History of Medieval Philosophy and General Characteristics of the Period

History of Medieval Philosophy and General Characteristics of the Period

December 23, 2019 0 By Felso

Philosophical activity in the historical period between the classical and modern era; in the history of thought MS 1 or II. century, XV. century is the philosophy of the historical section.

Medieval philosophy has four distinct traditions:

1.  Christian philosophy, developed in the West or Europe, expressed in Latin,

2.  Islamic philosophy which has emerged in the Islamic world in the East and expressed in the Arabic language,

3.  Jewish philosophy expressed in Hebrew by Jewish thinkers, not only in Christian countries, but in various parts of the Islamic world;

4.  Byzantine philosophy which was put forward in Greek language in Christian Byzantine Empire.

Despite its four different traditions, and some fundamental differences between the traditions in question, medieval philosophy forms a whole.

There are three main reasons for this. Above all, both Christian philosophy, Islamic philosophy, and Jewish and Byzantine philosophy share a common philosophical legacy: Ancient Greek philosophy. According to this, Greek thought had a significant effect on the philosophy of the Middle Ages in the late Antiquity, especially with the hand of Neo-Platonism. The second major reason why medieval philosophy forms a whole in itself is that the four different philosophical traditions we are talking about are closely related. As a matter of fact, in the Middle Ages, Jewish thinkers were heavily influenced by the Islamic thinkers they read, especially Farabi and Ibn Sina. Finally, four different traditions, it must be a part of the cultures where monotheistic religions based on revelation prevail. Although the relationship between religious doctrine and philosophical speculation, or the relationship between theology and philosophy, differs in each of these traditions, the philosophical problems discussed are all roughly the same.


1.  Where ancient Greek philosophy is the philosophy of a particular people, of ancient Greece or Athens, and modern philosophy of individual individuals of different nationalities, Medieval philosophy is a religious community that is above the characteristics of individuals and peoples; It is the philosophy of the Islamic community or of the Jewish community.

2.  Where ancient Greek philosophy is purely secular and secularism is the most fundamental feature of classical reason, medieval philosophy is a philosophy in which other worldly interest is dominant. In other words, it has been recognized that the main problem of man in Greece is to attain happiness in this world; In Greece, while it was believed that man has the power to solve this problem and can reach a good and happy life by his own efforts, the problems in the Middle Ages are related to the life of the Hereafter rather than life in this world. The happiness sought is not happiness in this world, but an eternal bliss. Hence, ethics and aesthetics, an independent discipline of philosophy in ancient Greece, were largely replaced by theology.

3. In other words, medieval thinkers have argued that the only thing that matters is the relationship of man to the supernatural being, the transcendent and absolutely competent being. This naturally changed the nature and subject matter of philosophy in the Middle Ages. Accordingly, in ancient Greece, the natural sciences and the social sciences were both worthy of their own and as solid means for a good and happy life. However, especially for Christians, these are not only useless, but sometimes they become harmful and even dangerous disciplines. Again, in the Middle Ages, morality became a part of religion, while Greek morality was handled in a social ethic and with the aim of happiness. Therefore, while ethics in Greece is sometimes based on cosmological and sometimes social basis, Ethics in the Middle Ages is based on a theological plane. Indeed, in this period, behavior or human action is not judged by its purpose, but by its obedience to or obedience to God’s commandments. Because God brings a supreme and high ideal for man, the lack of medieval man, his failure. and even someone who has to sense his sinfulness at all times. As a result of this situation, where the essence of Greek thought is an optimistic philosophy, especially the Christian medieval philosophy is a philosophy that rises on pessimism. the failure. and even someone who has to sense his sinfulness at all times. As a result of this situation, where the essence of Greek thought is an optimistic philosophy, especially the Christian medieval philosophy is a philosophy that rises on pessimism. the failure. and even someone who has to sense his sinfulness at all times. As a result of this situation, where the essence of Greek thought is an optimistic philosophy, especially the Christian medieval philosophy is a philosophy that rises on pessimism.

4.  Where, in the macrocosm, which is essentially understandable that the Greek is a part of itself as a microcosm, that is to say, a fundamentally united universe, the medieval man as a being separated from his creator had to live in a foreign universe. For this man, there is a space of transcendent, creative God on one side, and an alien entity on the other, which will further distance himself from God every day. Therefore, for medieval philosophy, the problem is not a theoretical or scientific problem, but a purely practical problem: the problem of how to return to its creator intact, not contaminated with dirt.

5. Medieval philosophy reveals a break with Ancient philosophy. There is, however, a continuity and a very important partnership between the two philosophies. The rupture mainly stems from the fact that the philosophy of the Middle Ages was an autonomous philosophy which was formed by rejecting the religious explanation or mythology and asserting itself and developing it. Continuity comes from the fact that medieval philosophy is directly based on ancient philosophy as a cultural or philosophical heritage both in the East and in the West. As a matter of fact, even if medieval philosophy is a religion-based philosophy, it is not a philosophy that created its concepts and categories and terminology on its own. Medieval philosophy, for the concepts and categories he needed, he turned to Greek philosophy. The tradition of philosophy, which is the basis of medieval philosophy, consists of the philosophies of Plato and Plotinos, and of Aristotle. But between the two philosophies, which completely differentiates them from modern philosophy, the fundamental element of continuity is the teleological worldview, in which the mechanical worldview of the modern era will replace itself, which has left its mark on both Ancient and Medieval thought.

6. With  a teleological approach, medieval philosophy saw nature as a static system created and regulated by God for a purpose. According to the medieval thinkers who understood a qualitative explanation from explanation and understood a purely causal causality from causality, the material world is nothing but a very pale shadow of divine reality.

