To form a proper estimate of the first stage of Scholastic discussion it is requisite above all things to have a clear idea of the appliances then at the disposal of the writersExtent of the early Schoolmen's knowledge.. What was the extent of their knowledge of ancient philosophy? To begin with, we know that till the 13th century the middle age was ignorant of Greek, and possessed no philosophical works in their Greek original(see Classics). In translations they had only the Categories and the De interpretatione of Aristotle in the versions of Boetius, the Timaeus of Plato in the version of Chalcidius, and Boetius's translation of Porphyry's Isagoge. Some general information as to the Platonic doctrines (chiefly in a Neoplatonic garb) was obtainable from the commentary with which Chalcidius (6th century) accompanied his translation, from the work of Apuleius (2nd century) De dogmate Platonis, and indirectly from the commentary of Macrobius (c. 400) on the Somnium Scipionis of Cicero, and from the writings of St Augustine. As aids to the study of logic, the doctors of this period, beside the commentaries and treatises of Boetius (q.v.), possessed two tracts attributed to St Augustine, the first of which, Principia dialecticae, is probably his, but is mainly grammatical in its import. The other tract, known as Categoriae decem, and taken at first for a translation of Aristotle's treatise, is really a rapid summary of it, and certainly does not belong to Augustine. To this list must be added: (I) the Satyricon of Martianus Capella, the greater part of which is a treatise on the seven liberal arts, the fourth book dealing with logic; (2) the De artibus ac disciplinis liberalium literarum of Cassiodorus; (3) the Origines of Isidore of Seville (ob. 636), which is little more than a reproduction of (2). The above constitutes the whole material which the earlier middle age had at its disposal.
The grandly conceived system of Erigena (see Erigena and Mysticism) stands by itself in the 9th century like the product of another age.Erigena. John the Scot was still acquainted with Greek, seeing that he translated the work of the pseudo-Dionysius; and his speculative genius achieved the fusion of Christian doctrine and Neoplatonic thought in a system of quite remarkable metaphysical completeness. It is the only complete and independent system between the decline of ancient thought and the system of Aquinas in the 13th century, if indeed we ought not to go further, to modern times, to find a parallel. Erigena pronounces no express opinion upon the question which was even then beginning to occupy men's minds; but his Platonico-Christian theory of the Eternal Word as containing in Himself the exemplars of created things is equivalent to the assertion of universalia His whole system, indeed, is based upon the idea of the divine as the exclusively real, of which the world of individual existence is but the theophany; the special and the individual are immanent, therefore, in the general. And hence at a much later date (in the beginning of the 13th century) his name was invoked to cover the pantheistic heresies of Amalrich of Bena.
Erigena does not separate his Platonic theory of pre-existent exemplars from the Aristotelian doctrine of the universal as in the individuals. As Ueberweg points out, his theory is rather a result of the transference of the Aristotelian conception of substance to the Platonic Idea, and of an identification of the relation of accidents to the substance in which they inhere with that of the individuals to the Idea of which, in the Platonic doctrine, they are copies (Hist. of Philosophy, i. 363, Eng. trans.). Hence it may be said that the universals are in the individuals, constituting their essential reality (and it is an express part of Erigena's system that the created but creative Word, the second division of Nature, should pass into the third stage of created and non-creating things); or rather, perhaps, we ought to say that the individuals exist in the bosom of their universal. At all events, while Erigena's Realism is pronounced, the Platonic and Aristotelian forms of the doctrine are not distinguished in his writings. Prantl has professed to find the headstream of Nominalism also in Scotus Erigena; but beyond the fact that he discusses at considerable length the categories of thought and their mutual relations, occasionally using the term voces to express his meaning, Prantl appears to adduce no reasons for an assertion which directly contradicts Erigena's most fundamental doctrines. Moreover, Erigena again and again declares that dialectic has to do with the stadia of a real or divine classification: " Intelligitur quod ars ilia, quae dividit genera in species et species in genera resolvit, quae X dicitur, non ab humanis machinationibus sit facta, sed in natura rerum ab auctore omnium artium, quae verae artes sunt, condita et a sapientibus inventa " (De divisione naturae, iv. 4).
