Scholasticism is a method of critical thought which dominated teaching
by the academics ("scholastics", or "schoolmen") of medieval
universities in Europe from about 1100 to 1700, and a program of
employing that method in articulating and defending dogma in an
increasingly pluralistic context. It originated as an outgrowth of and
a departure from Christian monastic schools at the earliest European
universities. The first institutions in the West to be considered
universities were established in Italy, France, Spain, and England in
the late 11th and 12th centuries for the study of arts, law, medicine,
and theology, such as Schola Medica Salernitana, the
Bologna, and the
University of Paris. It is difficult to define the
date at which they became true universities, although the lists of
studia generalia for higher education in Europe are a useful guide,
held by the
Catholic Church and its various religious orders.
Scholasticism is not so much a philosophy or a theology as a method of
learning, as it places a strong emphasis on dialectical reasoning to
extend knowledge by inference and to resolve contradictions. The
scholastic thought is also known for rigorous conceptual analysis and
the careful drawing of distinctions. In the classroom and in writing,
it often takes the form of explicit disputation; a topic drawn from
the tradition is broached in the form of a question, opponents'
responses are given, a counterproposal is argued and opponents'
arguments rebutted. Because of its emphasis on rigorous dialectical
method, scholasticism was eventually applied to many other fields of
As a program, scholasticism began as an attempt at harmonization on
the part of medieval Christian thinkers, to harmonize the various
authorities of their own tradition, and to reconcile Christian
theology with classical and late antiquity philosophy, especially that
Aristotle but also of Neoplatonism. (See also Christian
Some of the main figures of scholasticism include Anselm of
Canterbury, Peter Abelard, Alexander of Hales, Albertus Magnus, Duns
Scotus, William of Ockham, Bonaventure, and Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas's
Summa Theologica is considered to be the pinnacle of
scholastic, medieval, and Christian philosophy; it began while
Aquinas was regent master at the studium provinciale of Santa Sabina
in Rome, the forerunner of the Pontifical
University of Saint Thomas
Aquinas, Angelicum. Important work in the scholastic tradition has
been carried on well past Aquinas's time, for instance by Francisco
Suárez and Luis de Molina, and also among Lutheran and Reformed
2.1 Early Scholasticism
2.2 High Scholasticism
2.3 Spanish Scholasticism
2.4 Late Scholasticism
2.5 Lutheran Scholasticism
2.6 Reformed Scholasticism
2.8 Thomistic Scholasticism
2.9 Analytical Scholasticism
3 Scholastic method
4 Scholastic instruction
5 See also
7 Primary sources
8 Secondary sources
9 Further reading
10 External links
The terms "scholastic" and "scholasticism" derive from the
scholasticus, the Latinized form of the Greek σχολαστικός
(scholastikos), an adjective derived from σχολή (scholē),
"school". Scholasticus means "of or pertaining to schools". The
"scholastics" were, roughly, "schoolmen".
Forerunners (and later companions) of Christian scholasticism were
Islamic Ilm al-Kalām, literally "science of discourse", and Jewish
philosophy, especially Jewish Kalam.
The first significant renewal of learning in the West came with the
Carolingian Renaissance of the Early Middle Ages. Charlemagne, advised
Peter of Pisa and Alcuin of York, attracted the scholars of England
and Ireland. By decree in AD 787, he established schools in every
abbey in his empire. These schools, from which the name scholasticism
is derived, became centers of medieval learning.
During this period, knowledge of
Ancient Greek had vanished in the
West except in Ireland, where its teaching and use was widely
dispersed in the monastic schools. Irish scholars had a
considerable presence in the Frankish court, where they were renowned
for their learning. Among them was Johannes Scotus Eriugena,
(815–877) one of the founders of scholasticism. Eriugena was the
most significant Irish intellectual of the early monastic period and
an outstanding philosopher in terms of originality. He had
considerable familiarity with the Greek language and translated many
works into Latin, affording access to the
Cappadocian Fathers and the
Greek theological tradition.
The other three founders of scholasticism were the 11th-century
scholars Peter Abelard, Archbishop
Lanfranc of Canterbury
Lanfranc of Canterbury and
Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury.
