Page images
PDF
EPUB

mons enter into men? What was Adam's form before his appearance on earth? Why was Eve taken from a side and not from some other part of Adam's body? Why was she created while Adam was asleep? Would man be immortal if he had never sinned? And in that case how would men have multiplied? Would children have come into the world as full-grown men? Why did the Son become man? Could not the Father and the Holy Ghost have become man? Could God have become incarnate in woman as easily as in man? These how's and why's, multiplied without end, betray the naive curiosity and the charming indiscretion peculiar to the child, but they are at the same time unmistakable symptoms of the coming maturity and freedom of thought.

The Sentences intensified the pious mystics' dislike for the subtleties of dialectics. Gradually abandoning systematic theology, mysticism turns its attention to practical Christianity, to preaching and the composition of devotional books; and while the Master of the Sentences professes to serve the Church with no less zeal than Robert of Melun, Walter of St. Victor, who died about 1180, denounces the Lombard, his pupil Pierre of Poitiers, Gilbert of Porrée, and Abelard, as the four labyrinths of France in which we must take care not to lose ourselves. But this opposition merely helped to develop heresy. A distinction is made not only between the effects of the divine will and the effects of nature, but between philosophical truth and religious truth. The view begins to prevail that a thing may be true in philosophy without being true in religion, and vice versa.

A vague suspicion arises that the Church is fallible, and that a breach between faith and science, theology and philosophy, is not impossible.

A number of critical thinkers, influenced by Arabian pantheism, were bold enough to defend the philosophy of

i Du Boulay, Historia unirersitatis Parisiensis, vol. I., p. 404.

immanency. They regarded the three persons of the Trinity either as three successive manifestations of the Divine Being, or as three different stages in the development of the human conception of God. The Father is the God

. of the Old Testament, God dwelling in heaven; the Son is the God of the New Testament, God bridging the chasm and coming nearer to man; the Holy Ghost is the God of the future, the true God conceived as the universal and omnipresent Being. God is everything and produces everything in all things. He is, therefore, not only present in the consecrated host, but also in the daily bread. His spirit manifested itself in the great men of Greece as well as in the Prophets, Apostles, and Fathers. There is no other heaven than a good conscience, no other hell than remorse; and the worship of saints is idolatry.

These doctrines, which were ably taught by Simon of Tournay, Amalric of Bena, and David of Dinant, spread rapidly among the clergy and the laity. About the year 1200 they formed a formidable though secret opposition to the supreme authority of tradition. The Church, seriously threatened in its unity, averted the danger by burning a great number of heretics at the stake and anathematizing the physics of Aristotle, from which David of Dinant was accused of having drawn his heresies (1209).

1 For the pantheistic heresy of Amalric and David, see Ch. Schmidt, Histoire et doctrine de la secte des Cathares, 2 vols., Paris, 1849.

SECOND PERIOD

THE REIGN OF PERIPATETIC SCHOLASTICISM 1

A. SEMI-REALISTIC PERIPATETICISM

$ 37. Growing Influence of the Philosophy of Aristotle

We have pointed out the relation existing between Platonic realism and the Catholic system. In Catholicism as in Platonism, in the Church as in Plato's State, the universal is superior to the particular; the whole precedes, rules, and absorbs the parts; the Idea is the true reality, the power superior to all individual existences. The philosophy of a period reflects the spirit peculiar to that period. The heroic age of Catholicism, the age of faith which produced the Crusades and built the Gothic cathedrals, could not but have an essentially idealistic, Platonic, and Augustinian philosophy. Scotus Erigena and St. Anselm were the great representatives of this epoch. But even in the writings of these men, and still more so in those of their successors, we discover, beneath the seeming harmony of their philosophy and theology, contrasts, disparities, and contradictions. Erigena culminates in monism ; William of Champeaux, in the philosophy of identity ; Abelard, in determinism; Alanus, Gilbert, and Amalric of Bena, in pantheism. The Schoolmen of the period, if we may believe them, are convinced that reason and the dogma agree ; and their philosophy merely aims to prove the agreement and to justify the faith. But it is certain that from 1200 on this conviction was gradually shaken. As soon as Scholasticism discriminated between philosophical truth and religious truth, it divided into the disparate elements which it professed to unite, and sealed its doom. Scholasticism had not reached the climax of its development before it began to show symptoms of decay. It needed a powerful stimulus to keep it alive; new life and vigor had to be infused into it from without; this it received from Aristotle.

1 A. Jourdain, Recherches critiques sur l'âge et l'origine des traduc tions latines d'Aristote, Paris, 1819; 2d ed., 1843.

At the beginning of the thirteenth century, Christian Europe knew nothing of Aristotle's writings except a part of the Organon in the Latin translation ascribed to Boethius. From this time on, things rapidly change. About 1250, Robert, Bishop of Lincoln, translates the Vicomachean Ethics into Latin. The Dominicans Albert of Bollstädt and St. Thomas of Aquin write valuable commentaries on the Stagirite, and in every way encourage the translation of his works. But it is particularly to the Arabians) that the Christian Middle Ages owe their knowledge of his treatises on physics and ontology. During the eleventh and twelfth centuries, Avicenna in Persia and Averroes in Spain publish commentaries on them, and either by oral teaching or by their written works intensify the interest for Peripatetic philosophy. Two royal friends of letters, Roger II. of Sicily and the Emperor Frederick II., surround themselves with Arabian scholars, under whose direction Latin translations of Aristotle and his commentators are made. These translations are presented to the universities of Bologna, Paris, and Oxford. In this way thousands of students become acquainted with the doctrines of the great Greek. Prior to this time, only Aristotle the logician had been studied, and that, too, rather superficially. Henceforth, Aristotle the moralist, the physicist, and the metaphysician, becomes an object of study. The Aristotelian system was an innovation, and conse

I See p. 210, note 2.

GROWING INFLUENCE OF PHILOSOPHY OF ARISTOTLE 237

quently the conservative Church had to combat it. For was not its author both a heathen and a favorite of the disciples of the false prophet, and, therefore, the incarnation of all antiChristian tendencies? Was he not, in a certain measure, the source of the heresies of David of Dinant and his consorts ? The Church condemned Aristotle's treatises on physics in 1209, and his Metaphysics in 1215. But she soon saw the error of her ways. From 1250 on, she allowed public lectures on Aristotle to be delivered at Paris; and fifty years later the Stagirite became her official philosopher, whom one could not contradict without being accused of heresy; he is the precursor Christi in rebus naturalibus, sicut Joannes Baptista in rebus gratuitis. This reaction was no more than natural. True, Aristotle was a pagan philosopher, and consequently an opponent of the faith; but if, in spite of that, his doctrine should be found to agree with the Gospel, it would add all the more to the glory of Christ. Aristotle taught the existence of a God apart from the universe, and that alone ought to have won him the sympathies of the Church threatened by the pantheistic heresy, which appealed to Plato for aid.

More than that; Aristotle offered the Church a system which she had the greatest interest in appropriating, with certain limitations. The times had already become familiar with the conception of nature. They spoke of nature and its course as opposed to God and the effects of his will. Christian thought could not help returning to this fundamental conception of science, in the course of its development, while the Church could no more oppose it than she could hinder the formation of the European States. She could not destroy these States, and therefore made them subject to herself; she was unable to extirpate the conception of nature, and therefore drew it into her service. Now, the metaphysics of Aristotle was admirably fitted for such a purpose. For, does not Aristotle regard nature as a

« PreviousContinue »