Archive for October 12th, 2010

Medievals & scholastics

October 12, 2010

The Arabic philosophers of the early middle ages, anticipating the Catholic scholastics in their attempt to have their religion and their logic too, were looking to preserve a neoplatonic hybrid that would be more than the sum of its respective parts.

Avicenna, reputdely the greatest “Faylasuf,” seems to have been confused about the distinct identities of Plato and Aristotle. Or maybe he just wanted to humanize the impersonal Aristotelian Unmoved Mover and conjoin to it a less sterile, more alluring conception of an afterlife than could be squeezed out of “The Philosopher” and his metaphysically austere world of principles and causes. JMH

Averroes, “The Commentator,” got clearer on the Plato-Aristotle distinction and upheld the interpretive value of allegory (but not for “the masses”), while attempting to reconcile philosophy and Islam.

Maimonides was a believer, but preferred to meditate on impenetrable divine “unknowability.”

Anselm’s ontological argument doesn’t exactly make the case he intended, by this account.

Abelard, with the wince-inducing romantic misfortune, wasn’t a doubter either but a “rationalist in service of faith.”

Aquinas of course was no doubter, but did come up with “this little beauty” of a straw-man. [3 minutes]

“How much can reason know faith?” William of Occam’s simple answer: “not at all.” Are things really quite so simple? Is simplicity self-evidently superior, as an intellectual and existential virtue? We should talk about that.

Simon Critchley took a lighthearted look at the Medievals & scholastics in his Book of Dead Philosophers. Check it out, while I attempt to finish grading. (It should go quickly now, since the Giants wrapped up their series in Atlanta. Go Rays!)

NOTE TO INTRO STUDENTS: I need to know by next time if you’re planning to do an essay or a presentation for your midterm project, what your topic will be, what sources you’ll use, and (very generally and briefly) what you expect to say/write. The presentation sign-up sheet will be available today if you’d like to go ahead and sign up, presentations will begin right after next week’s Fall Break.