This period saw the beginning of the 'rediscovery' of many Greek works
which had been lost to the
Latin West. As early as the 10th century,
scholars in Spain had begun to gather translated texts and, in the
latter half of that century, began transmitting them to the rest of
Europe. After a successful burst of
Reconquista in the 12th
century, Spain opened even further for Christian scholars, who were
now able to work in 'friendly' religious territory.[full citation
needed] As these Europeans encountered Islamic philosophy, they opened
a wealth of Arab knowledge of mathematics and astronomy.[full
citation needed] Scholars such as
Adelard of Bath
Adelard of Bath traveled to Spain
and Sicily, translating works on astronomy and mathematics, including
the first complete translation of
Euclid's Elements into Latin.
At the same time,
Anselm of Laon
Anselm of Laon systematized the production of the
gloss on Scripture, followed by the rise to prominence of dialectic
(the middle subject of the medieval trivium) in the work of Abelard.
Peter Lombard produced a collection of Sentences, or opinions of the
Church Fathers and other authorities
The 13th and early 14th centuries are generally seen as the high
period of scholasticism. The early 13th century witnessed the
culmination of the recovery of Greek philosophy. Schools of
translation grew up in Italy and Sicily, and eventually in the rest of
Europe. Powerful Norman kings gathered men of knowledge from Italy and
other areas into their courts as a sign of their prestige. William
of Moerbeke's translations and editions of Greek philosophical texts
in the middle half of the thirteenth century helped form a clearer
picture of Greek philosophy, particularly of Aristotle, than was given
by the Arabic versions on which they had previously relied, and which
had distorted or obscured the relation between Platonic and
Aristotelian systems of philosophy.[full citation needed] His work
formed the basis of the major commentaries that followed.
Universities developed in the large cities of Europe during this
period, and rival clerical orders within the church began to battle
for political and intellectual control over these centers of
educational life. The two main orders founded in this period were the
Franciscans and the Dominicans. The
Franciscans were founded by
Francis of Assisi
Francis of Assisi in 1209. Their leader in the middle of the century
was Bonaventure, a traditionalist who defended the theology of
Augustine and the philosophy of Plato, incorporating only a little of
Aristotle in with the more neoplatonist elements. Following Anselm,
Bonaventure supposed that reason can only discover truth when
philosophy is illuminated by religious faith. Other
important Franciscan scholastics were Duns Scotus,
Peter Auriol and
William of Ockham.
By contrast, the Dominican order, a teaching order founded by St
Dominic in 1215, to propagate and defend Christian doctrine, placed
more emphasis on the use of reason and made extensive use of the new
Aristotelian sources derived from the East and Moorish Spain. The
great representatives of Dominican thinking in this period were
Albertus Magnus and (especially) Thomas Aquinas, whose artful
synthesis of Greek rationalism and Christian doctrine eventually came
to define Catholic philosophy. Aquinas placed more emphasis on reason
and argumentation, and was one of the first to use the new translation
of Aristotle's metaphysical and epistemological writing. This was a
significant departure from the Neoplatonic and Augustinian thinking
that had dominated much of early scholasticism. Aquinas showed how it
was possible to incorporate much of the philosophy of Aristotle
without falling into the errors of the Commentator, Averroes.[citation
School of Salamanca
Main article: Second scholasticism
Main article: Lutheran scholasticism
Main article: Reformed scholasticism
Following the Reformation,
Calvinists largely adopted the scholastic
method of theology, while differing regarding sources of authority and
content of theology.
Main article: Neo-scholasticism
The revival and development from the second half of the 19th century
of medieval scholastic philosophy is sometimes called neo-Thomism.
As J. A. Weisheipl O.P. emphasizes, within the Dominican Order
Thomistic scholasticism has been continuous since the time of Aquinas:
Thomism was always alive in the Dominican Order, small as it was
after the ravages of the Reformation, the French Revolution, and the
Napoleonic occupation. Repeated legislation of the General Chapters,
beginning after the death of St. Thomas, as well as the Constitutions
of the Order, required all Dominicans to teach the doctrine of St.
Thomas both in philosophy and in theology."
