, meaning that in order to properly interpret the Christian scriptures a person must have knowledge from the philosophical world.  The third idea was the importance of grammar and languages and the fourth being the importance of mathematics.  Through these four ideas Bacon appealed to the church fathers.

      Another scholar, Robert Grosseteste (ca. 1168-1253), was an Oxford student whose ideas and theories were very Platonic in nature. He was the first lecturer in the Franciscan school at Oxford and dealt in commentaries on works already done, rather than creating new theories and philosophies. Grosseteste focused his commentaries on the works of Aristotle, works like Posterior Analytics, Physics, Metaphysics, Meteorology, and his biological works. His Platonic and Neoplatonic influences and ideas showed through very clearly as he commented and added his own interpretations on Aristotle's works.

      Albert the Great ( ca. 1200-1280) was a master of theology who also taught another great scholar, Thomas Aquinas.  Albert was the first scholar in Western Christenmod to offer an interpretation of Christianity containing a solid foundation in Aristotelean philosophy. For this Albert would be named the founder of Christian Aristotelianism.   He was never on either side of the agrument, Albert was always ready to correct or reject Aristotelian doctrines that he considered false and used pieces of truth from everywhere.  Albert saw the importance of Aristotelian philosophy and therefore, set out to interpret it for all of his fellow Dominicans.  In his prologue to the commentary on Aristotle's Physics, about this exact idea and explains that his purpose," is to satisfy as far as we can those brethren of our order who for many years now have begged us to compose for them a book on physics in which they might find a complete exposition of natural science and from which also they might be able to understand correctly the books of Aristotle" ( Lindberg, 239).  He wanted everyone to know the great knowledge that Aristotle held. Albert was the only scholar at his time to ever give so much attention to the Aristotelian corpus, and he is still one of the few to do it to this day.  His purpose in his attention to Aristotle stems from his belief that Aristotle's philosophy was necessary to understanding theology and that all who study theology should have the ability to study Aristotle.  

       Albert's distinguished attention to philosophy was continued by his pupil, Thomas Aquinas. Thomas Aquinas (ca. 1224-1274) was a commentator and natural philosopher who did not just adopt all of Aristotle's ideas and philosophies, but attempted to integrate them completely into Catholic Theology. Aquinas received his education at the Benedictine Abbey and the University of Naples, where he was first introduced to Aristotelian philosophy.  Aquinas spent his career finding a way for Pagan learning and Christian theology to coexist in a way that both could flourish.  He agrued against people who rejected philosophy as a contrary to the faith by saying, " even though the natural light of the human mind is inadequate to make known what is revealed by faith, nevertheless what is divinely taught to us by faith cannot be contrary to what we are endowed by nature.  One or the other would have to be false, and since we have both of them from God, he would be the cause of error, which is impossible" ( Lindberg, 241). From this, he argued that philosophy should not replace a person's faith, but that they are both paths to truth and can both exist together. He also theorized that although the two roads may lead to different truths, they never lead to contradictory truths. Aquinas was a firm believer that for a person to find truth in either philosophy or theology you had to study the other because they complement and support one another. He also theorized that philosophy was a necessary and useful tool for any believer of the faith and in his works he described how philosophy can be used to understand the workings of the heavens by giving people analogies of workings to look at and compare to the bigger picture of the heavens. He also believed that philosophy was a useful tool in disproving objections that people had to God or to the faith. Aquinas also believed that no matter how different the two fields were, they still overlap in areas like the proof of God's existence which is proved through science and written in the scriptures. 

      However, conflict arose when some theologians attempted to make Aristotelean philosophy an equal counterpart to Christian theology which sometimes lead to incompatable theories.  Siger of Brabant (ca.1240-84), the head of a radical fraction of theologians, defended Aristotle's belief in the eternity of the world and Averroistic monopsychism, which had dangerous claims for personal immortality.  His purpose was to practice philosophy without any theological teachings, and he said that the conclusions he reached were necessary and inevitable of philosophy.  After the publishing of the treatise ,On the Unicity of the Intellect, Siger changed his position on the nature of the soul by making it conform with Orthodox Christian teaching. After this, he concluded that his conclusions were in fact necessary, but did not have to be true. Overall, the public position of Siger, was that if properly conducted philosophical inquiry can lead to conclusions that contradict those of theology.

           Boethius of Darcis(fl.1270), a member of Siger of Brabant's circle,  was a radical that passionately argued the separation of philosophy and theology. He assembled and then rejected the philosophical arguments that were used against the Aristotelians to defend the Christian doctrine of creation. He felt that by abiding by church doctrines, philosophers were tied down and forced to believe certain things. Beliefs about creation were hindered by religion due to the fact that philosophers who followed the faith were not allowed to believe or theorize anything other than God as the creater.  Others considered Boethius to be a menace and a danger to the faith the more he theorized that the truths that philosophers reach were contrasting to the ideas forced by theology and the only way for a person to free their theories is to disregard what they've learned from the faith. As people became more aware of Boethius' theories and arguments, the bishop of Paris, Etienne Tempier, decided to take action and issue the first two condemnations in 1270 and 1277 in an effort to stop the separation and bring back the belief that the church and philosophy could coexist and help one another.

