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

110. Identification of Scholastic with Medieval Philosophy: State of Opinion. -- Numerous historians understand by scholasticism the philosophy of a whole epoch, describing it as the philosophy of the Middle Ages. For Cousin, Hauréau, Ueberweg-Heinze, Erdmann, Picavet, etc., all who lived and philosophized in the Middle Ages are scholastics. This chronological definition in the domain of philosophy corresponds to the definition of the literary or political Middle Ages as the ages that lie between antiquity and modern times. It is easy to account for its origin.

Up to the comparatively recent date at which original historical researches into medieval philosophy were commenced, it was customary to regard the speculations of the Middle Ages as one homogeneous whole with certain common characteristics of a very vague and general sort; and to this "whole" the no less indefinite title of scholasticism was given. This designation has been retained even by those whose works show clearly that the supposed homogeneity of medieval thought is merely apparent, giving place, on closer analysis, to very real diversity. For, a fact of capital importance has been brought to light: there existed in the Middle Ages numerous philosophical systems, some connected with, others isolated from, one another; and by the assertion of contradictory principles many of these systems came into inevitable conflict. Nor is this fact, which new researches every day confirm, in any way surprising. It was a priori unlikely, to say the least, that the twenty generations of the Middle Ages would have remained satisfied with one and the same conception of the universe -- the scholastic -- and that no dissentient voice should have marred the intellectual harmony. Such a phenomenon would indeed have been unique in history, for history everywhere offers us the spectacle of dominating, but nowhere of monopolizing, systems.

Now this new fact should evidently influence a history which purports to give a narrative of the logical evolution of ideas and not merely a catalogue of philosophical names and events. Should it not therefore also influence the terminology and bend it to its own special needs? Two points of view are legitimate: Just as the title "Grecian Philosophy" is given to the whole collection of different systems which saw the light in Greece, so too might we take the term "Scholastic" as a huge label for the whole complex and chaotic collection of medieval systems. But it is also possible to restrict and confine the term "Scholastic" to one group of medieval systems, excluding all the others. And this latter is what we purpose to do, both because it obviates many difficulties and especially because it harmonizes fully with the few great conclusions which form the kernel of the present book and sum up the philosophical history of the Middle Ages. The question of terminology thus becomes one with the main problem of the doctrinal interpretation of the medieval systems.

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