Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 13.djvu/612

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SCHOLASTICISM


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SCHOLASTICISM


era, in which the same principles were, so to speak, in solution, and not crystallized in definite expression. It is the trait which differentiates Scholasticism from Averroism. It is the inspiration of all Scholastic effort. As long as it lasted Scholasticism lasted, and as soon as the opposite conviction became es- tablished, the conviction, namely, that what is true in theology may be false in philosophy, Scholasticism ceased to exist.' It is, therefore, a matter of constant surprise to those who know Scholasticism to find it misrepresented on tliis vital point.

B. Scholastic Rationalisyn. — Scholasticism sprang from the study of dialectic in the schools. The most decisive battle of Scholasticism was that which it waged in the twelfth century against the mystics, who condemned the use of dialectic. The distinguishing mark of Scholasticism in the age of its highest development is its use of the dialectical me- thod. It is, therefore, a matter, once more, for surprise, to find Scholasticism accused of undue sub- servience to authority and of the neglect of reason. Rationalism is a word which has various meanings. It is sometimes used to designate a system which, refusing to acknowledge the authority of revela- tion, tests all truth by the standard of reason. In this sense, the Scholastics were not Rationalists. The Rationalism of Scholasticism consists in the con- viction that reason is to be used in the elucidation of spiritual truth and in defence of the dogmas of Faith. It is opposed to mysticism, which distrusted reason and placed emphasis on intuition and contemplation. In this milder meaning of the term, all the Scholastics were convinced Rationalists, the only difference being that some, like Abelard and Roscelin, were too ardent in their advocacy of the use of reason, and went so far as to maintain that reason can prove even the supernatural mysteries of Faith, while others, like St. Thomas, rnoderated the claims of reason, set limits to its power of proving spiritual truth, and maintained that the mysteries of faith could not be discovered and cannot be proved by unaided reason.

The whole Scholastic movement, therefore, is a Rationalistic movement in the second sense of the term Rationalism. The Scholastics used their rea- son; they applied dialectic to the study of nature, of human nature and of supernatural truth. Far from depreciating reason, they went as far as man can go — some modern critics think they went too far — in the application of reason to the discussion of the dogmas of Faith. They acknowledged the au- thority of revelation, aa all Christian philosophers are obliged to do. They admitted the force of human authority when the conditions of its valid application were verified. But in theology, the au- thority of revelation did not coerce their reason, and in philosophy and in natural science they taught very emphatically that the argument from authority is the weakest of all arguments. They did not subordinate reason to authority in any unworthy sense of that phrase. It wa.s an opponent of the Scholastic movement who styled philosophy " the hand- maid of theology ", a designation which, however, some of the Schoolmen accepted to mean that to philosophy belongs the honourable task of carrying the light which is to guide the footsteps of theology. One need not go so far as to say, with Barth<51emy Saint- Hilaire, that "Scholasticism, in its general result, is the first revolt of the modern spirit against au- thority." Nevertheless, one Ls compelled by the facts of history to admit that there is more truth in that description than in the superficial judgment of the historians who describe Scholasticism as the subordination of reason to authority.

C. DeUiibs of Scholastic Method.— The Scholastic manner of treating the problems of philosophy and theology is apparent from a glance at the body of


literature which the Schoolmen produced. The im- mense amount of commentary on Aristotle, on Peter Lombard, on Boethius, on Pseudo-Dionysius, and on the Scriptures indicates the form of academic ac- tivity which characterizes the Scholastic period. The use of texts dates from the very beginning of the Scholastic era in philosophy and theology, and was continued down into modern times. The mature teacher, however, very often embodied the results of his own speculation in a Sutnma, which, in time, became a text in the hands of his successors. The Quccstiones disputatce were special treatises on the more difficult or the more important topics, and, as the name implied, followed the method of debate prevalent in the schools, generally called disputation or determination. The Quodlibeta were miscellanies, generally in the form of answers to questions which, as soon as a teacher had attained a widespread re- nown, began to come to him, not only from the aca- demic world in which he lived, but from all classes of persons and from every part of Christendom. The division of topics in theology was determined by the arrangement followed in Peter Lombard's "Books of Sentences" (see Sum.m.e, Summul.e), and in phi- losophy it adhered closely to the order of treatises in Aristotle's works. There is a good deal of diver- gence among the principal Scholastics in the details of arrangement, as well as in the relative values of the sub-titles, "part", "question", "disputation", "ar- ticle", etc. All, however, adopt the manner of treat- ment by which thesis, objections, and solutions of objections stand out distinctly in the discussion of each problem. We find traces of this in Gerbert'a Httle treatise "De rationali et ratione uti" in the tenth century, and it is still more definitely adopted in Abelard's "Sic et non". It had its root in Aris- totelean method, but was determined more imme- diately by the dialectical activity of the early schools, from which, as was said, Scholasticism sprang.

Much has been said both in praise and in blame of Scholastic terminology in philosophy and theology. It is rather generally acknowledged that whatever precision there is in the modern languages of Western Europe is due largely to the dialectic disquisitions of the Scholastics. On the other hand, ridicule has been poured on the stiffness, the awkwardness, and the barbarity of the Scholastic style. In an impartial study of the question, it should be remembered that the Scholastics of the thirteenth century — and it was not they but their successors who were guilty of the grossest sins of style — were confronted with a ter- minological problem unique in the history of thought. They came suddenly into possession of an entirely new literature, the works of Aristotle. They spoke a language, Latin, on which the terminology of Aris- totle in metaphysics, psychology etc., had made no im- pression. Consequently, they were obliged to create all at once Latin words and phrases to express the terminology of Aristotle, a terminology remarkable for its extent, its variety, and its technical com- plexity. They did it honestly and humbly, by translating Aristotle's phrases literally; so that many a strange-sounding Latin phrase in the writings of the Schoolmen would be very good Aristotelcan Greek, if rendered word for word into that language. The Latin of the best of the Scholastics may be lacking in elegance and distinction; but no one will deny the merits of its rigorous severity of phrase and its logi- cal soundness of construction. Though wanting the graces of what is callerl the fine style, graces which have the power of pleasing but do not facilitate the task of the learner in philosophy, the style of the thirteenth-century masters possesses the fundamen- tal qualities, clearness, conciseness, and richness of technical phrase.

IV. The Contents of the Scholastic System. —