The immediate influence of Erigena's system cannot have been great, and his works seem soon to have dropped out of notice in the centuries that followed. The real germs of Realism and Nominalism are to be found in the 9th century, in scattered commentaries and glosses upon the statements of Porphyry and Boetius. Boetius in commenting upon Porphyry had already started the discussion as to the nature of universals. He is definitely anti-Platonic, and his language sometimesInfluence of Boetius. takes even a nominalistic tone, as when he declares that the species is nothing more than a thought or conception gathered from the substantial similarity of a number of dissimilar individuals. The expression " substantial similarity " is still, however, sufficiently vague to cover a multitude of views. He concludes that the genera and species exist as universals only in thought; but, inasmuch as they are collected from singulars on account of a real resemblance, they have a certain existence independently of the mind, but not an existence disjoined from the singulars of sense. " Subsistunt ergo circa sensibilia, intelliguntur autem praeter corpora." Or, according to the phrase which recurs so often during the middle ages, " universale intelligitur, singulare sentitur." Boetius ends by declining to adjudicate between Plato and Aristotle, remarking in a semi-apologetic style that, if he has expounded Aristotle's opinion by preference, his course is justified by the fact that he is commenting upon an introduction to Aristotle. And, indeed, his discussion cannot claim to be more than semi-popular in character. The point in dispute has not in his hands the all-absorbing importance it afterwards attained, and the keenness of later distinctions is as yet unknown. In this way, however, though the distinctions drawn may still be comparatively vague, there existed in the schools a Peripatetic tradition to set over against the Neoplatonic influence of John the Scot, and amongst the earliest remains of Scholastic thought we find this tradition asserting itself somewhat vigorously. There were Nominalists before Roscellinus among these early thinkers.
Alcuin (q.v.) does nothing more in his Dialectic than abridge Boetius and the other commentators. But in the school of Fulda, presided over by his pupil Hrabanus MaurusHrabanus Maurus. (776-856), there are to be found some fresh contributions to the discussion. The collected works of Hrabanus himself contain nothing new, but in some glosses on Aristotle and Porphyry, first exhumed by Cousin, there are several noteworthy expressions of opinion in a Nominalistic sense. The author interprets Boetius's meaning to be " Quod eadem res individuum et species et genus est, et non esse universalia individuis quasi quoddam diversum." He also cites, apparently with approval, the view of those who held Porphyry's treatise to be not de quinque rebus, but de quinque vocibus. A genus, they said, is essentially something which is predicated of a subject; but a thing cannot be a predicate (res enim non praedicatur). These glosses, it should be added, however, have been attributed by Prantl and Kaulich, on the ground of divergence from doctrines contained in the published works of Hrabanus, to some disciple of his rather than to Hrabanus himself. Fulda had become through the teaching of the latter an intellectual centre. Eric or Heiricus, who studied there under Haimon, the successor of Hrabanus, and afterwardsEric. taught at Auxerre, wrote glosses on the margin of his copy of the pseudo-Augustinian Categoriae, which have been published by Cousin and Haureau. He there says in words which recall the language of Locke (Essay, iii. 3) that because proper names are innumerable, and no intellect or memory would suffice for the knowing of them, they are all as it were comprehended in the species. Taken strictly his words state the position of extreme Nominalism; but even if we were not forbidden to do so by other passages, in which the doctrine of moderate Realism is adopted (under cover of the current distinction between the singular as felt and the pure universal as understood), it would still be unfair to press any passage in the writings of this period. As Cousin says, " Realism and Nominalism were undoubtedly there in germ, but their true principles with their necessary consequences remained profoundly unknown; their connexion with all the great questions of religion and politics was not even suspected. The two systems were nothing more as yet than two different ways of interpreting a phrase of Porphyry, and they remained unnoticed