General Characteristics of Medieval Philosophy

General Characteristics of Medieval Philosophy

June 28, 2021 Off By Felso

If we look at the philosophy of the Middle Ages on the axis of the history of classical Western philosophy, it is the development of the religion-oriented or religious-oriented philosophy style that started to become evident at the end of the ancient philosophy.

At this point, it is the common determination of general historians of Western philosophy that philosophy has become a tool for religious discussions. The religion in question here is Christianity.

During the Middle Ages, grounding religious teachings or providing a categorical basis for a religious worldview was a general aspect of philosophizing. We see that the Christian religion tends to provide an explanation for itself through philosophy and to justify its validity. Throughout this period, we see the debates carried out on the axis of belief-knowledge-reason-god. The relationship between religion and philosophy shows itself in conflict situations throughout this period; Some religious sages say that philosophy should be kept away from religion and Christianity and make an effort to do so, while others say that philosophy is necessary for the foundation of faith and religion.

The collapse of the Western Roman Empire caused an interruption in cultural and intellectual developments in the chaotic environment it created. In this period, there is a clear departure from the intellectual developments that took place and continued in the Ancient Age and the rejection of these developments. The religion-philosophy relationship presents an intricate appearance in this environment; While philosophy seems to be lost in religion on the one hand, this disappearance also brings philosophy to be hidden and preserved in religion.

While religious thought preserved philosophy to ground itself, it preserved the philosophical thought shaped in Antiquity to a certain extent, even if it was not understood as the love of knowledge and was used for religious purposes. Although philosophy was not clearly visible in this period, it did not completely lose its inherent characteristics. In this context, medieval philosophy continued its existence with church teachings; but since the Renaissance, it has begun to turn to scientific or critical thinking. Macit Gökberk evaluates the medieval philosophy of this nature as “Christianized Ancient Philosophy”. Another point that should be noted is that this philosophy, unlike the way of philosophizing in other periods, is static.

It should also be noted that the influence of Arab philosophy or Islamic philosophy in the philosophy of the Middle Ages. While such developments were taking place in Western thought, Islamic philosophy was connected with the philosophy of the Ancient Age, translated the sources, and used these conceptual and methodological tools in internal discussions specific to Islam. Since the 1200s, the sources in this field tend to the West, and most historians of philosophy say that this effect has a prominent place in the acceleration of the religion-philosophy differentiation in the West. Similarly, Islamic philosophers tend to ground the belief with concepts taken from ancient philosophy and to provide clarity through reason and logic. With this orientation, it is seen that interpretation, interpretation and logic or language analyzes of the sacred texts are put forward. In a sense, this approach is the general characteristic of medieval philosophy.

In addition to all these, the influence of philosophers such as Farabi, Ibn-i Rust, Ibn-i Sina, Ibn-i Arabi  on Western philosophy has been decisive in many respects in terms of conveying and developing the thought of Antiquity.

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook