"The Middle Ages" and "medieval" originally were not purely temporal terms signifying the period between the ancient and modern worlds. They were pejorative expressions, much like the phrase "the Dark Ages." What we call the Middle Ages was first viewed as a period of low intellectual achievement when compared with the high philosophical and literary accomplishments of the Greco-Roman world that preceded the medieval period and the technological advances that were achieved and the philosophical and theological alternatives that were formulated in the modern world that followed.
The negative judgment regarding medieval intellectual life is perhaps best captured in the closing paragraph of W. T. Stace's A Critical History of Greek Philosophy (1920):
Philosophy is founded upon reason. It is the effort to comprehend, to understand, to grasp the reality of things intellectually. Therefore it cannot admit anything higher than reason. To exalt intuition, ecstasy, or rapture, above thought—this is death to philosophy. Philosophy, in making such an admission, lets out its own life-blood, which is thought. In Neo-Platonism, therefore, ancient philosophy commits suicide. This is the end. The place of philosophy is taken henceforth by religion. Christianity triumphs, and sweeps away all independent thought from its path. There is no more philosophy now till a new spirit of enquiry and wonder is breathed into man at the Renaissance and the Reformation. Then the new era begins, and gives birth to a new philosophic impulse, under the influence of which we are still living. But to reach that new era of philosophy, the human spirit had first to pass through the arid wastes of Scholasticism. (386)
We hope that this volume will challenge to some small degree this evaluation. While this book is not a history of medieval philosophy or theology but rather a historical dictionary, we have attempted to include within it a description of the important persons, events, and concepts that shaped medieval philosophy and theology. Perhaps surprisingly for some, this is not exclusively a dictionary of Christian philosophers and theologians. Arabian and Jewish thinkers play an important role in the history of medieval philosophy and theology—both within their own cultural and religious worlds, as well as, and perhaps even more, in the Christian world. The medieval world of philosophy and theology is a multicultural world. The medieval philosophical and theological endeavor was one of great interplay among authors from the three great religious traditions who adopted, adapted, and shared the philosophical riches of the classical world and the religious resources of the biblical heritage.
In relation to the temporal context of this volume, we might clarify another point: among the authors, events, and concepts we include in this volume are some that certainly are not counted as medieval. Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and Seneca lived centuries before the medieval period. The biblical revelation, on which the medieval conceptions of the created world were mainly based, was complete and already richly examined and interpreted when medievals studied it. Contemplation and friendship were discussed long before they were treated by medieval thinkers, yet these ancient and biblical authors, events, and concepts were of the utmost importance to medieval philosophers and theologians. They are presented in terms of their influence in the medieval era.
In compiling this book we have depended on a large variety of primary and secondary sources. In a special way, we want to acknowledge our indebtedness to The New Catholic Encyclopedia (2002), The Dictionary of the Middle Ages, The Columbia History of Western Philosophy, Dictionnaire de la Théologie Catholique, Dictionnaire de la Spiritualité, and Lexicon für Theologie und Kirche. Also, we have depended on a number of other dictionaries and histories of philosophy and theology, most notably, E. Gilson, History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages; A. Maurer, Medieval Philosophy; J. Marenbon, ed., Medieval Philosophy; J. J. E. Gracia and T. B. Noone, eds., A Companion to Philosophy in the Middle Ages; Y. Congar, A History of Theology; B. Hägglund, History of Theology; P. W. Carey and J. T. Lienhard, eds., Biographical Dictionary of Christian Theologians; J. Pelikan, The Growth of Medieval Theology; and M. L. Colish, Medieval Foundations of the Western Intellectual Tradition.
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