          The Condemnations of Aristotle's works started in 1270 and they were put in place in an attempt by the church to hold on to their influence over the way that people thought and theorized. Among the condemned were thirteen philosophical propositions from Aristotle that were being taught in universities by the "radicals". This condemnation represents a reaction by the church to the actions of the radicals in the faculty of arts.  The next condemnation came in 1277, and this one was much broader and covered even more. Due to the viewing of liberal thinkers as menaces and threats to society and the faith, the church issued a list of 219 forbidden propositions on the third anniversary of Aquinas's death.  The dangerous elements of Aristotelian philosophy were banned and so were the radical sayings of Siger and others such as the right of philosophers to resolve debates on issues where rational methods can be used. The church condemned any proposition or teaching that was a threat to or limited the power of God by describing what he couldn't do in the natural world and practice of these ideas were grounds for excommunication. Along with the propositions on God's power, several astrological propositions were also banned. Those propositions that were banned taught that the heavens have influence over the soul as well as the body as theology taught that celestial spheres are moved by souls. All of these propositions were banned on the  idea that they contradit divine freedom and omnipotence.  The position of Tempier was that philosophers should not say that God can not do everything because he can do anything that involves no logical contradiction. The effect that the condemnations had on the philosophers was not quite what the bishops and the church had expected. With the major thoughts of Aristotle banned, philosophers turned to other paths to the truth and discovered their own theories that were alternatives. It also encouraged them to explore non-Aristotelian physical and cosmological alternatives. In the end, the condemnations actually encouraged liberal thinking instead of killing it like they had hoped to do and also revealed the strength of conservative thinking within the intellectual realm of scholars. 

          The condemnations of Aristotelian philosophy marked a transitional period for Medieval philosophy causing scholars to openly search new venues of learning.  Philosophical methods in Latin Europe had been greatly explored since the introduction of classical and Arabic texts.  Virtually beginning with Gerbert of Aurillac these important texts made their way into Latin Europe and ignited a firestorm of learning that introduced Plato and even more significantly Aristotle into Christian theology.  The introduction of these texts were also important for practical purposes as they contained knowledge needed for certain needed occupations such as doctors and servants.  The increasing appropration of classical philosophy into Christian theology, in some cases to the point of philosophy supplanting or being separated from theology, caused the Catholic church to condemn and attempt partial and sometimes even total suppression of Aristotelean philosophy.  These condemnations, in fact, were actually important stops in the assimilation process of Aristotelian philosophy by Medieval Christiandom. The condemnations, beyond revealing the lengths to which the Church would go to protect the Articles of Faith, led scholars to pursue other avenues of thought and explorations of science.  Men who spent their lives pursuing knowledge and philosophy were not to be inhibited by prohibition but proved their intellectual tenacity by simply perusing other routes of knowledge.  Perhaps they were only proving Roger Bacon right when he wrote about avoiding obstacles of truth. 

Comments (18)

liz mastroianni said

at 8:19 pm on Oct 15, 2008

Ok so i kinda started on our essay, i figure it wont be that hard. BUt i kinda wrote a outline on the essay and i figure we start by saying how aristotles works were used in universities and alot of the knowledge from these translations started the assimlation process and stuff and how the works were assimilated, then i think we should go into the major contributions by the scholars i listed and we can add more if we want but i think the most important are what i listed above, Then from these we need to go into the conflicts that arose from these translations like the condemnations and how people tried to stop the assimilation of Aristotle and from there conclue. I hope this makes sense. WE can split it up and everyone just pick what part they want to do and ill just do whats left over. Remember Mr. Ramberg told us to keep the essays short so lets try to not make out stuff so long.

Jessica Germer said

at 12:22 am on Oct 16, 2008

what is outlined above sounds good to me...i just added some stuff on Bacon and it's probally really poorly written, but ill add somemore information tomorrow.

Allie Haberthier said

at 5:03 pm on Oct 16, 2008

I just added information, I didn't really organize it that well yet, but I'll get to it.

liz mastroianni said

at 12:19 pm on Oct 17, 2008

i added some stuff about albert and edited what we had already, i think were off to a great start

jonathan stutte said

at 12:41 pm on Oct 18, 2008

i don't think i can get to anything till tonight so leave something for me to do! but i'll add, don't worry!

liz mastroianni said

at 2:23 pm on Oct 18, 2008

jon do you want to do pick from whats left

jonathan stutte said

at 7:34 pm on Oct 18, 2008

haven't added anything but cleaned up the first half a bit.

jonathan stutte said

at 9:27 pm on Oct 18, 2008

yikes, i hope i didn't add too much. more can definitely be done about the reintroduction of Classical works into the Latin west.

Allie Haberthier said

at 11:18 pm on Oct 18, 2008

I added a bunch on the condemnations but it needs to be polished up tremendously and probably needs more added to it.

liz mastroianni said

at 1:27 pm on Oct 19, 2008

i tried to add some sort of conclusion but needs work.

Jessica Germer said

at 1:35 pm on Oct 19, 2008

i added a few things and edited a little bit...i'll work on the conclusion later today if no one gets to it sooner

liz mastroianni said

at 1:57 pm on Oct 19, 2008

i added some stuff to the condemnations

jonathan stutte said

at 2:11 pm on Oct 19, 2008

did some more editing. cut out some extraneous information about Alber the Great and Thomas Aquinas to shorten things a bit.

jonathan stutte said

at 9:39 pm on Oct 19, 2008

added just a little more to the third paragraph for transition, but it ain't much.

jonathan stutte said

at 10:27 pm on Oct 19, 2008

worked a little on the conclusion. needs a better concluding sentence

Peter Ramberg said

at 10:52 am on Oct 20, 2008

After skimming your answer, this is off to a good start. I would not make it too much longer, but perhaps focus more on depth, and add some primary sources.

Remember that "Latin" is capitalized.

Jessica Germer said

at 11:51 pm on Oct 20, 2008

i just edited some stuff...grammatical, but i think it looks pretty good

liz mastroianni said

at 12:02 pm on Oct 21, 2008

added quotes and made latin capital

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