Medieval Philosophy. During the Middle Ages, Western philosophy developed more as a part of Christian theology than as an independent branch of inquiry. The philosophy of Greece and Rome survived only in its influence on religious thought.
Saint Augustine was the greatest philosopher of the early Middle Ages. In a book titled The City of God (early 400’s), Augustine interpreted human history as a conflict between faithful Christians living in the city of God and pagans and heretics living in the city of the world. Augustine wrote that the people of the city of God will gain eternal salvation, but the people in the city of the world will receive eternal punishment. The book weakened the belief in the pagan religion of Rome and helped further the spread of Christianity.
A system of thought called scholasticism dominated medieval philosophy from about the 1100’s to the 1400’s. The term scholasticism refers to the method of philosophic investigation used by teachers of philosophy and theology in the newly developing universities of western Europe. The teachers were called scholastics. The scholastic method consisted in precise analysis of concepts with subtle distinctions between different senses of these concepts. The scholastics used deductive reasoning from principles established by their method to provide solutions to problems.
Scholasticism was basically generated by the translation of Aristotle’s works into Latin, the language of the medieval Christian church. These works presented medieval thinkers with the problem of reconciling Aristotle’s great body of philosophic thought with the Bible and Christian doctrine. The most famous scholastic was Saint Thomas Aquinas. His philosophy combined Aristotle’s thought with theology, and it eventually became the official philosophy of the Roman Catholic Church.
The great contributions of the scholastics to philosophy included major development of the philosophy of language. The scholastics studied how features of language can affect our understanding of the world. They also emphasized the importance of logic to philosophic inquiry.