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SCHOLASTICISM


philosophiam " (De divina praedestinatione, Proem). Reason in its own strength and with its own instruments evolves a system of the universe which coincides, according to Erigena, with the teaching of Scripture. For Erigena, therefore, the speculative reason is the supreme arbiter; and in accordance with its results the utterances of Scripture and of the church have not infrequently to be subjected to an allegorical or mystical interpretation. But this is only to say again that Erigena is more of a Neoplatonist than a Scholastic. Hence Cousin suggested in respect of this point a threefold chronological division - at the outset the absolute subordination of philosophy to theology, then the period of their alliance, and finally the beginning of their separation. In other words, we note philosophy gradually extending its claims. Dialectic is, to begin with, a merely secular art, and only by degrees are its terms and distinctions applied to the subject-matter of theology. The early results of the application, in the hands of Berengarius and Roscellinus, did not seem favourable to Christian orthodoxy. Hence the strength with which a champion of the faith like Anselm insists on the subordination of reason. To Bernard of Clairvaux and many other churchmen the application of dialectic to the things of faith appears as dangerous as it is impious. Later, in the systems of the great Schoolmen, the rights of reason are fully established and acknowledged. The relation of reason and faith remains external, and certain doctrines - an increasing number as times goes on - are withdrawn from the sphere of reason. But with these exceptions the two march side by side; they establish by different means the same results. For the conflicts which accompanied the first intrusion of philosophy into the theological domain more profound and cautious thinkers with a far ampler apparatus of knowledge had substituted a harmony. " The constant effort of Scholasticism to be at once philosophy and theology "[1] seemed at last satisfactorily realized. But the further progress of Scholastic thought consisted in a withdrawal of doctrine after doctrine from the possibility of rational proof and their relegation to the sphere of faith. Indeed, no sooner was the harmony apparently established by Aquinas than Duns Scotus began this negative criticism, which is carried much farther by William of Occam. But this is equivalent to a confession that Scholasticism had failed in its task, which was to rationalize the doctrines of the church. The Aristotelian form refused to fit a matter for which it was never intended; the matter of Christian theology refused to be forced into an alien form. The end of the period was thus brought about by the internal decay of its method and principles quite as much as by the variety of external causes which contributed to transfer men's interests to other subjects.

But, although the relation of reason to an external authority thus constitutes the badge of medieval thought, it would be unjustScholasticism not unprogressive. to look upon Scholasticism as philosophically barren, and to speak as if reason, after an interregnum of a thousand years, resumed its rights at the Renaissance. Such language was excusable in the men of the Renaissance, fighting the battle of classic form and beauty and of the manysidedness of life against the barbarous terminology and the monastic ideals of the schools, or in the protagonists of modern science. The new is never just to the old. In the schools and universities of the middle age the intellect of the semi-barbarous European peoples had been trained for the work of the modern world. But we may go further and say that, in spite of their initial acceptance of authority, the Scholastics are not the antagonists of reason; on the contrary they fight its battles. The attempt to establish by argument the authority of faith is in reality the unconscious establishment of the authority of reason. Reason, if admitted at all, must ultimately claim the whole man. Anselm's motto, Credo ut intelligam, marks well the distance that has been traversed since Tertullian's Credo quia absurdum est. The claim of reason has been recognized to manipulate the data of faith, at first blindly and immediately received, and to weld them into a system such as will satisfy its own needs. Scholasticism that has outlived its day may be justly identified with obscurantism, but not so the systems of those who, by their intellectual force alone, once held all the minds of Europe in subjection. The scholastic systems are not the free products of speculation; in the main they are summae theologiae, or they are modified versions of Aristotle. But each system is a fresh recognition of the rights of reason, and Scholasticism as a whole may be regarded as the history of the growth and gradual emancipation of reason which was completed in the movements of the Renaissance and the Reformation.

In speaking of the origin of Scholasticism - name and thing - it has been already noted that medieval speculation takes its rise in certain logical problems. To be more precise,"Universals." it is the nature of " universals " which forms the central theme of Scholastic debate (see Nominalism, Realism). This is the case almost exclusively during the first period, and only to a less extent during the second, where it reappears in a somewhat different form as the difficulty concerning the principle of individuation. The controversy was between Nominalists and Realists; and, exclusively logical as the point may at first sight seem to be, adherence to one side or the other is an accurate indication of philosophic tendency. The two opposing theories express at bottom, in the phraseology of their own time, the radical divergence of pantheism and individualism - the two extremes between which philosophy seems pendulum-wise to oscillate, and which may be said still to await their perfect reconciliation. First, however, we must examine the form 'which this question assumed to the first medieval thinkers, and the source from which they derived it. A single sentence in Porphyry's IsagogePorphyry's "Isagoge" or " introduction " to the Categories of Aristotle furnished the i o ,s text of the discussion. The treatise of Porphyry deals with the notions of genus, species, difference, property and accident (see Predicables); and he mentions, but declines to discuss, the various theories that have been held as to the ontological import of genera and species. In the Latin translation of Boetius, in which alone the Isagoge was then known, the sentence runs as follows:--

" Mox de generibus et speciebus illud quidem sive subsistant, sive in solis nudis intellectibus posita sint, sive subsistentia corporalia sint an incorporalia, et utrum separata a sensibilibus an in sensibilibus posita et circa haec consistentia, dicere recusabo; altissimum enim negotium est hujusmodi et majoris egens inquisitionis."

This passage indicates three possible positions with regard to universals. It may be held that they exist merely as conceptions in our minds; this is Nominalism or Conceptualism. It may be held that they have a substantial existence of their own, independent of their existence in our thoughts. This is Realism, which may be of two varieties, according as the substantially existent universals are supposed to exist apart from the sensible phenomena or only in and with the objects of sense as their essence. The first form of Realism corresponds to the Platonic theory of the transcendence of the ideas; the second reproduces the Aristotelian doctrine of the essence as inseparable from the individual thing. But, though he implies an ample previous treatment of the questions by philosophers, Porphyry gives no references to the different systems of which such distinctions are the outcome, nor does he give any hint of his own opinion on the subject, definite enough though that was. He simply sets the discussion aside as too difficult for a preliminary discourse, and not strictly relevant to a purely logical inquiry. Porphyry, the Neoplatonist, the disciple of Plotinus, was an unknown personage to those early students of the Isagoge. The passage possessed for them a mysterious charm, largely due to its isolation and to their ignorance of the historic speculations which suggested it. And accordingly it gave rise to the three great doctrines which divided the medieval schools: Realism of the Platonic type, embodied in the formula universalia ante rein; Realism of the Aristotelian type, universalia in re; and Nominalism, including Conceptualism, expressed by the phrase universalia post rem, and also claiming to be based upon the Peripatetic doctrine.

  1. Milman's Latin Christianity, ix. 101.