Friday, 14 April 2017

Plato and Aristotle: Augustine and Aquinas

Painting of Thomas Aquinas
by Carlo Crivelli (1476)
Augustine and Thomas Aquinas are separated by almost eight centuries but both are Christian thinkers. Is it possible that there is a continuity of thought and feeling between the two? Historian W. T. Jones has explored this question in The Medieval Mind.

Here’s an excerpt:

"Plato and Aristotle, the two dominant philosophers of the classical period, were teacher and pupil. They lived in essentially the same world, understood its problems in much the same way, and sought a common solution for them. Between Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, the correspondingly dominant figures of the medieval period, there was a similar continuity of thought and feeling, for they were both Christian thinkers and thus had a common core of doctrine and faith. Yet these two figures were separated by no less than eight centuries. This is a long time by almost any standard—longer than the whole of the classical period. And though the rate of cultural change was much slower in the Middle Ages than it is today, a great many new values and attitudes developed, new institutions were fashioned, and new values were experienced during the long period between Augustine’s death and Thomas’ birth. All these changes were naturally reflected in the Thomistic synthesis of the thirteenth century. Thus, though Thomism shared many of the basic insights of Augustinianism, it faced new problems and dealt with old ones in new ways."

(Source: The Medieval Mind (A History of Western Philosophy, Volume II) by W. T. Jones; Chapter: “The Medieval Interval”) 

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