Intellectual Thought: Glossary

Aquinas, Thomas
A member of the Dominican Order, Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was the most important of the medieval theologians. A brilliant philosopher, Aquinas' interest were diversee but his central concern was with proof of the existence of God and the compatibility of faith with reason. Aquinas was a popular lecturer at the University of Paris and an influential figure in the Church. His unique philosophy, called Thomism, was actually a moderate position in the debate surrounding the value of reason and principles of faith.

Aristotle (384-322 B.C.)
A Greek philosopher, Aristotle was the student of Plato and tutor to Alexander the Great. His works on a number of subjects such as logic, metaphysics, biology, rhetoric, ethics, and poetry have survived. His work on metaphysics particularly, exerted an influence on medieval theologians. The strength of his philosophy prompted a desire to integrate it with Christian ideas.

Augustine, Saint, of Hippo (354-430)
The most influential of the Latin Church Fathers, Augustine was a North African converted to Christianity by St. Ambrose in Milan in 386. Well educated and possessing considerable literary skill, Augustine concerned himself with the resolution of many theological problems. Through his writing, he laid a strong basis for much future Christian thought. Intelligent and highly readable, Augustine's Confessions and City of God are inspiring works that were held in high regard as sources of Christian philosophy.

Bacon, Roger (1214-1292)
Bacon was a Franciscan who lectured at the University of Oxford and Paris. An unpopular and abrasive character, Bacon was suspected of heresy because of his attacks on other scholars. His criticisms developed from his interest in science (he attempted to collect all contemporary scientific knowledge into an encyclopedia). He realized that a new method of scientific investigation was necessary if accurate, usable information was to be found. Though he did not develop the 'scientifc method', his importance lies in the seeking of it.

Condemnations of 1277
Stephen, the bishop of Paris, issued a list of question that were forbidden as topics of educational debate at the University of Paris. Most of the questions reflected on the omnipotence of God.

The study ot the origins of the universe. The theories of earlier pagan philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle, stood in opposition to the Creationist theory of the Christian Church and posed problems for medieval philosophers attempting to study the universe. Although many aspects of pagan philosophy were utilized, medieval scholars had to exercise caution that their work with these aspects did not bring them into conflict with established Christian doctrine.

In Platonism, the demiurge was the creator of the universe. Although Plato did not see the demiurge as a specific deity, Medieval Christian scholars equated the demiurge with God.

Ficino, Marsilio
A Florentine scholar, Marsilio, or Marsiglio, Ficino (1433-1499) studied medicine, theology, and astrology but is most noted for his knowledge of Greek, his translations of the works of Plato and his commentaries on them. Under the patronage of the Medici family, he founded the Platonic Academy in Florence, an informal gathering place where interested scholars could conduct and participate in lectures and discussions. Most of his most influential writings were concerned with harmonizing Christian faith and Platonic philosophy. He was a dominant figure in the Renaissance revival of and interest in Greek philosophy.

Based on the spurious writings of Hermes Trismegister (three-times master), a supposed contemporary of Moses, hermeticism developed into a search for God and the secrets of the cosmos through magical and mystical means. Alchemy, numerology and the Cabbala (magical powers of the letteres of the Hebrew alphabet) were major components of hermeticism. Mathematics was extremely important to hermeticists, in contrast to Aristotelians who considered mathematics of little importance.

Magnus, Albert
Albert Magnus (1200-1280), or Albert the Great, was an ordained Dominican who taught at the University of Paris. His work on translating Greek and Arabic copies of Aristotle and the accompanying commentaries was instrumental in the widespread acceptance of Medieval scholars of Aristotelian theories of natural philosophy. Thomas Aquinas was one his pupils and further developed many of Albert's ideas that were aimed at reconciling reason and religion.

Neoplatonism is a compilation of Platonic, Aristotelian and Stoic ideas that experienced a strong revival during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Central to the philosophy is the notion that spiritual things are real and that material things are not. The freeing of the spiritual element, the soul, from the material element, the body, should be the ultimate goal of all of mankind and could be achieved through knowledge and contemplation.

Plato (c.429-347 B.C.)
An Athenian, Plato was the student of Socrates and the teacher of Aristotle. Of the philosophical works he wrote, 25 dialogues, some letters, and the Apology survive. He was concerned primarily with the nature of knowledge and the study of ethics and politics. In the third century, Plato's ideas were combined with Stoic and Aristotelian philosophy to form the Neoplatonic school of thought that was to have a pervasive influence on later, particularly Renaissance, philosophers.

Summa contra Gentiles
One of Aquinas' great works that argued that reason could be used to prove the existence of God to non-believers and, thus, could be a useful tool in missionary work of the Church.

Summa Theologica
Unfinished at his death, Summa Theologica continued Aquinas' theme that reason supplements faith and that the existence of God can be recognized by human reason. Aquinas argues that man can develop his knowledge of God by living and experiencing the material world. Because God created the material world, understanding this world led to an understanding of God.

Tertullian (155-230) was the first of the so-called "Early Christian Fathers", a group of theologians whose writings influenced Christian thought. A Roman citizen from Carthage, Tertullian was an extreme ascetic and his works reinforce his belief that salvation required denial of the material world.

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The End of Europe's Middle Ages / Applied History Research Group / University of Calgary
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