Medieval philosophy









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The Middle Ages are a time period in history, which started around the year 476 CE when the Western Roman Empire ended, and continued until around the time Christopher Columbus discovered the New World in 1492.

The “Middle Ages” are called this because it is the time between the fall of Imperial Rome and the beginning of the Early modern Europe.

This period of time in Europe is also known as the Medieval Age, the Dark Ages, or the Age of Faith (because of the rise of Christianity).

Across Europe, the fall of the Roman Empire, after the invasions of different barbarian tribes, devastated towns and cities and their inhabitants.

Much of the knowledge that the Romans used (science, technology, medicine, and literature) was lost. The Dark Ages period was marked by mass migrations, wars and plagues (чума, эпидемии).

This lasted some 300 years until the development of feudalism partly diminished the continuous violence. Emperor Charlemagne was crowned in 800, and he promoted order, education and civilization. Europe began slowly regain what was lost during those centuries.

However, beginning of the Middle Ages is still controversial for historians of philosophy.

Philosophy of this period had two main sources of its formation. The first is the ancient Greek philosophy, especially in its Platonic and Aristotelian traditions.

The second source is the Holy Bible, turning this philosophy into the mainstream of Christianity. Christianity (from the Greek word Christos – “Anointed One”, “Messiah”) originated as one of the sects within Judaism in I cent. A.D. in Palestine.

However, in a strict religious dictatorship, supported by state power, philosophy was declared as ancilla theologiae (“servant of theology”)

Medieval European philosophy has developed five core principles:

3. Providentialism is the idea that destinies of the world and people are determined by God.

4. Revelationizm is a principle that there are two ways of revelation: Holy Bible and sacred tradition.

The Medieval European philosophy is divided into three periods:

The first stage of the medieval Christian philosophy is apologetic (II-III cc.).

Apologetic period, coming after the apostles, gives us a number of well-known Christian writers and thinkers (Justin the Philosopher, Tatian, Tertullian, and others).

Justin Martyr (100-165 AD) is known for his writings defending Christianity. He first gave Christianity the concepts of Greek philosophy and laid the foundation of theological interpretation of history.

“The First Apology”, Justin’s most well known text, passionately defends the morality of the Christian life.

Further, he also makes the theologically-innovative suggestion that the “seeds of Christianity” (manifestations of the Logos acting in history) actually predated Christ’s incarnation. This notion allows him to claim many historical Greek philosophers (including Socrates and Plato), in whose works he was well studied, as unknowing Christians.

Tertullian (160 – 225 AD) was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He is the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature.

Tertullian also was a notable early Christian apologist and a polemicist against heresy. Tertullian has been called “the father of Latin Christianity” and “the founder of Western theology”.

He first expressed the concept of the Trinity. “I believe, because it is absurd” (Credo quia absurdum).

Titus Flavius Clemens (150 –215), known as Clement of Alexandria, was a Christian theologian who taught in Alexandria. He was an educated man who was familiar with classical Greek philosophy and literature. Clement was influenced by Hellenistic philosophy, in particular by Plato and the Stoics.

Three of Clement’s major works have survived in full, and they are collectively referred to as the trilogy:

the Protrepticus (Exhortation) –проповедь к эллинам

the Paedagogus (Tutor) – учитель

the Stromata (Miscellanies) – сборник

Origenes Adamantius (184/185 – 253/254) was an early Christian theologian who was born and spent the first half of his career in Alexandria. He was a writer in multiple branches of theology, including textual criticism, hermeneutics, philosophical theology, preaching, and spirituality.

Origenes Adamantius was a founder of biblical philology. Created the term “God-man”. God is Providence in action. In his doctrine, apocatastasis means reconstitution (воспроизведение) to the primordial (к изначальному) condition (universal salvation-спасение)

Aurelius Augustinus – Saint Austin (354-430). Writing during the Patristic Era, he is viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers. Among his most important works are City of God and Confessions, which continue to be read widely today. The ancestor of the Christian philosophy of history.

the City of God” can be divided into two parts.

Part I (books 1-10) is devoted to a critique of Roman cultures and of pagan philosophy. Interpreters often take these first ten books to correspond with the Earthly City, in contrast to the City of God.

Part II (books 11-22) is where Augustine shifts from criticism to positing the relationship between the City of God and an Earthly City subordinated to it.

“The Confessions” of St. Augustine outlines Augustine's sinful youth and his conversion to Christianity. It is widely seen as the first Western autobiography ever written.

God created matter and endowed (наделить) it with different shapes.
Evil is the deficiency (недостаток) of good.

The third period Scholasticism is characterized by two trends: the realists and nominalists.

According to realism only general concepts, or universals, have true reality (Guillaume de Champeaux).

According to nominalism, common concepts are only the names (Johannes Roscelin, Anselm of Canterbury, William of Ockham etc.)

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)
Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Universalis

was an Italian Dominican priest and the most influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism.

Thomas Aquinas linked Christian faith with the philosophy of Aristotle.

Unlike many currents in the Church of the time, Thomas attempted to combine Aristotelian philosophy with the principles of Christianity. 