7.  Medieval philosophy, like almost any philosophy, has to be a philosophy with some assumptions. The most important of these assumptions is the assumption that the highest or the highest and the highest is the most ontologically true and the axiologically most valuable being that came to the Medieval thought from Plato philosophy.

8.  Medieval philosophy has almost always adhered to Greek philosophy in its efforts to make sense and foundation of religion, its main ideas, problems and the solutions it brings to these problems. The work done in this philosophy was to adopt the world of thought of Ancient Greece and to base the belief by working on the basic concepts of Greek philosophy. But he saw the philosophy, which he had adopted and shaped medieval philosophy, as a system that was generally finished and competent. Accordingly, where ancient Greek philosophy exhibited a dynamic structure, medieval philosophy is a static philosophy that believes that it has found absolute truths.

9.  Again, at the center of medieval philosophy is God. In other words, medieval philosophy is a theocentric, or God-centered, philosophy. As a matter of fact, the basic subjects of this philosophy are determined by the problem of God and the existence of God, the relationship between faith or authority and reason, the relationship between God and the universe, the problem of evil and the problem of universals. At first glance, even the foundations of what is thought to be outside the subject of God, the universals at least XIV. century, because they have been in God’s mind, or because God’s creation has been claimed to be eternal and independent realities, it must be closely related to the subject of God.

10. In  medieval philosophy, philosophy must be subject to faith and revelation in faith. Therefore, religion, which played a very important role in medieval culture, had a profound effect on philosophy and a rational view of life. For example, in Scholastic philosophy, revelation was believed to be a basic or at least an indispensable helper of reason. The philosophers of the scholastic era made a distinction between reason and faith, and at times emphasized the relative independence or autonomy of philosophy, but in the worldview of the Middle Ages, almost everything was determined by theology, including the solution of problems to be solved in science and philosophy.

11.  Again in the case of medieval philosophy, respect for authority established within the framework of a particular tradition and a religion based on revelation is essential. In this period, the nature, scope and limits of philosophy are determined by the religious framework and spiritual authority and cannot be changed in any way. Medieval philosophy is a philosophy that is naturally closed to criticism and skepticism, since it is based on belief in authority.

12.  Medieval philosophy developed along a purely realistic line. In other words, medieval thinkers have never doubted the existence of a mind-independent reality, apart from their realistic attitude towards universals, when William of Ockham, who was very influential during the decline of Scholastics, was left to a shore. In other words, medieval thinkers have argued that reality is independent of the mind in the context of ontological realism. However, in medieval thinking, this reality independent of the mind has a spiritual structure in the sense that what really and absolutely exists is eternal and immortal God. Accordingly, the approach that complements realism is spiritualism, just as in Plato and Plotinos.

13.  Medieval philosophy is a philosophy in which existence comes before the subject of knowledge, or ontology precedes epistemology. Accordingly, in contrast to modern philosophy, which moves from the subject, which first deals with the subject of knowledge and classifies or interprets existence according to the demands of science, medieval philosophy, first of all, surrenders the existence of a reality independent of the mind and then the subject of how to reach the knowledge of this reality. handles.

14.  Again, in the same ontological context, medieval philosophy is a philosophy that is first and foremost, in contrast to the dualism of modern philosophy, which separates the two, especially the domain of material existence and the knowing subject, matter and mind. This is the fact that God, as both an eternal, absolute, immutable, and competent entity, is the only true being compared to the field of temporal material being; the fact that human beings, divided into two in the modern period, can be subject to material-form, body-soul analysis, being a unified, complete and harmonious substance; and in the context of the teachings developed, in the sense that no teachings that do not conform to the official view are allowed.

15. The metaphysical conception of the Middle Ages consists of metaphysics as theology in the sense that the search for a transcendental reality is the cause or source of everything that exists, and treats the existing in relation to God, the source of existence. Metaphysics developed in the Middle Ages is a study of a separate, immutable and eternal-eternal being. Without exception, all the medieval philosophers set out from God in their systems and first dealt with the existence of God by proving the existence of God. The best example of this is the famous “five ways”, St. Thomas of Aquina. After proving the existence of God with five different proofs, he made an effort to explain the beings or creatures other than a creative and supernatural God with an Aristotelian conceptual framework. The same holds true for Islamic philosophers, with the difference that Farabi, In Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd, an Aristotelian conceptual framework was complemented by a doctrine or genre from Plotinos. On the basis of the metaphysical understanding of medieval thought as theology, there are two assumptions that state that existence can only be explained through the creative God, the source of being, and that the existence of God can be grasped by reason.

16.  The aforementioned metaphysical understanding of theology in medieval philosophy has naturally led to a hierarchy of existence based on the value we have found in almost every medieval thinker. Such an entity hierarchy classifies assets according to their position in the hierarchy and assigns them assets and a certain value.

17.  One of the most defining aspects of medieval philosophy is, of course, its method. Accordingly, medieval thinkers turned to the method of interpreting the sacred texts and logical / linguistic analysis in order to systematically express, defend and develop faith based on the word of God, the holy book. In this context, medieval thinkers first used the scientific and philosophical terminology of the Greeks and then took Greek logic as a whole. Thus, medieval philosophers used deductive techniques of reason and logic in their efforts to systematize and ground faith.

Important Persons of the Period:

– Who are the Gnostics?

– Who is Augustinus?

– Who is Anselmus?

– Who is Albertus Magnus?

– Who is Aquinalu?

– Who is William of Ockham?

See also:

– History of Medieval Philosophy

– What is Christianity?

– What is Islamic Philosophy?

– What are the Middle Ages Philosophy Traditions?

– What is Scholastic Philosophy?

– What is the Controversy?