All Rights Reserved.
Site last updated
13 January, 2012
History of Philosophy|
by Turner, William (S.T.D.)
|The centuries which elapsed between the death of St. Augustine and the
foundation of the Carolingian schools were centuries of barbarian
invasion and barbarian rule; they witnessed the dismemberment of the
Roman Empire, the disappearance of the last vestiges of Roman
civilization in Europe, and the substitution of a civilization of a new
order. During the lifetime of St. Augustine, the West Goths under
Alaric besieged and sacked Rome (410). Nineteen years later, the
Vandals under Genseric overran Numidia and Mauretania and laid siege to
Hippo. Meanwhile the Vandals from the upper Rhine had invaded Gaul,
ancient Germany, and Burgundy (407); these invaders were followed (443)
by the Burgundians, who settled on the upper Rhone and on the Saône.
Later (451) came the Huns under Attila, and last of all, the Franks
from the lower Rhine, who, towards the end of the fifth century, spread
over Gaul, destroying every trace of civilization that had survived the
invasion and occupation of France by the Vandals and the Burgundians.
In the same century, the Angles and Saxons took possession of Britain,
and the Visigoths established barbarian rule in Spain. In the sixth and
seventh centuries the Heruli, the East Goths, and the Lombards
destroyed whatever remained of Roman civilization in northern Italy.|
We can scarcely realize the desolation that during these centuries
reigned throughout what had been the Roman Empire. The condition of
France is vividly portrayed by the words of St. Gregory of Tours, who,
towards the end of the sixth century,
wrote, "Vae diebus nostris quia periit studium litterarum a nobis,"
and by the verdict of the Benedictine authors of L'histoire
littéraire de la France, that the eighth century was the
darkest, the most ignorant, the most barbarous that France had ever
seen. The utter disregard for learning which characterized those
times may be inferred from the fact that Ambrose of Autpert (died 778)
was forced to invoke the authority of Pope Stephen III in defense of
the study of the Scriptures: "Inquiunt multi: non est tempus jam nunc
disserendi super Scripturas." 
 Historia Francorum, Praef.: cf. Migne, Patr.
Lat., Vol. LXXI, col. 159.
Although surrounded by all the external signs and conditions of
dissolution and decay, the Church remained true to her mission of moral
and intellectual enlightenment, drawing the nations to her by the very
grandeur of her confidence in her mission of peace, and by the sheer
force of her obstinate belief in her own ability to lift the new
peoples to a higher spiritual and intellectual life. It was these
traits in the character of the Church that especially attracted the
barbarian kings. But, though towards the end of the fifth century
Clovis became a Christian, it was not until the beginning of the ninth
century that the efforts of the Church to reconquer the countries of
Europe to civilization began to show visible results. The Merovingian
kings -- the "do-nothing kings," as they were styled -- could
scarcely be called civilized. Even Charlemagne, who was the third of
the Carolingian dynasty, could hardly write his name.  Still,
Charles, illiterate as he was, realized the necessity of reviving
culture and learning throughout his empire. Inspired by this noble
purpose, he summoned the Church to his aid, invited learned
ecclesiastics to his court, and founded schools which became centers of
the new intellectual movement in different parts of Europe. To this
movement Scholastic philosophy owes its origin.
 Quoted by Hauréau, Histoire de la philosophie
scolastique, I, 6; cf. Migne, Patr. Lat., Vol.
LXXXIX, col. 1268.
 Cf. Einhard, apud Migne, Patr. Lat., Vol.
XCVII, coll. 26 ff.
