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History of Philosophy|
Philosophy of the Christian Era
by Turner, William (S.T.D.)
All who have studied the history of human thought in the light of the
Christian idea of Providence have regarded the philosophy of Greece and
Rome as a preparatio evangelica, -- a preparation for the Gospel
of Christ. The Church which Christ founded was not, it is true, a
school of philosophy. By virtue of its divine commission, it rose above
all schools and all systems. Still, although Christ in his teachings
discarded all formal definition and formal proof, these teachings
reformed the world of speculation as they reformed the practical ideals
of men, and the Church, being by its nature and essence endowed with
that power of adaptation to external conditions which is characteristic
of a living organism, has an inherent right to speak to each generation
in the language which that generation best understands. In the
systematic development of dogmatic truth the Church avails itself of
the doctrines of philosophers and formulates its dogmas in the language
of the schools of philosophy.
Thus, the coming of Christ divides the history of philosophy as it
divides the history of the world. From this point onward there will be
the religious view and the rationalistic view of every question.
Philosophy may profit by the teachings of religion; it may accept
revelation as an extension of the horizon of human hopes, an opening up
of new fields of human investigation; it may acknowledge the debt due
to that institution to whose teaching we owe it that "doctrines
concerning the nature of God, the immortality of the soul and the
duties of men, which the noblest intellects of antiquity could barely
grasp, have become the truisms of the village school, the proverbs of
the cottage and of the alley."  Or, on the contrary, philosophy may
special authority of Christian revelation; it may cite the doctrines
of Christ and His Church before the tribunal of reason, and pass
sentence on them, denying the right of appeal to a higher court.
Henceforth, then, there will be the religious attitude and the
rationalistic attitude in presence of the great problems which ancient
philosophy discussed without reference to any source of knowledge
superior to reason itself. Christianity will be an ever-present factor
in philosophical speculation: the rationalist who refuses its aid and
the religious philosopher who accepts that aid must show reason for
such refusal or acceptance. But, though the rationalistic spirit and
the religious spirit pervade the whole history of the philosophy of the
Christian era, they are not always present in equal proportion or in
equal strength. From the first to the fifteenth century the religious
spirit prevailed, while from the fifteenth century onward, the
rationalizing spirit remained preponderant. There were rationalists in
the first centuries, and there were religious-minded philosophers in the
nineteenth; the difference on which the division is based is a
difference in the spirit of the age, not in the character of individual
philosophers. The prevailingly religious period is divided, according
to another basis of division, into Patristic philosophy, extending from
the first century to the period of the great invasions of the
barbarians, and Scholastic philosophy, which begins with the
reconstruction of European civilization in the ninth century and ends
with the Reformation in the fifteenth. We may therefore divide the
philosophy of the Christian era as follows
SECTION A -- PATRISTIC PHILOSOPHY, extending to the end of the fifth
SECTION B -- SCHOLASTIC PHILOSOPHY, extending from the ninth century
to the fifteenth.
SECTION C -- MODERN, OR POST-REFORMATION PHILOSOPHY, extending from
the fifteenth century to our own time.
 Lecky, Hist. of European Morals (third edition, New York,
1880), Vol. II, p.3.