Thomistic scholasticism or scholastic
Thomism identifies with the
philosophical and theological tradition stretching back to the time of
St. Thomas. It focuses not only on exegesis of the historical Aquinas
but also on the articulation of a rigorous system of orthodox Thomism
to be used as an instrument of critique of contemporary thought. Due
to its suspicion of attempts to harmonize Aquinas with non-Thomistic
categories and assumptions, Scholastic
Thomism has sometimes been
called "Strict Observance Thomism". A discussion of recent and
current Thomistic scholasticism can be found in La Metafisica di san
Tommaso d'Aquino e i suoi interpreti (2002) by Battista
Mondin (it), which includes such figures as Sofia Vanni Rovighi
Cornelio Fabro (1911–1995), Carlo Giacon
Tomas Tyn O.P. (1950–1990), Abelardo Lobato O.P.
(1925–2012), Leo Elders (1926– ) and Giovanni Ventimiglia
(1964– ) among others. Fabro in particular emphasizes Aquinas'
originality, especially with respect to the actus essendi or act of
existence of finite beings by participating in being itself. Other
scholars such as those involved with the "Progetto Tommaso" seek
to establish an objective and universal reading of Aquinas' texts.
Thomistic scholasticism in the English speaking world went into
decline in the 1970s when the Thomistic revival that had been
spearheaded by Jacques Maritain, Étienne Gilson, and others,
diminished in influence. Partly, this was because this branch of
Thomism had become a quest to understand the historical Aquinas after
the Second Vatican Council. Still, those who had learned Scholastic
philosophy continued to have unresolved questions about how the
insights of the medieval synthesis could be applied to contemporary
problems. This conversation departed from the academic environment and
entered internet discussion groups such as Aquinas, Christian
Philosophy, and Thomism, and websites such as Open
Philosophy, where it continues today.
A renewed interest in the "scholastic" way of doing philosophy has
recently awoken in the confines of the analytic philosophy. Attempts
emerged to combine elements of scholastic and analytic methodology in
pursuit of a contemporary philosophical synthesis. Proponents of
various incarnations of this approach include Anthony Kenny, Peter
King, Thomas Williams or David Oderberg. Analytical
Thomism can be
seen as a pioneer part of this movement.
Cornelius O'Boyle explained that
Scholasticism focuses on how to
acquire knowledge and how to communicate effectively so that it may be
acquired by others. It was thought that the best way to achieve this
was by replicating the discovery process (modus inveniendi).
The scholasticists would choose a book by a renowned scholar, auctor
(author), as a subject for investigation. By reading it thoroughly and
critically, the disciples learned to appreciate the theories of the
author. Other documents related to the book would be referenced, such
as Church councils, papal letters and anything else written on the
subject, be it ancient or contemporary. The points of disagreement and
contention between multiple sources would be written down in
individual sentences or snippets of text, known as sententiae.
Once the sources and points of disagreement had been laid out through
a series of dialectics, the two sides of an argument would be made
whole so that they would be found to be in agreement and not
contradictory. (Of course, sometimes opinions would be totally
rejected, or new positions proposed.) This was done in two ways.
The first was through philological analysis. Words were examined and
argued to have multiple meanings. It was also considered that the
auctor might have intended a certain word to mean something different.
Ambiguity could be used to find common ground between two otherwise
The second was through logical analysis, which relied on the rules of
formal logic – as they were known at the time – to show that
contradictions did not exist but were subjective to the reader.
Scholastic instruction consisted of several elements. The first was
the lectio: a teacher would read an authoritative text followed by a
commentary, but no questions were permitted. This was followed by the
meditatio (meditation or reflection) in which students reflected on
and appropriated the text. Finally, in the quaestio students could ask
questions (quaestiones) that might have occurred to them during
meditatio. Eventually the discussion of questiones became a method of
inquiry apart from the lectio and independent of authoritative texts.
Disputationes were arranged to resolve controversial quaestiones.
Questions to be disputed were ordinarily announced
beforehand, but students could propose a question to
the teacher unannounced – disputationes de quodlibet. In this case,
the teacher responded and the students rebutted; on the following
day the teacher, having used notes taken during the disputation,
summarised all arguments and presented his final position, riposting
all rebuttals.
