The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy
500 p., 160 x 250 mm, original edition: 1936, reprint:1993, 1993
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The twenty lectures contained in this volume were delivered as Gifford Lectures in the University of aberdeen in 1931 and 1932. I had been asked to undertake a sufficently difficult task, namely, to define the spirit of medieval philosophy: but I accepted it nevertheless in view of the widespread notion that however great the achievement of the Middle Ages in the fields of literature and art, they altogether lacked a philosophy that could be called their own. To attempt to bring out the spirit of this philosophy would be to commit oneself to the production of some proof of its existence-or to the admission that it never existed.
In the effort to define its essence I found myself led to characterize it as the Christian philosophy 'par excellence'. Here however, I found myself face to face with the same kind of difficulty although on another plane; for if the existence of a medieval philosophy has been denied, the very idea of a Christian philosophy has been held to be impossible.
It will be found, then, that al these lectures converge to this conclusion: that the Middle Ages produced, besides a Christian literature and a Christian art as everyone admits, this very Christian philosophy which is matter of dispute.
No one, of course, maintains that this medieval philosophy was created out of nothing, nor yet that all medieval philosophy was Christian... The true questions are, first, whether we can form the concept of a Christian philosophy, and secondly, whether medieval philosophy, in its best representatives at any rate, is not precisely its most adequate historical expression.
As understood here, then, the spirit of medieval philosophy is the spirit of Christianity penetrating the Greek tradition, working within it, drawing out of it a certain view of the world, a Weltanschauung, specifically Christian.
There had to be Greek temples and Roman basilicas before there could be cathedrals; but no matter how much the medieval architects owe