Aristotle, wondering where the rest of his body went
You may know that there was some sort of general shift in the high medieval period (1000 – 1300) from a Platonic to an Aristotelian worldview. What you may not know is how deeply that affected the way Western Christians came to see God and the world. Here’s the skinny, in another clip from the “theology chapter” of my forthcoming Getting Medieval with C S Lewis.
Once again, this is a draft, and I’ve scattered through it, here and there, little clues for myself on how I might use and restructure this material as I moved toward a finished book – pardon our dust!
Why was Aristotle so important to the development of scholasticism?
Basically, until the rediscovery of the body of his works in the 13th c., the prime philosophical influence on Christian thinkers in the West was Plato, via the neo-platonic thought of Augustine.
Rel/Sci: Plato had essentially been a mystic, and his philosophy had been based on the principle that ideas such as the True, the Beautiful and the Good had real existence, apart from the visible world. In fact, he believed that the passing forms of this visible world, which we know through our senses, are not a real source of knowledge. Only our reason, which leads us to know these changeless, universal patterns called ‘ideas,’ would give true knowledge. This position is also known as ‘realism,’ and is held by such early scholastics as Anselm—again, as he and others of his time had inherited it through Augustine.
SCI/REL: Aristotle, on the other hand, was far less mystical than Plato. To him, the visible world is real. Ideas are not presupposed structures which exist somewhere “out there.” They exist as an integral part of the phenomena of the visible world. Therefore, the world is the prime object of knowledge for Aristotle. He is, in other words, a scientist. Continue reading