ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

107. Definition ot Scholastic Philosophy. -- We may define the name given to scholastic philosophy, or the thing which the name represents. The former definition would be nominal, the latter real. To define a thing is to tell what the thing is, and what exactly distinguishes it from every other thing. Real definition is more perfect the more completely it expresses the nature of the thing under consideration.

We may employ this criterion of the relative perfection of real definitions in estimating the value of two groups of them, viz. intrinsic and extrinsic definitions. Everything in fact is capable of receiving both these kinds of definition. If we investigate what the thing is in itself, what are its constitutive elements, and how these are characterized, we get at the thing to be defined as it is in itself, in an absolute and intrinsic way. On the other hand, if we examine it in its relations to other things we arrive at a knowledge of it that is relative and extrinsic.

Now, as a philosophy is constituted by its doctrinal content, those definitions only, of scholastic philosophy, which are based on its doctrines, are intrinsic or absolute. To seek extrinsic or relative ideas of scholasticism would be to turn one's back on its doctrinal content, and to neglect its real meaning and character for the sake of establishing relations between itself and doctrines foreign to it. But it is to comparisons of this latter kind, sometimes even to an etymological study of words, that the definition of scholasticism has been hitherto confined by almost all its historians. We possess, in consequence, a collection of erroneous or imperfect definitions. It will be necessary to reject the former, and to determine the elements of truth contained in the latter.

We may arrange all of them under three heads. First, we shall examine verbal definitions (108). Next come real, extrinsic definitions. Scholastic philosophy has been described by establishing its relations: (1) with its language and methods of exposition (109); (2) with the Middle Ages, or the period of its historical development (110, 111); (3) with scholastic theology (112-115); (4) with ancient ~philosophy (116). Under a third head we shall deal with certain definitions that are real and intrinsic to the doctrinal content of scholasticism, but which are incomplete and inadequate (117).

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