Week 25 – 12th century renaissance, High Middle Ages’ university system, Scholastic philosophy, Thomas Aquinas

What kinds of developments occurred during the renaissance of the 12th century?

It has started with the “Classical Revival”, which was the rediscovery of classical literature and works from Rome, for example from Virgil and Ovid, alongside with the rebirth of interest in the Roman law. There was a tremendous spread of writing and poetry, everything was in Latin so everyone could understand. There was also a rediscovery of Aristotle, but people were suspicious of him due to some of his sayings. (e.g. the eternity of universe, denial of individual immortality…)

But by mid-twelfth century he became so popular you had to know all of his works in order to get a Master of Arts degree.

However, people became so obsessed with books that they recommended books for everything; if you want to do science, just read Aristotle’s books. If you want to know geography, don’t travel; read some books instead. Even medicine was studied only out of Hippocrates’ books, not in laboratories or by experimentation.

However, people became so obsessed with books that they recommended books for everything; if you want to do science, just read Aristotle’s books. If you want to know geography, don’t travel; read some books instead. Even medicine was studied only out of Hippocrates’ books, not in laboratories or by experimentation.

Discuss the origins and features of the university system in the High Middle Ages

We are not sure where exactly did each university come from, it seems like they have come from cathedral schools. Each university was good mainly in one thing; Paris was known for theology, Bologna for law and so on. If you wanted to get a degree, you took a course. Attendance wasn’t controlled by credits or anything else, you could study from home if you wanted to. Once you showed up at the final exam, teachers supposed you have gone through all the necessary courses.

As long as you made the exam, you got a degree, whether you attended the courses or not.

What was Scholastic philosophy? Give an example of someone in the Scholastic tradition and discuss that person’s work.

Scholastic philosophy tried to show that faith and reason are not enemies, but two different ways of reaching the truth. God is the source of all truth. He has given us faith in form of Bible & traditions and reason by which we can reach the truth. They made a movement from “positive theology” (proofs from Scripture, councils, etc.) to “speculative theology” (faith consistent with reason). For example, if you read something from Aristotle and were a scholastic philosopher, you wouldn’t just interpret what he said, you would also add your own reason and proof why he is right (and therefore you are right, too).

My two favourite scholastic philosophers are St. Anselm and Peter Abelard.

St. Anselm is mostly known for his work Cur Deus Homo? (meaning “Why the God man?” or Why did God become man), where he comes to the conclusion that God came to Earth so people cam make up for their offense and sins (and explains why he had to do that).

He also tried to come up with proof for God’s existence and even though he did, many people disagreed with his proof, because it wasn’t strong enough. First, we have to think about what we mean by God. To most, God is the greatest conceivable being. But “Something that exists only in mind, is inferior to something that exists both in our mind and in reality.” In other words, what is better: a piece of cake in your mind and on your table or a piece of cake that is only in your mind? The piece of cake on the table, of course. The one only in your mind lacks the perfection of existence. And if God only existed in our minds, he wouldn’t be the greatest conceivable being, because he would lack the perfection of existence. Therefore, God must be real.

Peter Abelard is most known for his work Sic et Non, where he writes about how some questions have both Yes and No answers and tries to find out why. Is it because people who disagreed interpreted the question differently? Maybe they didn’t understand? Maybe both sides are right in their own way? He includes many questions, for example: Is it lawful to kill a man? and only writes out the answers of others (Yes – reason, No – reason), leaving his own opinion to himself. This is what makes people a little suspicious; why doesn’t he answer? Is there no real answer to the question? The reason for this was that he simply didn’t want to tell his students the answers, he wanted them to think themselves and come up with their own answer.

Write a brief overview of the life and work of Thomas Aquinas

Thomas originally studied at the University of Naples. When he was just 19, Thomas decided to join the Dominicans. His family opposed – they didn’t want him to live in poverty since he came from a relatively wealthy and influential family (his uncle was Frederick Barbarossa and his cousin was Frederick II). He was even imprisoned by his family for a year, but he didn’t give up. After the imprisonment he was sent by the Dominicans to study under Albert the Great in Cologne, where he was called the dumb ox by other students. When Albert the Great heard of this, he said, “The bellowings of this ox will be heard throughout the world”. Thomas later studied in Paris, then taught at Cologne and went back to Paris. He assisted three popes throughout his life. He was even given an offer to become archbishop by Pope Clement IV, but he said he prefers his intellectual labours.

Thomas Aquinas wrote cc. 8 1/2 million words and had over 48,000 references in his books, even though he was careful with his references; he himself said that philosophy is about your opinions, not the opinions of others.

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