The works for which he is best known are the ”Summa Theologica” and the ”Summa contra Gentiles”. His commentaries on Aristotle are an important part of his work.

Thomas Aquinas considered that Nature ends in grace, intelligence ends in faith, philosophical knowledge and natural theology end in a supernatural revelation.

Islam was founded in the early 7th century by the prophet Muhammad. Muslims believe that the Qur’an is God’s ultimate revelation to mankind.

Early Islamic philosophy or classical Islamic philosophy is a period of philosophical development is known as the Islamic Golden Age, and the achievements of this period had a crucial influence in the development of modern philosophy and science; for Renaissance Europe, the influence represented “one of the largest technology transfers in world history.”

This period starts with al-Kindi in the 9th century and ends with Ibn Rushd (Averroes) at the end of 12th century.

The death of Averroes effectively marks the end of Islamic philosophy usually called the Peripatetic Arabic School, and philosophical activity declined in Western Islamic countries, namely in Islamic Spain and North Africa.

Most significant achievements of early Muslim philosophers included:

Synthesis of these principles gives Sunni Islam.

Sunnah is the way of life on the basis of the teachings and practices of the prophet Muhammad and interpretations of the Quran.

Most significant achievements of early Muslim philosophers included:

Most significant achievements of early Muslim philosophers included:

Most significant achievements of early Muslim philosophers included:

Most significant achievements of early Muslim philosophers included:

The main question during the development of Islamic dogma, was the question of monotheism (Tawhid – Reality of one God Allah). The idea of monism, the unity of existence and uniqueness of the universe has become a central theme of philosophy.

Branches of Arab-Muslim philosophy:

Ilm al-Kalām (the study of “speech” or “words”) is the Islamic philosophical discipline of seeking theological principles knowledge through dialectic, debate and argument. A scholar of kalam is referred to as a mutakallim.

Among them there were two basic directions: Ascharites (followers Ashari’s theology) and Mu'tazila.

First group developed conceptions of unity being proposed by Mutasillits (isolated): religious rationalists-philosophers.

Ilm al-Kalām

With Kalam, questions about the al-Sira (biography of Muhammad) and Hadith, as well as science (Islamic science) and law (shariah), this period is characterized by emergence of ijtihad and the first fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence).

Ilm al-Kalām

Independent minds exploiting the methods of ijtihad sought to investigate the doctrines of the Qur’an, the authority of divine revelation.

One of first debates was that between:

Ilm al-Kalām

One of the Qadarites branches were Mu’tazilites (Mu’tazila – to separate oneself,).  This new movement arose in Basra, Iraq. The founder was Wasil ibn Ata (AD 700–748).

Their principal dogmas were three:

Ilm al-Kalām


From the 9th century, owing to Caliph al-Ma’mun, Greek philosophy was introduced among the Arabs, and the Peripatetic school began to find able representatives such as Al-Kindi, Al-Farabi, Ibn Sina (Avicenna), and Ibn Rushd (Averroes). All of whose fundamental principles were considered as criticized by the Mutakallamin.


Another trend, represented by the Brethren of Purity (Ikhwan al-Safa), used Aristotelian language to expound a fundamentally Neoplatonic world view (emanation).

Al-Kindi (801-873), (philosopher of Arabs) has formulated the main questions:

Philosophy and religion arise after people mastered the “practical arts” and seek to understand the causes of surrounding things.

People are attached to the truths by two ways: by using apodictic judgments and through the dialectical, rhetorical or poetic expressions.

The need for religion related to the needs in Political Science and Law. Ideally, people should managed by philosophers, who give the truth to “the public” through “true religion” in images and allegorical discourses.

(“Treatise on the views of the virtuous city residents”/ “The Principles of the Opinions of the People of the Excellent City”)

Ibn Sina (Avicenna) (980-1037) was a Central Asian philosopher and physician, a representative of the eastern Aristotelianism.

His most famous works are The Book of Healing, a vast philosophical and scientific encyclopedia, and The Canon of Medicine, which was a standard medical text at many medieval universities

Ibn Sina proved co-eternity of the world with the Creator. Creation in eternity Ibn Sina explained by Neoplatonic concept of emanation, thus justifying the logical progression from the initial substance to the plurality of the created world.

According to him, absolute truth can be comprehended by intuitive vision which presents the culmination of the thinking process.

In his “Farewell (прощальный) message” Ibn Bājjah considers the questions of first ‘engine, a human goal, connection of person with an active mind.

Ibn Khaldun


He almost did not interested in classical problems of cosmology and philosophy. His areas of interest was history.

He has created a theory of social development from the lowest level (barbarism) to the highest (civilization), through the development of productive activities of people, explaining the development of social life through the development of production.

However, Sufism has been developed in the esoteric concepts of al-Hallaj (I am truth) and al-Ghazali (Sufism is the essence of Islam.)

Sufi philosophy, like all other major philosophical traditions, has several sub-branches including metaphysics and cosmology as well as several unique concepts.

Major idea in Sufi metaphysics is Wahdat or “Unity with God”.

Two main Sufi philosophies prevail on this controversial topic:

Thank you…