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

117. Incomplete Intrinsic Definitions. -- All the definitions hitherto examined contain a soul of truth, but they likewise contain the common error of defining scholastic philosophy by something that is not philosophy. An intrinsic definition, one based on the doctrine itself propounded by scholasticism, can alone lead us to a knowledge of the constitution of the latter systems. Now, philosophy, in regard to its doctrinal content,{1} may be taken in a stricter sense to denote a system, i.e., a completely unified body of theories concerning the universal order of things; or in a wider sense to denote one or more special doctrines in reply to one or more of the problems raised in the whole course of philosophical inquiry.

The latter is the point of view of those who reduce scholasticism to a dispute about Universal Ideas (Taine; Hauréau, who calls this the scholastic problem par excellence). But a philosophy cannot be appreciated by merely indicating the problems it deals with: these are the same for all philosophies; we must go farther and examine the solutions{2} it offers us. And apart from all this, scholasticism can be shown to have dealt with quite a number of questions altogether distinct from the Universals. A definition of scholasticism that would limit the latter to the "Universals" problem, might indeed be correct so far as it went, but would be of necessity incomplete.

The same objection militates against the definition of scholasticism as the philosophical "problem of the ontological constitution of being ".{3} This formula, though wider than Willmann's, embraces only metaphysics, passing over all the questions and investigations that constitute the other important branches of scholastic philosophy.

{1} Our point of view is not doctrinal but geographical or chronological when we speak of Grecian, Western, Byzantine, Asiatic, Modern philosophy, etc.

{2} WILLMANN takes account of the solutions when he finds the leading characteristic of scholastic philosophy in the reconciliation of idealism and realism through the immanence of the intelligible (ideal) in the sensible (op. cit., p. 322). This, let us repeat, though correct, will not suffice to define scholasticism fully.

{3} MORINUS, Dictionnaire de philosophie et de théologie scolastique (1856), p. 23.

<< ======= >>