Lecture 20

What is being emphasised in the Patristic period is the difference in ultimate religious direction of the two worlds [pagan and Christian] and their respective minds and authorities, and while further differences are recognised, we must not think, for instance, that what we have in the thirteenth century a clear distinction between philosophy and theology is recognised at this time.

In the scholastic period we are going to talk about Thomas Aquinas.

Read a long section form Dooyeweerd’s In the Twilight of Western Thought – second of three chapters on ‘philosophy and theology’.

pp. 135 ff [Craig Press edn]

Dogmatic theology is a dangerous science ….

Read this reflectively – this is a basic matter, we need to see these thoughts spread. Read it over and over again.

We now come to a crucial moment: a transition from the Patristic period to the Scholastic period.

The Church Fathers East (Greek)   3rd -6th centuries
(West)    AD 200-500s
Scholasticiam AD                            1000 onwards; 13th century when at its highest.

We’re only taking certain episodes – this is not a history course.

We saw last time that the Church fathers didn’t reject philosophy.

What place does philosophy have and what is its task?

We have seen:
• Philosophy ahs taken the place of religion – it has become absolutised
• Colossioans 2:8
• Attitude of the Church Fathers – not exactly excluding philosophy, they were at a moment when the direction of life was a concern.

Augustine’s City of God was written because Rome had fallen already and people were charging Christians with the fall of Rome. When the old gods had been trusted, Rome stood – when Christian God worshipped, Rome fell. It was written to meet those charges.

When the Church Fathers talked about paul and the canonicals they don’t mean we don’t do philosophy. In scripture we have a different mind set – the doctrine of the antithesis.

(i) A canonical deposit
(ii) Church (instituted) in its confessions has stated as central truth
(iii) All theological, philosophical, scientific work that develops out of this mind set influence by (i) and perhaps (ii).

What we don’t find on the Church fathers, we do find in the scholastics. At the end of the 12th century there is a recovery of the writings of Aristotle.

In the Patristic period – most writers were oriented to Plato and neoplatonism, by the end of the 12th century there is a reorientation in the Christian group and thinking is oriented towards Aristotle.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) lived in the middle 50 years of the 13th century. When studying Thomas, studying the official teacher of the Catholic church. Since Vatican II his influence has diminished somewhat. By Papal encyclicals his is the philosophy taught in all RC seminaries and universities.

Empiricism – Locke and Catholic (Aquinas).

The writings of Aristotle disappeared within a generation of his death in 322BC. They emerged in the eastern empire.

In the 4th century the great Trinitarian controversies raged. A lot of Greek scholars from the East were kicked out of the East, they were regarded as heretics. At this time it was a Caesaro-papism, the Emperor was head of the church; the enemy of the church was regarded as an enemy of the state, so these scholars had to leave. They landed in Persia. The shah welcomed them and built them a city. Monks over the centuries went there.

The Greek writings of Aristotle were taken with them and they did a lot of work on him including writing commentaries. They also learnt the language of Persia and Syriac and translated Aristotle into these languages.

The Moslems came and conquered, so now the monks were under Moslem states. The Greek scholars with the newly recovered manuscripts now had to learn Arabic and they translated them into Arabic. With the movement of Arabs all over the world particularly North Africa and Southern Spain, where they conquered they bought the culture and works of scholars familiar with Aristotle.

In Europe it was the early Feudal period, the Iron Age – noting much was happening – little was left of Aristotle apart from his reputation. By the end of the 11th century scholars got wind of Aristotle’s works being available in southern Spain and so made the trip on donkey down to the Moslem occupied areas. Here they found Jews who were able to translate the writings from Arabic into Latin. This was all happening while Aquinas was growing up.

Aquinas was involved with the papal court. He took what he learned from Aristotle – they were overawed with Aristotle.
Aristotle divide everything into principle of matter and principle of form. It was known as hylomorphism. From the Greek morphe = form/ shape and hyle = material/ matter.

Hylomorphism is a theoretical exaggeration of what we do see within life things of material and form.

The artist has material, he does something to it and it has a form.
Aristotle said all things are made of matter and form – he didn’t restrict it to technical objects, he put it in nature, eg, trees have material and form.

Hyle originally meant wood (the material for technical production), then it meant tree, then woods. It came to mean material.

Matter doesn’t mean what modern physicists mean when they talk about matter. Matter is the wood, the glue, the cloth, the nails – the material used to make a ship, the form is the sailing thing.

General matter is in all physical things. Add form and we get water or sand.
This then forms the matter of plants to which is added the form of plants. This in turn becomes the matter of animals to which is added a form of animal. This is the matter of man plus the form of man (the rational soul) to become man.

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