The Scholastic movement, therefore, which dated from the foundation of
the Carolingian schools, was from the outset a reaction against the
intellectual stupor of the times. The movement was at first confined
merely to the restoration of the study of grammar and rhetoric. Later
on, dialectic assumed in the schools more importance than it had at
first possessed, while an impulse to philosophical speculation was
given by the Neo-Platonism of Erigena and other Irish teachers. Thus,
during the ninth and tenth centuries there were many attempts at
forming a system of philosophy, but it was not until the eleventh
century, when the problem of universals gave the greatest impulse to
the growth of Scholastic dialectic, that these attempts were
concentrated into a definite movement. Towards the end of the twelfth
century the physical and metaphysical writings of Aristotle became
known to the schoolmen and caused that great outburst of intellectual
activity which made the thirteenth century the Golden Age of
Scholasticism. The middle of the fourteenth century marks the beginning
of the decadent movement which, in the following century, ended in the
downfall of the Scholastic system. We have, therefore, the following
 This is the division adopted by Gonzalez, op. cit., II, 116,
117; for various other divisions, if Adloch, Praefationes ad Artis
Scholasticae inter Occidentes Fata (Brunae, 1898), pp. 18 ff.
FIRST PERIOD -- SCOTUS ERIGENA TO ROSCELIN, from the beginning of the
ninth century to the eleventh. -- The Period of Beginnings.
SECOND PERIOD -- ROSCELIN TO ALEXANDER OF HALES, from the rise of the
problem of universals to the introduction of the works of Aristotle
(1050-1200). -- The Period of Growth.
THIRD PERIOD -- ALEXANDER OF HALES TO OCKAM (1200-1300). -- The
Period of Perfection.
FOURTH PERIOD -- FROM THE BIRTH OF OCKAM TO THE TAKING OF
CONSTANTINOPLE (1300-1453). -- The Period of Decay.
Source. The neglect of the study of the sources of Scholastic
philosophy on the part of some of its historians, and the apparently
inexcusable misrepresentation on the part of others, render it
imperatively necessary that we keep constantly at hand the primary
sources, the works of the schoolmen themselves. It is from these works,
and from these alone, that the student will learn the true meaning and
value of Scholastic philosophy. Many of the writings of the first
schoolmen are of easy access, being included in Migne's Patrologia
Latina. Additional primary sources (Beiträge zur Geschichte
der Philosophie des Mittelalters, Münster, 1891 ff.) are at
present being published by Baeumker and others. The works of the
Scholastics after the time of St. Bernard are not included in Migne's
Patrology; they are, however, published in separate editions, to which
attention will be called.
With regard to secondary authorities, the list given by Weber (p. 9 of
Eng. trans.) will be found complete with the exception of a recent
work, De Wulf's Histoire de la philosophie
médiévale (Louvain, 1900), which is a valuable aid to
the study of this period. De Wolf's work does not, however, supersede
Stöckl's Geschichte der Philosophie des Mittelalters, which
is still the standard work of reference, although since its publication
(1864-1866) numerous important documents bearing on the history of
Scholasticism have been published. It is well for the student to
remember that, although Hauréau is referred to as an authority,
he owes his distinction as an historian to the care with which he has
studied and edited manuscript sources  rather than to the accuracy of
 Hauréau's De la philosophie scolastique was first
published in two volumes (Paris, 1850). In 1872 the work was recast,
enlarged, and published in three volumes (tome I; tome II,
Ière partie; tome II,
lIe partie) under the title Histoire de la
philosophie scolastique (Paris, 1872-1880). His Notices et
extraits de quelques MS. latins de la Bibliothèque Nationale
(6 vols., Paris, 1890-1895) is also of great value. Besides, he
published many articles of interest to the student of Scholastic
philosophy in the Notices et extraits . . . faisant suite aux
notices et extraits lus au comité établi dans l'Academie
des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres; consult especially the volumes
for the years 1888-1890 and also the Journal des Savants for the
same years. For recent bibliography of the history of Scholastic
philosophy, cf. Archiv f. Gesch. der Phil., X, 127 if. and 247
ff.; La Revue Néo-Scolastique, Mai, 1902; Revue d'histoire
et de littératurde religieuses, Sept.-Oct., 1902.
Valuable biographical material is to be found in Wetzer und Welte's
Kirchenlexikon, 12 Bde., 2 Aufl., Freiburg im B., 1886-1901.