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

445. Melanchthon -- (1497-1560), was not a creative genius, but an adapter of Aristotle to the defence of Protestant theology. He cultivated humanism only in order to get an understanding of ancient philosophy and to base upon the latter an apology of Christianity. His manuals on the Logic, Physics and Ethics of Aristotle are remarkable for their clearness and order, and won for him the title of Praeceptor Germaniae.

Melanchthon was rather an eclectic than an Aristotelian. His peripateticism, which preserves a considerable purety in his Dialectic, is generally interspersed with Platonic and Stoic elements.{1} So, for example, in his theory of knowledge: man has within him a lumen naturale (against Luther); innate principles inform him of the great truths of the speculative and moral orders (Stoicism, Cicero). The senses are indispensable purveyors of our certain knowledge (nihil est in intellectu quod non fuerit prius in sensu); they merely stimulate the activity of the lumen naturale (against Aristotle) and awaken slumbering representations. Our certitude of primary truths is immediate; they are rooted in our inner consciousness; not only the principles of mathematics and physics, but the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, human liberty (against Luther and Stoicism), the primary ethical and social truths, are all innate principles. It is the Graeco-Roman philosophy, especially peripateticism, that has best deciphered the instructions of the lumen naturale. But even this philosophy is necessarily incomplete, original sin having darkened the human understanding. It belongs to Faith and the Gospel to purify this source of our knowledge and restore it to its first brilliancy. In this way faith completes reason (against Luther); Grecian philosophy and Christianity teach the same truths, but with different degrees of clearness.

Melanchthon's Ethicae Doctrinae Elementa became the starting-point of Protestant theories on Natural and Social Right: the decalogue is the summing up of the Jus Naturale; and the State, which is of immediate Divine origin, is independent of the Church. This thesis was vigorously opposed by the Catholic writers of Spain.{2}

{1} DILTHEY, Melanchthon und die erste Ausbildung des naturlichen Systems in Deutschland (in the Arch. f. Gesch. d. Philos., vi., p. 225). Melanchthon followed Aristotle in Physics and threw discredit on the recent discoveries of Copernicus.

{2} Like Melanchthon, NICHOLAS TAURELLUS (1547-1606) endeavoured to place Protestant dogma on a philosophical basis. But for the philosophy of Aristotle he substituted a philosophy of reason in conformity with the Gospel; for Lutheranism and Calvinism, an "integral Christianity" that toned down the gravity and consequences of the original Fall, leaving man in possession of a natural faculty of knowledge. This faculty is not a tabula rasa (Aristotle), but is stocked with a treasure of fundamental truths; it is identical in all and incapable of growth and diminution. All the varieties and modifications of our beliefs are due to obstacles opposed by the body to the cognitive faculty. The object of this faculty, and of philosophy of which it is the organ, is the knowledge of God, His attributes and His works. Theology on the other hand deals with the hidden will of God, as revealed to us by Christ.

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