Revisiting Medieval Philosophers and their Writing: Lessons when Ideas Can Be Dangerous

  • Nash, Susan S.
Keywords: medieval philosophy, medieval theology, Julian of Norwich, Peter Abelard, Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, St. Thomas Aquinas, women mystics, mysticism, duns scotus, Averroes

Abstract

In medieval times, the term, “philosophy” encompassed not just the Greek and Roman classics that we consider to be philosophical texts (Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Categories, for example), but also what we would now consider to be theology, economics, and political science.  This made philosophy both more immediately practical and more potentially treacherous, since it could be looked at as destabilizing to vested interests, namely the church and the state (aka, monarchy), which were often intertwined and interdependent. So, philosophy was considered to be of powerful, tangible import, and not simply a bundle of abstract ruminations written in highly specialized language (or jargon), which is the way it is often considered in the 21st century.  During the Middle Ages and even through the Renaissance, philosophical texts were living, breathing guides for living. They often illustrated the ideal world or social order (translations of Plato’s The Republic) and the medieval cosmogenies that placed the Earth in the middle of the solar system, were not simply works of speculative astronomy, but also commentaries and guides to notions of earthly hierarchy.  God and God’s emissaries, the Kings, were at the center, and the Sun rotated around the Earth, signifying their core importance and the place on the top of the hierarchy and the Great Chain of Being. The texts that were studied during medieval times had often contradictory messages. For that reason, they were used as tools both to reinforce the social order, but also to break away and undermine the dominant institutions, such as the church and the state. To revisit the works and re-examine them from the perspective of rapid social change, and an increasing awareness of how words and ideas can be perceived as destabilizing or nullified as “fake” makes the insights of the medieval thinkers even more valuable.  

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

References

Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologica. http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/gutbook/author?name=Thomas%2C%20Aquinas%2C%20Saint

Boethius. The Consolation of Philosophy. 524. Transl by H. R. James. Project Gutenberg EBook (2004). http://www.gutenberg.org/files/14328/14328-h/14328-h.htm.

Butera, Giuseppe. "Thomas Aquinas and Cognitive Therapy: An Exploration of the Promise of the Thomistic Psychology." Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology, vol. 17 no. 4, 2010, pp. 347-366. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/ppp.2010.0023

Lamont, John. “The Consolations of Boethius.” Frontiers of Philosophy in China, vol. 9, no. 1, 2014, pp. 69–86. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/43281400.

Luscombe, D. E. “Abelard's Followers.” The School of Peter Abelard: The Influence of Abelard's Thought in the Early Scholastic Period, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1969, pp. 14–59. Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought: New Series.

Nielsen, Melinda. "The Christian Socrates: Autobiography and Conversion in the Consolation of Philosophy." Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, vol. 17 no. 3, 2014, pp. 143-157. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/log.2014.0021

Sheldrake, Philip. "Two Ways of Seeing: The Challenge of Julian of Norwich's Parable of a Lord and a Servant." Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality, vol. 17 no. 1, 2017, pp. 1-18. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/scs.2017.0001

Vitto, Cindy. “Margery Kempe: Medieval Mother and Mystic.” Transformations: The Journal of Inclusive Scholarship and Pedagogy, vol. 2, no. 2, 1991, pp. 50–65. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/43587263.

The Virtual Abbey: A Medieval Tour / New York Carver
http://www.newyorkcarver.com/Abbey.htm

The Walters Museum: Medieval Europe
http://art.thewalters.org/browse/category/medieval-europe/

Gothic Art / Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/mgot/hd_mgot.htm

WebMuseum, Paris: Gothic Painting (1280 – 1515)
http://sunsite.icm.edu.pl/wm/paint/tl/gothic/
Published
2018-12-30
How to Cite
Susan S., N. (2018). Revisiting Medieval Philosophers and their Writing: Lessons when Ideas Can Be Dangerous. IJRDO - Journal of Social Science and Humanities Research (ISSN: 2456-2971), 3(12), 21-31. Retrieved from http://ijrdo.org/index.php/sshr/article/view/2589