From the INTRODUCTION.
Relational aspects of philosophy in the Middle Ages.
The study of mediaeval philosophy has undergone considerable change in recent years, and the developments in this field of research have been important. On all sides the soil has been turned, and just as in archaeological excavation, as at Pompeii or at Timgad, here too discoveries unexpectedly rich are rewarding our search. For such men as John Scotus Eriugena, Anselm of Canterbury, Abaelard, Hugo of St. Victor, John of Salisbury, Alexander of Hales, Bonaventure, Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, Siger of Brabant, Thierry of Freiburg, Roger Bacon, William of Occam, -these are truly thinkers of the first order, and their labours are worthy of the notable studies now increasingly made of them. There is, further, a host of other philosophers whose thought has been unveiled, and whose significance will become the more clear as historical research progresses.
The study of mediaeval philosophy, however, has heretofore contented itself chiefly with establishing actual doctrines, and with indicating their development or the connection between one philosopher and another, while little attention has been given to the historical setting of these doctrines in the mediaeval civilization itself. But in the throbbing vitality of a civilization there is an interdependence of the numerous and complex elements constituting it; such, for example, are the economic well-being, the family and social institutions, the political and juridical systems, the moral and religious and aesthetic aspirations, the scientific and philosophical conceptions, the feeling for progress in human development. The interdependence of these various momenta is perhaps more readily apparent in the realms of economics and politics and art, but it is to be found also in the operation of the intellectual and moral factors.
It might seem at first sight that philosophy would enjoy a certain immunity from the vicissitudes of temporal change, because of the problems with which it deals; but closer view reveals that it too is caught inevitably within the meshes of the temporal net. For the work of Plato or of Aristotle, this is admitted as a commonplace by the historians of philosophy; the thought of these philosophers reflects the conditions of the Athenian society of their day. Similarly, no one pretends to arrive at a proper understanding of such thinkers as Francis Bacon and Hobbes except in the light of the political and economic and the broadly cultural conditions of their age. Just so in our study of mediaeval philosophy, we may not properly consider Anselm, or Thomas Aquinas, or William of Occam as men whose thoughts float free without anchorage. They too are the sons of their age. Nay more, there is a certain philosophical atmosphere which is created by the collective thought of numerous thinkers; and this is subject to influences issuing from the spirit of the age, in its economic, political, social, moral, religious and artistic aspects. Moreover, while philosophical thought is thus affected from without, it also exerts its own influence in turn upon the general culture with which it is organically connected.
For the thought of the Middle Ages the time has come when we must take account of this mutual dependence. Indeed we may even regard with advantage the example of natural history, whose museums no longer exhibit their specimens as so many lifeless objects in a bare cage, - on the contrary, they are represented as if they were still alive in their native jungle.
The point of view, therefore, which we choose for our treatment in these lectures, is that of the relational aspects in mediaeval philosophy - a study which relates the philosophy to the other factors in that civilization taken as an organic whole....show more