Self-knowledge

The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy

  • Etienne Henri Gilson
1930 to 1932
University of Aberdeen

The central thesis of Etienne Gilson’s Spirit of Mediaeval Philosophy is that, contrary to the commonly held view, the Middle Ages did indeed have a distinctive philosophy of its own and that philosophy was the distinctively Christian one. Through comparisons with Plato and Aristotle, he principally examines Aquinas, Augustine, Duns Scotus and St Bonaventure. He is concerned with the relation of faith to reason in light of the very concept of a Christian philosophy, and shows how the mediævals drew upon but radically recast Platonic and Aristotelian metaphysics of being, necessity and contingency in light of the spirit of Christianity. Through accounts of nature and beings as created by being itself, Gilson demonstrates that the mediævals’ accounts of providence, liberty and morality are rational yet distinctively Christian in inspiration. Though the spirit of mediæval philosophy floundered, Gilson suggests that that is where we should look in order to resurrect a Christian philosophy.

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