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The scholastic philosophy and the dispute of the universalia’s nature

Beginning from the 12th century A.D. a new epoch and a new mode of thinking and world outlook gradually started to prevail. These novelties were connected with deep economic, social and as result cultural changes in all spheres of the time life as well as with the contacts of the European civilization with the Muslim world. The European thinkers began anew to rediscover Aristotle’s works and the Greek rational philosophy which were almost lost and forgotten at that time Europe. The Muslim states in Spain became the bridge through which the Europeans got acquainted anew with these philosophical works.

The early European thought proceeded from the viewpoint that the philosophy was a maidservant of theology. No free thinking was admissible because all the truth had been already given in the Holy Scripture and all that was needed was the interpretation of the Scripture. The emancipation of the philosophy from the authority of theology was connected with the Europeans’ acquaintance with the Arabic thinkers’ works (and especially with the works of Spanish Muslim thinker Ibn-Rushd more known in Europe as Averroes and in particular with his conception of the double truth). The conception was an answer of Averroes onto the treatise “Incoherence of Philosophers” of the central Asiatic mysticist al-Ghazzali (Algazel) who stated that if the philosophical books contain the same stuff as the Koran does, they are useless and therefore should be annihilated. If on the contrary they contain something contradicting the Koran than the more they should be annihilated as dangerous and harmful. In short the philosophical books should be annihilated in any case.

In response Averroes wrote his “Incoherence of Incoherence” where he said that in compliance with a legend the Koran permits circa 700 levels of interpretation. This means it’s always possible to find out an interpretation corresponding to some or other philosophical system. Hence the philosophy in no way contradicts to the Koran. The Koranic truth is the highest one and isn’t accessible to simple men in their usual life. Here the help is given by the philosophy and its means of reasoning. Thus the philosophy and theology do not contradict or hinder but complete each other, serving to different purposes’ achievement. The double truth conception penetrated Europe in 12th century A.D. and became very popular among European thinkers. That time European philosophy developed mainly in universities (schools) where its name ‘scholastics’ had been from. Remaining in general in the Christian tradition frame it paid more and more attention to the pure rationalistic modes of thinking. Thus, St. Anselm invented the so-called ontological argument in proof of God’s existence. Imagine an absolutely perfect entity endowed with all attributes necessary for perfection, he wrote. This entity can be only the God and among its attributes there must be also that of existence. If it’s absent it won’t be the absolutely perfect entity. It means this entity, i.e. the God exists. This argument is weak enough to convince someone who doubts and it wasn’t accepted by the church officially but got nevertheless very famous.



Another famous problem regarded by the scholastics was the problem of universalia (universal concepts). It consists in that what is primary: universal concepts or particular things. It went from the discussion on the nature of the trinity. According to the Nicene Creed of the Christian faith the God is one in three faces; the problem of trinity is what the primal is: the oneness or the trinity. Adherents of opposite views applied to philosophy in particular to the Plato’s ideas theory. So the theological problem of the trinity developed into the philosophical problem of the universal concepts. The adherents of the universal concepts’ priority got name of realists; their opponents, who asserted that the universal concepts were the only names for things which alone were really real (i.e. primal), were called nominalists (from Latin ‘nomin’ name). There were also the followers of the intermediate viewpoint (the so-called conceptual nominalists), who asserted that the universal concepts were the only names for the things but they had preceded the things [ante rem] as elements of the God’s plan of creation contained in the God’s consciousness. They were also after the things [post rem] as the names for things in human minds. The problem of universalia has not been solved till now. Today it restores its meaning in the philosophy of mathematics.

Results of the scholastic philosophy were summarized by St. Thomas Aquinas who determined the tasks of philosophy as follows: 1) to prove the God’s existence; 2) to put arguments in favor of the Catholic Church teaching and 3) to show the heathens the rightness of the Christian religion. What about the proofs of the God’s existence Thomas Aquinas brought up five proofs:

1) God as the unmovable engine and source of any movement in the Universe (nothing can move without being moved from outside, different things move each other but there must be also some prime engine which would require nothing else)[8];

2) God as the primal cause (the argument known still to Aristotle);

3) God as the every necessity’s source;

4) God as the every perfection’s source;

5) God as the final aim of all things.

In the discussion about the universal concepts nature Thomas Aquinas occupied a moderate position [1, p. 80 – 90].

Soon after Thomas Aquinas’ death his philosophy was accepted by the Catholic Church as its official philosophy and has remained it till the 20th century outset. In the 20th century the so-called Neo-Thomism or the renovated Thomism appeared. Its main purpose is determined as the looking for the coordination and concordance of the modern science’s achievements with the Catholic Church teaching.


Date: 2014-12-21; view: 596


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