The quaestio method of reasoning was initially used especially when
two authoritative texts seemed to contradict one another. Two
contradictory propositions would be considered in the form of an
either/or question, and each part of the question would have to be
approved (sic) or denied (non). Arguments for the position taken would
be presented in turn, followed by arguments against the position, and
finally the arguments against would be refuted. This method forced
scholars to consider opposing viewpoints and defend their own
arguments against them.
Allegory in the Middle Ages
History of science in the Middle Ages
List of scholastic philosophers
Pardes (Jewish exegesis)
Renaissance of the 12th century
^ See Steven P. Marone, "
Medieval philosophy in context" in A. S.
McGrade, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Philosophy
University Press, 2003). On the difference
between scholastic and medieval monastic postures towards learning,
see Jean Leclercq, The Love of Learning and the Desire for God (New
University Press, 1970) esp. 89; 238ff.
^ de Ridder-Symoens 1992, pp. 47–55
^ Particularly through Pseudo-Dionysius, Augustine, and Boethius, and
through the influence of Plotinus and Proclus on Muslim philosophers.
In the case of Aquinas, for instance, see Jan Aertsen, "Aquinas'
philosophy in its historical setting" in The Cambridge Companion to
Aquinas, ed. Norman Kretzmann and Eleonore Stump (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1993). Jean Leclerq, The Love of Learning and the
Desire for God (New York: Fordham
University Press, 1970).
^ Gilson, Etienne (1991). The Spirit of Medieval
Lectures 1933–35). Notre Dame, IN:
University of Notre Dame Press.
p. 490. ISBN 978-0-268-01740-8.
^ "school". "scholastic". Online Etymology Dictionary.
σχολή, σχολαστικός. Liddell, Henry George; Scott,
A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
^ Winter, Tim J. "Introduction." Introduction. The Cambridge Companion
to Classical Islamic Theology. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2008. 4–5.
^ Madeleine Pelner Cosman, Linda Gale Jones, Handbook to Life in the
Medieval World, p 391. ISBN 1438109075
^ MacManus, p 215
^ a b c "John Scottus Eriugena". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Stanford University. 2004-10-17. Retrieved 2008-07-21.
^ a b Toman 2007, p. 10: "
Abelard himself was ... together
with John Scotus Erigena (9th century), and
Lanfranc and Anselm of
Canterbury (both 11th century), one of the founders of scholasticism."
^ Lindberg 1978, pp. 60–61.
^ Lindberg 1978; Palencia.
^ Clagett 1982, p. 356.
^ Hoffecker, Andrew. "Peter Lombard, Master of the Sentences".
^ Lindberg 1978, pp. 70–72.
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-09-27. Retrieved
2013-08-21. "The Revival of Thomism: An Historical Survey, "
James Weisheipl, 1962.
Accessed 5 September 2013
Accessed 17 August 2013
Accessed 9 April 2013
^ Leo Elders Accessed 30 August 2013
^ http://www.istitutotomistico.it/risorse/testi_arca.htm Accessed 5
^ See Raffaele Rizzello's "Il Progetto Tommaso," in Vita quaerens
intellectum, eds. Giacomo Grasso, O.P. and Stefano Serafini,
Millennium Romae, Rome 1999, pp. 157–161. "Archived copy". Archived
from the original on 2013-09-28. Retrieved 2013-09-25. Accessed
5 Sept. 2013
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-09-26. Retrieved
^ Cornelius, O'Boyle (1998). The art of medicine: medical teaching at
University of Paris, 1250–1400. Leiden: Brill.
ISBN 9789004111240. OCLC 39655867.
^ van Asselt 2011, p. 59.
^ van Asselt 2011, p. 60.
^ van Asselt 2011, pp. 61–62.
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Scholasticon by Jacob Schmutz
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Scholasticism Joseph Rickaby, (1908), 121 pp. (also at googlebooks)
Scholasticism in The Catholic Encyclopedia
Yahoo! directory category: Scholasticism
The genius of the scholastics and the orbit of Aristotle, article by
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Medieval Philosophy, Universities and the Church by James Hannam
(in German) ALCUIN – Regensburger Infothek der Scholastik – Huge
database with information on biography, text chronology, editions.
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